Oakville Chamber of Commerce
And it's great to see so many welcoming faces this afternoon.
I also want to thank all of you.
First of all, for taking time out of your busy schedules to be here today, but more importantly, thank you for the work that you do, the jobs you create, the families you support.
Thank you for your leadership in business and for all you do to support the extraordinary quality of life we enjoy here in Ontario, the greatest province in the best country in the world.
Oakville has played a key role in building up our quality of life.
You know, not that long ago, this was still a rural community.
There were farms not far from the centre of town.
But in a few short decades, this place went from buggy whips to automotive assembly lines, from cattle farms to corporate head offices.
And even though you are a thriving, thoroughly modern city, you still proudly refer to your home as the "Town" of Oakville.
And that tells me a couple of things.
First, that the people of Oakville have deep values rooted in a strong sense of community.
Second, that the people of this town remember and cherish their history.
And in these uncertain times, that is a great advantage.
Because a sense of our shared past can shed an important light on today's challenges.
And, looking back, we can see that Ontarians have never allowed any challenge, no matter how great, to get in the way of making progress for our children and grandchildren.
It is the sacrifice and hard work of those who came before us that made possible the Ontario we live in today.
My own roots are in the Ottawa Valley, my family settled there in the 1840s.
There were no schools, no healthcare and no government services.
It was a hard existence.
But my family overcame it, as did so many others.
Generation after generation of Ontarians have built up our province with quiet, relentless determination, acre by acre, brick by brick -- we have built a better, stronger, more prosperous Ontario.
And we've done it through good times and bad.
Over the course of our history, our achievements together have become the envy of the world:
Strong schools to provide all our children with an excellent education from JK to PhD.
Strong public health care to provide all our families with quality care and our businesses with an economic advantage.
Together, we have built roads to move our people and their goods and information highways to move our ideas and commerce.
We've built world beating research institutions and innovative, world-class businesses.
And all those tremendous advantages which have been passed down to us are the foundation upon which we've been building.
Because of our work together during the past five years, we have:
- better schools, with higher test scores and graduation rates
- better health care, with more doctors and nurses and shorter wait times
- a stronger workforce, now with the highest rate of postsecondary education in the western world
- a more competitive business environment, with lower taxes
- stronger support than ever for research and innovation
- massive, continuing investments in infrastructure
Less tangible, but equally important, is another gain we have made.
We've re-affirmed the value of partnership in Ontario -- of working together.
Ontarians have always understood: we're in this together and we are at our best when we work together.
So, the gains we've made together, my friends, have been real.
But, let's also be honest about the scale and the scope of the challenge before us.
Ontario -- like Canada, like the world -- is caught in the grip of a fierce, global recession.
Every sector, every region, every one of us feels this.
Ontario families are anxious.
Some have been hurt by job losses.
This recession is persistent and powerful.
And while we can't do everything, we will do everything we can to help.
That's why we have created thousands of new job retraining opportunities.
And it's why there are hundreds of construction projects underway across the province -- right now -- employing thousands and thousands of Ontarians.
Right here in Oakville, just around the corner from here, construction is taking place at the QEW and Bronte Rd. to help relieve congestion.
And together with the federal government we're about to build a $30 million parking facility to make it easier for the people of this community to get on the GO.
As important as it is, we need to do more than help Ontarians today.
We also need to build a stronger economy for tomorrow.
We want a powerful economy, one that will thrive on globalization.
One that will sustain and, indeed, enhance our quality of life.
Building that economy will take time, a lot of work, and all of us.
Shortly, our budget will take the next major steps towards that powerful economy.
But here's a step we are already taking:
It's called the Green Energy Act.
We're debating it in the Legislature right now.
Here's what our new law will do.
It will bring more renewable energy online.
I'm talking about more green power, more solar farms and more wind turbines.
Our new law will also help build a culture of conservation -- one where we go about our daily lives using less energy, whether it's in our homes, businesses, schools, or industrial operations.
Our new law will reduce greenhouse gases that cause climate change.
And last, and perhaps most importantly, it will create more than 50,000 jobs over the next three years.
I'm talking about jobs in manufacturing and assembly, building, service and installation, engineering, trucking, and in the financial sector.
Jobs for electricians, inspectors, architects, and people who design computer software and hardware, and jobs for farmers.
A few weeks ago I visited a dairy farm in Lindsay.
Our government is partnering with the farmers there to help them build a generator to turn the manure from 600 cows into clean, green electricity for 400 homes.
And that means jobs.
More jobs on the farm.
And jobs for the people who design, build and operate that new generator.
That's just one example.
We're convinced that thousands of Ontarians want to get in on the act by investing in Green Energy projects.
Our new Act will harness all this entrepreneurial energy and make those investments, and those jobs, a reality.
Here's another reality:
Our new Green Energy Act alone won't get us to where we need to go.
Neither will our budget -- not on its own.
Getting to where we need to go will take more than government acting alone.
It's going to take all of us.
Businesses, workers and government.
None of us can build a powerful Ontario economy on our own.
But, together, nothing will stop us.
Here are three major challenges we need to face together:
First, our businesses need to invest more in themselves.
By comparison, the US competition invests 17 per cent more in new, productivity enhancing equipment and 1/3 more in research and development.
Second, we need to build a stronger workforce, one that won't be pushed around by globalization.
That means more skills and education.
Yes, it's true we now have the highest rate of postsecondary education in the western world -- 40 per cent of Ontarians have been to college or university or taken an apprenticeship.
But we now know that 70 per cent of our new jobs require postsecondary education.
This means, at a minimum, all our kids have got to complete high school and go beyond.
And did you know that if you complete a degree in the U.S. you are twice as likely as our kids to do your master's?
But our kids are just as bright.
And our tuition is a lot less expensive.
Now, to the third member of the team.
What's our responsibility?
Well, for one thing, our government needs to do more to make those business investments more affordable.
And we will.
And we need to do more to bulk up the skills and education of our workforce.
We will do that too.
But our responsibilities don't end there.
We need to admit that in too many instances government is acting as a brake on growth.
We move too slowly and we burden ourselves and our job creators -- our entrepreneurs -- with too much process.
This has been the case for a long time.
But in a globalized, just-in-time economy, government sluggishness is more than an irritation.
It's turning away investment.
It's costing us jobs.
And that's why we're doing something about it with our "Open for Business Strategy".
We're making it easier for "you to do what you do best" by making dealing with our government faster and friendlier.
We've already started to move on this but here are three more changes I'm announcing today:
First, we're creating a new 1-800 number that will give businesses a single point of access to all the government information they need.
So instead of calling twelve different phone numbers, people only need to call one.
Second, we're introducing a new, "single identification number" for businesses.
Right now your business could have 14 or more Ontario government ID numbers.
We're changing that to one ID number -- no matter how many government departments you deal with.
Third, we're slimming down the regulatory environment by getting rid of out-dated and obsolete rules.
Our goal is to reduce the regulatory burden on businesses by 25 per cent by 2011.
As I say, our commitment to Ontarians is to make their government faster and friendlier.
And we will never compromise public safety or the environment.
My friends, there is no question: this is a time of great challenge for Ontario.
This global recession demands the very best from us.
That means we need to work together.
And we can draw inspiration from the people who came before us.
Ontarians have always risen to the challenge of their day.
We have never given in, never given up -- no matter how great the challenge.
With the guidance and wisdom of our aboriginal peoples, we settled this harsh, northern land and carved out a basic existence.
Over time we created a quality of life for ourselves that is nothing short of extraordinary.
We have come through a great depression and great wars.
We've had our share of ups and downs, but always, we found a way forward.
So let us take up our generation's challenge with confidence and determination.
There is much at stake.
But we have much to give by way of experience and ambition.
And so much to gain: a powerful Ontario economy.
One that supports the best public services in all our communities, the highest standard of living for all our families and the highest quality of life for all our people.