Remarks To The Association Of Municipalities Of Ontario
Mr. President, distinguished guests, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, friends:
Thank you for giving me this chance to speak to you today ...
I hope that you are all enjoying a wonderful summer with family and friends.
I want to thank all the members of my caucus who are here today.
The AMO Annual Conference is a highlight of our year.
It's an opportunity to meet with you to talk about our communities ...
And work together to better serve our people.
And I am very grateful for that spirit of cooperation ...
That willingness to roll up our sleeves as partners to get the job done.
In cabinet, there's no one who embodies that spirit better than our Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing ... Jim Watson.
Thank you, Jim, for all the work you do.
I also want to thank all your executive for the responsibilities they have taken on ...
And especially your president and my councilor ... Peter Hume.
My friends, I want to thank every one of you ...
For the leadership you provide ...
The services you deliver ...
And the strength you lend to your communities ... in good times, and in more challenging times.
And these are challenging times.
That means we have to be at our best.
And that means, we need to keep working together.
In that vein, I want thank all of you, and Prime Minister Harper's government, for working hard and well with us to build infrastructure, create jobs and strengthen our economy.
I think it's particularly appropriate that you've chosen "Changing Times" for this year's theme.
A lot has changed since we last met.
Last year, at this time, there was talk of storm clouds gathering.
Oil was up ... the dollar was high ... the US economy was slowing down.
Soon after, the storm hit.
Some have said that the worst is over.
Others aren't so sure.One thing we know for sure about recessions ... they all end.
The way I see it, our job is about more than helping Ontarians get through this.
We must also take steps to ensure we come out of this stronger than ever.
The U.S. economy will come back.
So will China and India and the other emerging powerhouses.
The competition will grow stronger.
And so must we.
We need to build a more competitive economy.
When our businesses can compete, create jobs and become strong, then we can invest in the schools, hospitals and roads that keep us strong.
That's what our last Budget was all about.
Helping us grow stronger.
First, we're helping our businesses compete by making substantial tax cuts ...
So they'll have more money to invest in things like research into the next product.
Or new technology to make them more productive.
Second, we're introducing a single sales tax.
This is the single biggest thing we can do to help our businesses become more competitive.Together with our tax cuts, the single sales tax will give our businesses an important advantage in the global economy.
You know, the single sales tax is already a fact of life in 130 countries and four other provinces.
Any place they've brought it in, they've never taken it out - because it works.
It makes your economy stronger.
And it will be especially helpful to our manufacturers who are exporting to the world.
We've got to give our businesses this same advantage.
As the B.C. Finance Minister recently said about that province's decision to follow our lead and adopt a single sales tax:
"We cannot be left behind."
The way I see it, you and I have a choice.
We can refuse to fix what's broken and resign ourselves to the idea that Ontario will be less competitive ...
Years from now we can say to our children:
"Yeah, we knew it was the right thing to do, ....
"We knew the rest of the world was going there, ...
"But we chose not to because ... it was too hard."
Or ... we can embrace change and do what it takes to build a stronger Ontario ...
Do what it takes to ensure there will be good jobs, not just for us today, but for our children tomorrow.
In Ontario, we've made our choice.
We are standing up for our families and for our future.
And, to help our families adjust to the single sales tax, we're cutting their taxes, too.
93% of Ontario taxpayers are getting a permanent income tax cut ...
Every family earning $160,000 or less is getting $1000 from the government ...
And people earning less than $80,000 are getting $300.
Now, in addition to tax reforms to strengthen our economy, there's something else we can do together to fight for jobs.
We can fight for free trade and against U.S. "Buy American" policies.
"Buy American" means Canadian businesses can't bid on U.S. infrastructure projects.
But they can bid on ours.
That's not fair.
History tells us that protectionism didn't work during the Great Depression.
In fact, it delayed the recovery.
Well, in today's complex and interdependent global economy, it makes even less sense.
We are kidding ourselves if we think we can be safe by building a lifeboat just for the people in our own communities.
We're kidding ourselves if we think we can be safe by building a lifeboat just for the people of Ontario.
Or just for the people of Canada.
In an age of globalization, at a time when our jobs depend on strong trade, what's called for is not a lifeboat for a select few ...
We need an ark, for all of us.
The best way to ensure we enjoy a strong and sustained recovery is by moving forward together.
And I want to thank all of you who have spoken out against "Buy American" protectionism and reached out to your counterparts across the border.
The Premiers and I have agreed to keep supporting the efforts being made by the Prime Minister in this regard.
I strongly encourage you to do the same.My friends, our government's highest priority, whether in our Budget or in our relations with our trade partners ...
Is to create jobs and strengthen our economy for today and tomorrow.
That's why we're investing so heavily in infrastructure ...
Something we have been doing since we were first elected to government nearly six years ago.
Now, I could go through a litany of projects that we've supported, and you've delivered.
But you know the story.
When we came to office, Ontario was facing an infrastructure deficit.
Sewer systems hadn't been upgraded.
Roads were crumbling.
Bridges were in desperate need of repair.
We tackled that challenge, together.
And while there's more to do, we have made real progress.
You and I have also tackled another deficit.
There had been a shortage of respect shown by Queen's Park for our municipal governments.
We've worked hard to change that, too.
I believe we are at our best for Ontarians when we work together.
So, instead of imposing rules, we engaged you as partners.
Instead of asking you to do more with less, we worked to understand your needs.
And instead of downloading responsibilities, we uploaded services.
Through our "Provincial-Municipal Review", we agreed to a timetable for those uploads.
Last year, we uploaded 100 per cent of the Ontario Drug Benefit.
Now, we're moving forward with ODSP Administration and Benefit costs.
We're also moving ahead with our upload of Ontario Works Benefits.
In 2018, when all the uploads are finished, Ontario's municipalities will see a total net benefit of $1.5 billion per year.
And then there are the direct investments we are making in your communities.
This year and next we're investing $32.5 billion in infrastructure.
Together, we are putting shovels in the ground and people to work in communities right across Ontario.
We're creating hundreds of thousands of jobs.
I don't have to tell you, Ontarians need those jobs.
So, let's keep doing everything we can to get our infrastructure projects underway and completed as soon as possible.
There's one final point I would like to make, before I close.
As you know, the investments we are making today are creating a deficit.
A substantial deficit.
I believe you and I are justified in running a deficit to create jobs, protect our public services and build a stronger economy.
We owe this to ourselves during a difficult time.But, what we owe our children and grandchildren is the elimination of our deficit as soon as we can.
This won't be easy, but working together, we will overcome this challenge, too.
Our government's core priorities remain health, education and a strong economy.
And those priorities depend on responsible management of the people's finances ...
So that, over the long term, our people have ...
The health care they need to live good, healthy lives ...
The education and training they need to compete with the world ...
And every possible opportunity we can give them to win.
You know, when we look back, it is truly remarkable to see what Ontarians have achieved together.
Very early in our history, our province wasn't given much of a chance for survival.
Back in 1791 ... when the province of Upper Canada was proposed ... a Scottish businessman by the name of Lymburner gave a speech saying we'd never make it.
"It will be the very mockery of a province, 300 or 400 families scattered over a country some 400 miles in length, not having any towns and scarcely a village!"
Well, today, we are 13 million strong in communities stretching from Windsor to Cornwall and Pelee Island to Fort Severn.
We have hospitals, schools, industries ...
And a quality of life and standard of living that millions around the world look upon with envy.
People have come from around the world to be here.
We are united.
We are strong.
We are determined.
We have overcome every challenge that has come our way.
Two World Wars.
A Great Depression.
The slowdowns of the 80s and 90s.
Throughout, we have always prevailed.
And we will find a way through these times, too.
We'll do it the Ontario way ...
Through hard work, an unrelenting determination to build a better life for our children ...
And by always, always, working together.
We can do this.