Premier's Remarks For The Ethnic Media Holiday Reception
Good evening, and thank you Eric for that kind introduction.
It's great to be here, and great to see all of you.
You know, Terri and I love this time of year.
When the kids were small, I used to help them write letters to Santa.
They would dictate and I would write for them.
They would tell me to write the most lovely things about just how so very well behaved they were.
I could barely keep a straight face.
Christmas morning came and they were excited to run down to the tree to see what was there.
It's funny, now that they're older, Terri and I are the ones running downstairs, because we're excited to have them home.
I want to thank you all for taking time out of your busy schedules during these joyous, hectic times to be here.
And thank you and all your colleagues for your dedication to our communities.
On behalf of my colleagues, I want to wish all of you the best of the holiday season.
For many Ontarians, this time of year is all about connecting with family, friends and neighbours, and, I was thinking -- that's what you do all year.
You connect people to each other, to their communities and culture.
Thank you for that.
Thank you for helping to keep Ontarians informed too, and telling them about the progress we're making for Ontario families, and that progress has been real.
We believe in our schools because that's where hope for the future is born.
That's why we've made investments to help make class sizes smaller and raise test scores.
We increased the graduation rate and introduced full-day kindergarten so our kids are getting the best start and life is a little easier for parents.
I'm proud to say Ontario schools are now ranked in the top 10 in the world.
We believe in our health care system because we know families depend on it.
That's why we've invested in our hospitals to lower wait times.
We've helped more nurses, and more doctors enter practice, including 2,190 internationally-trained doctors since 2003.
And I'm proud that Ontario now has the shortest wait times in Canada.
So, there is good news in that our public services keep getting better.
But the economy -- well that's another thing.
It's been a very challenging year for Ontarians.
They are coming out of a terrible economic recession; the biggest of its kind in 80 years.
It hit their savings.
It hit their jobs.
It hit their incomes.
It hit their confidence.
Understandably, Ontarians are anxious and uncertain.
They are less optimistic and less confident about their future.
If we look at our economy as a whole, things have changed there, too.
We can no longer count on a low dollar to drive our exports.
We can no longer count on a roaring U.S. economy to pull ours forward.
And, it turns out, we can no longer rely on stable growth in the EU, the largest trading block in the world.
So, this recession changed our economy and it changed the outlook that families have on their future.
We're giving them hope.
First of all, we are helping families directly.
The average family is receiving a $400 income tax cut this year and every year going forward.
We're giving families a Children's Activity Tax Credit and an energy and property tax credit - worth over $1,000 - for seniors.
Our new Clean Energy Benefit cuts our electricity bills by 10 per cent and then there's the heavy lifting we are all doing to build a stronger Ontario economy.
We know we can't rely as much on the outside world to pull us forward -- so we have to drive ourselves forward, from within.
That's what our tax reforms are all about.
We're cutting taxes -- not just for people -- but dramatically for our businesses to make them more competitive in a global economy.
Along with the HST, independent economists tell us our tax reforms mean 600,000 more jobs.
Something else we're doing to build a strong economy and a bright future:
We are renewing 80 per cent of our electricity system over the course of the next 20 years.
We are going to do everything we need to do to assure our families and our businesses we will have all the electricity they need to enjoy their lives, and power our economy, for the next 20 years.
And we're doing this in a smart way.
We're getting rid of coal to clean up our air and cut $3 billion in annual health care costs.
And we're building an exciting new clean energy industry that's creating thousands of new jobs for our families.
I am pleased to report that our plan is working.
So far, we have recovered 87 per cent of the jobs we lost in the recession.
That compares well with the U.S. where they've only regained 10 per cent of their jobs.
Finally, we are bringing hope to families by running an efficient government.
Just yesterday, we announced we're reducing the number of agencies and getting rid of perks like golf memberships for executives.
We've frozen MPP pay for two years and we're cutting the size of our public service by 5 per cent.
Here's one more reason we can all be hopeful:
As you know, it is a very competitive world out there.
I've been on many trade missions.
One of our greatest competitive advantages is you.
It's our diversity.
It allows us to better understand and to better connect with the world.
It means we have an inside track on bringing more jobs to Ontario from around the world.
That's why we are committed to bringing more international students to study in Ontario.
That's why we announced our scholarship for international students.
The opposition doesn't get it.
They refuse to understand that a huge part of our economy was created by international students who stayed here, started a business here and created thousands of jobs here.
Even when those students don't stay, they become partners with us in the global economy. And that too, is good for Ontarians.
Building a strong and diverse Ontario is why we've invested in over 220 bridge programs as well as language training to help newcomers adjust.
It's why we created Global Experience Ontario and HealthForceOntario.
They're providing one-stop access to information and referral services to help those with international training qualify for professional practice in Ontario.
And now, I'm pleased to announce the next piece of our plan for building strong, diverse communities: The Youth Opportunities Program.
We're partnering with community organizations to provide mentoring and leadership training for young people who want to enter Ontario's job market or pursue a postsecondary education.
We want to reach out to youth in our diverse communities, because we want all Ontarians at their best as we take on the world to win.
Most of you know I come from a big family.
My dad used to say to us, "none of us is as strong as all of us working together."
Ontario is at its best when we're all at our best.
That's why we'll continue to look for ways to help everyone succeed.
We're building on the quality of life passed on to us by our parents and grandparents to leave a better province for our kids and grandkids.
And that, my friends, is the greatest gift of all.
Thank you and happy holidays!