Premier's Remarks at the London Chamber of Commerce
Good afternoon, Bonjour, Ahnee and Bojoo. I'd like to acknowledge that we're on the traditional territory of the Algonquin and Anishinaabe Peoples.
It's great to be in London today and to be joined by such an accomplished group of community and business leaders.
I'm here to talk to you a bit about our government's economic plan, and what it will mean for you and your community.
In my experience, politicians tend to talk about the economy like it's some abstract, separate thing. They rhyme off a series of numbers and past investments and everyone's eyes glaze over a bit. But the economy is not something we can separate out from our daily lives. It's not an abstract thing. It's about how well we're doing as individuals and how many of us have jobs we can be proud of, it's about the health of our businesses and our neighbours' businesses, it's about the success of people across this province, measured in the way they're able to care for their families and the growth they see in their communities. It's about addressing the sense of unease that I know many people have about the future. It's about London and Ottawa, Thunder Bay and Sarnia, and making sure all the parts of our province are able to grow and thrive.
So when I talk about economic growth, I'm talking about your regional economy and how that relates to other parts of our province and to Ontario as a whole. And I want you to know that this is how my team and I are going to measure our success over the months and years to come.
So what are we going to do? What role do we play in building regional prosperity and growing the provincial economy? First of all, I think we have to demonstrate that we have a vision for this province. Unfortunately, vision is not a word you hear a lot in politics these days. But it should be.
We need to talk about what is possible for this province, about our strengths and where we want to go. We need to instill confidence in investors, in business owners and the general public, and show them that Ontario is confident about its future and capable of great things.
And so, our government is not going to recklessly cut programs or slash funding until we can boast a surplus. We are not going to spend recklessly either, abdicating our responsibilities to future generations. Our team is going to constrain spending and make efficiency and accountability a priority across our government, and at the same time, we're going to make smart investments that will pay off exponentially in the future.
We are going to invest in you. You are Ontario's strength. We have smart, educated, incredibly hard-working people in this province, who come from diverse backgrounds and boast an array of skills, interests and expertise. You are showing us what is possible for Ontario, and our government's role is to support your efforts and make sure you continue to succeed.
Our job is to convene the right people - educators, labour, the not-for-profit sector and business - to work together towards common goals, and create the right environment for businesses and individuals to succeed, so they, in turn, will take risks, make investments, create jobs and drive innovation, just like many of you have done.
Look at the people in this room.
We have Paul Madden, of 3M. Educated at the University of Western Ontario, he worked for 3M in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand before moving back to London. His company turns ideas into products and operates in a truly global marketplace. That is a model Ontario needs to follow.
We have Don McCabe from the Ontario Federation of Agriculture. Don represents farmers in this region, but he also has a doctorate-level education in soil genesis from Guelph and a chemistry degree from Western. He is a leading advocate for environmental farm stewardship in the areas of air, water, biodiversity and climate change. This is the face we need to put on our agricultural sector.
We need to encourage our industries to innovate and lead, whether we are talking about farming or mining or medical technology. Janet Stewart, a lawyer by trade, received the Order of Ontario for her work advancing women in the law and for her commitment to a wide range of philanthropic activities in the London area. Janet shows us that we must offer the right kind of support and encouragement so that everyone can succeed in their chosen field, and have the opportunity to give back to their communities in spades.
I want to build our economy around people like you. And our government understands that for this to happen, we have to focus our investments on giving people the right skills, support and resources. That's why we're investing in education and training. People need to be prepared for our 21st century economy. Our kids need to learn about technology, entrepreneurship and team work, as well as the basics of reading, writing and math. We are focused on building our world class education system, through our commitment to full day kindergarten, and we are continuing with the 30 % off Tuition Grant we offer to college and university students, so it's easier for them to pursue their studies after high school.
We're investing in your children but also in your future employees. That is why we are also committed to addressing the infrastructure deficit in Ontario. This is not about fixing traffic in one city or one region. It's about making sure that every part of this province can move safely and efficiently. It's about helping people get home to their families quickly at the end of the day, and ensuring that our products can move to market without delay. Infrastructure is the underpinning of our economy, and if we don't address this issue, our productivity suffers, our assembly lines break down, and our regional tourism and quality of life is affected.
We are going to continue building Ontario's success layer, by layer. But it is all with an eye to one thing: creating jobs.
According to StatsCan, London's unemployment rate dropped slightly last month, but it is still high compared to other major Canadian cities. Job creation is a fundamental focus of our government, just as it remains a priority for London and for all of you. We will be making major investments in youth employment, which continues to be a major source of concern, and not just because parents want their kids out of the basement. The unemployment rate for young people aged 15-24 in London is around 20 per cent. London is home to young families, to wonderful post-secondary institutions, and we need to help those young people transition out of school and into the workforce. We have to bring that number down.
Our Budget includes a Youth Jobs Strategy designed to help them find the careers that are right for them and right for Ontario. We're going to provide high skills training and increased opportunities for co-ops, internships, apprenticeships and other real world opportunities, by working with employers and labour partners, as well as academic partners like Western and Fanshawe College.
We are also going to support young entrepreneurs and innovators, through the creation of a fund that will invest in their ideas, so they can build the economy of Ontario's future. So yes, we are focused on building tomorrow's workforce, but we are also thinking about your needs today, and how we can support existing industries and ensure their on-going success. We want your businesses to expand and innovate and hire more and more people as you go.
In October 2012, the government launched a permanent Southwestern Ontario Development Fund as part of these efforts. Since then, we have committed $15 million through this program, leveraging a total investment of nearly $120 million and helping create and protect 2,200 jobs in the region.
This year's Budget, which we passed this week, commits to doing even more. We will be providing assistance to manufacturers so they can upgrade their equipment. We will also be expanding the health tax exemption for small business, easing their burden and allowing them to grow. Ontario is home to many proud industries, and we want to promote their accomplishments and their products. We all have a role to play in doing this.
I want us all to recognize the important connections between our communities and our industries. Our government works closely with the financial services sector in Toronto because it helps support our forestry cluster in Sudbury, and our insurance giants here in London.
When it comes to agriculture, our government has made it a priority to encourage the consumption of local food, ensuring that people see Ontario products as a vital part of our homegrown economy. London farmers benefit when a restaurant in Ottawa or a school in Burlington commits to serving Ontario produce.
We will be supporting our manufacturing, information technology and life sciences sectors, so we can grow our knowledge based economy in important hubs like London.
We will also support the arts, film and music industries, too, because our cultural products feed into our economy, our tourism, our vibrant communities and our international reputation.
Our efforts can not all be focused inward. We want to increase Ontario's visibility abroad, as well. We will be tapping into our diverse population to expand our opportunities in emerging markets. We will also conduct trade missions designed to bring new opportunities to Ontario businesses and sell our strengths around the world.
Our economic vision is about more than helping businesses succeed. We need to help individuals as well. And so, as we create jobs and grow our industries, we will also ease some of the pressures people in Ontario are experiencing. The cost of living can be hard to deal with; your day to day expenses can add up, the stresses of work and family can seem overwhelming. We're going to make people's lives easier, so they have some money in their pockets at the end of the day, so they can enjoy a locally-grown meal, or take some time to visit another part of this beautiful province this summer.
That's why we're going to reduce car insurance for 9 million safe drivers in Ontario, with a goal of cutting premiums by an average of 15 percent. We will also be introducing changes to our social assistance programs, so it's easier for people to transition back into employment. We want everyone to have a good job, and we shouldn't discourage people from entering the workforce by clawing back what they earn through their hard work. It's about being fair, and recognizing our responsibility to each other, but it makes economic sense, too.
The more people in Ontario who feel empowered and supported and healthy, the stronger our workforce and our communities will be. The economy is not an abstract thing. It's about people's lives, and I really believe that for Ontario to prosper and grow, all of our communities, all of our industries and individuals have to prosper and grow. London needs to prosper and grow. Making sure that this can happen is our government's role; it is my role.
I will be creating an environment where you can succeed, where London can flourish, and where all the parts of our province can benefit from your accomplishments and your strengths. You are the foundation of our economy and we are going to invest in you.
Thank you. I look forward to taking your questions.