The Toronto Board Of Trade
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, friends, let me begin by thanking you -- all of you.
Thank you for the role that each of you play to support the tremendous quality of life we enjoy together in Ontario -- the greatest province in the best country in the world.
To all our entrepreneurs:
Thank you for the risks you take, the investments you make, the jobs you create, and all the families you support.
And thanks, as well, for your optimistic leadership in these challenging times.
Our Budget, tabled just last week, is grounded in optimism for our future, and confidence in our ability as Ontarians to find a way forward.
Today, of course, I'm here to speak about that Budget -- not only about what it proposes by way of tax measures, and investments, but what it means for our people, for our businesses and our future.
A Budget is more than just a fiscal planning tool.
It gives expression to who we are.
It helps shape the kind of society we want to create, together.
In the end, that's what it's all about -- a caring society supported by a strong economy.
For the past five years, through our past five budgets, we've all been strengthening our schools, our hospitals, our environmental protections and our roads and bridges -- all the public services that support a good quality of life for all of us.
Now we face our biggest economic crisis in 80 years.
So, we need to help each other get through this storm.
And we need to take steps to emerge stronger, on the other side.
These extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures, for an extraordinary level of cooperation among governments and an unprecedented willingness to do whatever it takes, together, to help our people through this difficult time so we grow stronger.
Let's be clear: what's happening out there is big.
It's powerful and it's persistent.
It has Ontario, all of Canada, indeed all of the world, in its grip.
Getting out of this and growing stronger is going to take change.
And it's going to take all of us.
The world has changed.
And so must we.
We need to find a new way forward.
Not right. Not left. Forward.
As a government, we have listened carefully.
We have looked at the experience elsewhere.
We have reflected.
And this is our conclusion:
We need to create a single sales tax.
We need to reduce business taxes.
We need to protect our families against new costs.
And we need to protect our public services.
So that's what we're going to do.
I know that some people are saying that now isn't the right time for our tax reforms.
Some are saying we should never do this.
I see it this way:
If we were starting a tax system from scratch, we would not choose ours.
We would not require our businesses to collect two different sales taxes, and
send them to two different governments to comply with two different sets of regulations.
We would not choose a tax system that makes businesses pay tax on their inputs, discouraging investment and job creation.
Instead, we would choose a single tax system that reduces business costs.
We would choose a modern, efficient, competitive tax system.
And that's what we are choosing.
This is quite a departure for Ontario, but four other provinces and over 130 countries have already done this.
I am confident we can do this too. And we will do it in a way that protects our families.
That's why we're exempting items especially important to our families like diapers, children's clothing, infant car seats and books.
And that's why we're cutting the tax rate on the first $36,000 of taxable income by 17 per cent. Because of this change, our low-income families will pay the least income tax in Canada.
Also, to help those families, we're introducing a new sales tax credit of $260 per adult and child. And we plan to nearly double our Ontario Child Benefit -- from $50 to $92 per month, per child.
To help with the transition to a single sales tax, families with an income of less than $160,000 will receive $1,000.
Individuals, earning $80,000 or less, will receive $300.
All of this "transition funding" is coming from the federal government.
And I want to acknowledge Prime Minister Harper's support for this.
The bottom line is that 93 per cent of Ontarians will get a permanent income tax cut. And businesses will see their taxes decrease as well.
Small businesses will see their corporate tax rate drop from 5.5 to 4.5 per cent.
And, in a first for Canada, we're going to eliminate the small business surtax.
We're also reducing Ontario's general corporate income tax rate from 14 to 12 per cent next year, and then down to 10 per cent over three years.
We're also reducing the manufacturers and processors' corporate income tax rate from 12 to 10 per cent next year as well.
The bottom line for business is that we are cutting the "marginal effective tax rate" on new investment in half.
This means that businesses will now pay half as much tax on things like new equipment and technology, which means they will have more money to invest in themselves -- so they can grow stronger and create more jobs.
I saw a news release the other day that captured this perfectly, with this headline:
"Ontario tax harmonization will enable Bell to accelerate investment in the province."
This new investment means jobs, which is exactly what this is all about.
So, our Budget proposes some pretty significant tax reforms -- reforms that benefit our families and our businesses, but do not benefit the Ontario government treasury.
In fact, they will cost the government $2.3 billion in revenue over the next four years.
These measures aren't the easy thing to do.
They're not the politically safe thing to do.
But they are, undoubtedly, the right thing to do.
So, we will move forward.
We will take this essential step towards a stronger economy.
One that will create the wealth we need to support our schools, our health care, and our people -- people who need a bit of help to get ahead or just get along.
In short, we will do what Ontarians would want us to do:
Protect and strengthen the economic foundation upon which we are building a caring society.
An important part of our economic foundation is strong, modern infrastructure -- and we plan to build it at a record pace.
Over the next two years, we are committing more than $27 billion for the construction of roads, transit, schools and hospitals. The federal government is coming to the table with an additional $5 billion.
What this means for our families is 300,000 jobs at a time when we most need them.
What this will mean for our province, is a better quality of life and a more productive economy.
Public transit is a big part of this progress we will make together.
Earlier this week, our government announced that we would merge Metrolinx and GO Transit to create a new organization -- one dedicated to building new transit faster and operating GO Transit even better.
We created Metrolinx to develop a vision for a truly regional transportation network for the GTA and Hamilton.
Our municipal leaders have delivered on that vision.
And I am very grateful for their work.
Now we are calling upon business and community leaders to get the job done as fast as we can.
And I am pleased that Rob Prichard has agreed to lead this effort.
Just yesterday, we announced funding for four projects:
Three of those projects are "Transit City" projects for Toronto including Scarborough, Eglinton and Finch West rapid transit.
The fourth project consists of new buses for York region and a dedicated bus lane to get them moving faster.
These are massive projects valued at $9 billion.
They are part of the most ambitious public transit plan in Canadian history. The changes we made to Metrolinx will help us get the job done faster.
There's lots more we're doing to build a stronger economy.
There's our new Green Energy Act that will help build renewable energy projects and create 50,000 jobs.
We're investing over $700 million in research and innovation to help create a new generation of jobs in Ontario.
We're reducing the regulatory burden for business by 25 per cent.
And we're continuing to work towards a single, national, securities regulator, and the further development of Toronto as a global financial centre.
My friends, all of this, every step we're taking in this budget is designed unapologetically and unabashedly to strengthen our businesses, provide opportunity for our people and ensure that all of us -- including our most vulnerable -- reap the benefits of a strong economy.
Again, it's not about right or left.
It's about all of us moving forward, together.
Ontarians understand that we are at our best when we work together -- that we can only confront a huge challenge, like this global recession, when we confront it together.
We need all levels of government, all political stripes, business, labour, private and public sectors -- everyone -- all of us, pulling together.
It has been said that what matters most in every age are the ideals that inspire our efforts and the integrity of those efforts.
Ontarians share an ideal.
We want for all our children -- and their children -- an Ontario worthy of their dreams:
A place of boundless opportunity, built on a thriving economy, supporting a caring society -- a society with the best schools for all our kids, the best health care for all our families, strong environmental protections for all of us, and compassionate support for our vulnerable.
The times may change.
But our informing ideal is constant.
This worldwide recession presents us with a challenge to be sure.
It's a setback for our people and our businesses.
But it is nothing that we can't overcome.
We've met great challenges before, and, every time, we have emerged stronger.
We are relentless.
We are determined.
We are successful.
We can do this.