Premier's Remarks To The Rural Ontario Municipal Association And The Ontario Good Roads Association
Ladies and gentlemen,
I especially want to thank all of you, for not only being leaders in your community, but for working with each other through the O-G-R-A and ROMA to build a better Ontario.
Or, as I like to call it, the greatest province in the best country in the world.
We have a lot to be proud of in Ontario, especially now.
Ontario's Olympic athletes from across the province have given us one more reason to stand a little taller.
Just the other night the pride of London and Ilderton -- Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir -- captured Canada's fifth gold medal.
Our Olympians remind us of the qualities that define us as Ontarians.
Qualities like; determination, discipline, quiet confidence and relentless optimism.
I see that the theme of this year's conference is "On the Road to Recovery."
To me that says:
We know where we're going.
We're not there yet.
We have a lot of work to do.
But we know we're headed in the right direction.
We have a goal.
And we know we will reach it through determination and confidence in ourselves.
I've been fortunate to attend this conference for many years.
I've met with many of you on these occasions, as well as at Queen's Park and in your communities.Our conversations, and your leadership, have always impressed upon me the vital importance of our rural communities -- how they are a source of strength for Ontario.
As we look to make our province even stronger, we have to ensure that rural communities continue to grow and create opportunity.
For one thing, as you keep telling me, that means we need good roads.
Good roads make a real difference.
They help attract new business.
They help existing businesses expand.
It's pretty simple, really: a strong economy demands quick and efficient movement of people and goods.
But, you've also told me good roads improve the quality of life for families.
The reality of raising children today is that you have to get them to school, and to their activities, and back home again.
And parents do this on top of working and volunteering in the community.
Our government is pleased to work together with you to improve our roads.
That's why we've invested $2.4 billion to support the expansion and rehabilitation of Ontario roads and bridges.
That's the largest investment of its kind in the history of our province.
It's creating jobs and helping families get through what we all know are tough times in so many of your communities.
And it's building on the work we've already done with you to make a difference for rural Ontario.
Our Rural Economic Development program has invested nearly $87 million dollars in 258 projects since 2003.
And that's resulted in over $700 million in economic activity.
We're also making more investments in rural infrastructure, including delivering more broadband internet access.
We all know that declining enrolment is an ongoing challenge for rural schools.
That's why we've increased funding to rural boards by almost $800 million.
Funding has gone up.
While enrolment has declined.
But I can't think of a better investment in rural Ontario, than rural kids.
We're also committed to improving access to health care for rural Ontarians.
We created the "Rural and Northern Health Care Panel" to advise us on the best way to move forward.
We built Northern Ontario's first medical school.
Because doctors who learn and train in the North are much more likely to practice in the North.
And we're working with you to support and develop Ontario's agri-food industries.
Those businesses employ more than 700,000 people.
They're a huge driver in our economy, and that's why this spring, I'll host the sixth "Premier's Summit on Agri-Food".
While we face challenges, there are hopeful signs on the horizon as we move down the road to recovery.
Take, for example, the Ring of Fire in Northwestern Ontario.
It contains one of the largest chromite deposits in the world.
Chromite is a key ingredient in stainless steel.
The world is hungry for stainless steel.
Just think of your new water container and imagine all the stainless steel they will need in India and China as they build new homes, office towers, schools and hospitals.
This is an exciting new opportunity for the north.
And our government is fully committed to working with our First Nation communities, our mining partners, and all Northerners, to take full advantage of this opportunity to create jobs and support families in the North.
And, of course, we'll do all this in an environmentally responsible way.
We'll be laying out a new plan for Ontario in our upcoming Throne Speech.
A big part of that plan will be about building a strong economy.
This is how Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of Canada, describes the economy today:
"The thaw is coming. While its pace will likely be somewhat muted and while there may be setbacks, the recovery has begun. There is, however, a catch. The economic climate that we will face will be considerably different. Canada is entering this period of adjustment with many strengths, but the efforts required of us will be historic."
I could not agree more.
Our world has changed.
Our largest trading partner -- the U.S. -- has been severely weakened.
Our dollar is now high.
Economic growth is now slow.
Governments, including ours, are now running deficits.
And just around the corner -- next year, in fact -- our baby boomers start to retire.
That's over one quarter of Ontario's population.
And as we age, we will create huge pressures for our health care and huge pressures on our children to support us.
Our world has changed.
And so must we.
We need to grow stronger.
Here are four things we're doing right now to build a stronger Ontario:
One -- we're cutting taxes.
For businesses and for people.
I hope you noticed: Your income taxes were cut on January 1.
We're also moving ahead with a harmonized sales tax.
Not because this is easy.
If it were, other governments would have done it.
We're doing it because independent economists tell us that our tax reforms will create nearly 600,000 more jobs.
And, you know, I haven't met a single mom or dad, a single grandmother or grandfather who doesn't want to make sure there are jobs for the younger generation.
And that's what our tax reforms are all about: jobs for us today and jobs for our children tomorrow.
Two -- we are supporting our economy's recovery and jobs for Ontarians by investing over $17.5 billion in infrastructure, this year.
That's more jobs, over 160,000 jobs, this year -- building roads, bridges, hospitals, and making our schools energy efficient.
Three -- we are building a strong workforce.
Right now, we're supporting 25,000 unemployed Ontarians who have chosen to pursue retraining for a new job.
At the other end of the scale, we are opening our schools to full-day learning for our four- and five-year-olds.
We've known for a long time, now: A strong start in elementary school makes for a strong finish in an apprenticeship, college or university and that makes for a good job.
Four -- we are pulling every advantage out of our Green Energy Act.
Al Gore said that Ontario's Green Energy Act is: "Widely recognized as the single best green energy program on the North American continent."
And you may have heard about the Samsung deal.
It's the biggest of its kind in the world.
They are making a $7-billion investment in Ontario -- giving us 2,500 MW of clean, renewable energy from the wind and the sun.
And, four manufacturing plants.
And 16,000 jobs.
Many of those jobs will be created in rural Ontario.
Working together, we're going to keep building a stronger economy that creates good jobs for our families.
You know, we have done it before.
You just have to look at our history to see how Ontario has succeeded through the determination of its people.
When the world economy was focused on agriculture, we built farms in a land that many thought was cold and harsh.
When national highway systems were built, and the car became king, we became North America's number one auto maker.
Today, when the knowledge economy is taking root ... we already have one of the world's highest rates of post-secondary education.
Many places in the world are facing the same challenges we are today.
Just last week I was in Washington, DC.
I met with U.S. governors there.
You know, state governments are not allowed to run deficits in the U.S.
Unlike provinces here.
So there's not much they can do to help their municipal partners at a very difficult time.
I learned about a community in California which is giving its residents two options when it comes to using 911 for a medical emergency.
They can pay a $48 annual fee ...
Or, if they don't want to pay that fee, they will be charged $300 every time they receive medical treatment from a first responder.
I am proud of the way you and I have worked together to help our families get through this difficult time.
I am very proud of the partnership you and I have built together during the past six years.
Whether it's our government's investments in your community's infrastructure, sharing our gas tax with you, uploading services, which you and I rightly believe should be uploaded, or our support for your schools and hospitals.
You and I keep demonstrating our shared commitment to work together for the benefit of the people we are privileged to serve.
I want to take this opportunity to thank you for your advice and goodwill.
My government won't get everything right.
But, I believe we can come pretty close, if we keep listening to each other and learning from each other.
The great news is that, here in Ontario, we have a foundation of tremendous strength on which to build.
Municipal leaders, like you, are an important part of that foundation.
Again, I want to thank you for your strong leadership.
And your optimism.
Because Ontarians need to know:
You and I don't see a world that threatens us.
We see a world -- a future -- that beckons us!
It's a "different" world, our post-recession world, and it's not for the faint of heart.
Neither will it reward the ponderous.
But it's filled with new opportunities.
Together, let's seize those opportunities.
Let's continue to move forward on the road to recovery.