Premier's Remarks to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce
Good afternoon! It's wonderful to be here.
This is my first official trip to Alberta and I'm very excited to have this opportunity to talk to all of you. I want to thank Adam and everyone from the Calgary Chamber for hosting me here today.
I'm here because of how much Ontario values its relationship with Alberta - and because it's very important to me that we forge an even stronger economic partnership between our provinces, for the sake of our individual interests, but also for our shared interests and those of the country as a whole.
Alberta and Ontario are two important economic engines of this country and our combined influence, innovation and leadership will continue to have an important impact on Canada's financial and social well-being.
In fact, since I've been Premier, I've talked a lot about collaboration and how every part of Ontario - whether in the north or in the south, rural or urban - every region is part of the province's success as a whole. I do not believe that people buy into the artificial political rhetoric of pitting regions and people against each other.
Every region shares a vested interest in succeeding and as everyone works together as One Ontario and as One Country - we accomplish so much more. As a country, we have common goals and shared priorities, from energy to infrastructure to economic growth.
We may not agree on every single thing but that's the point of having a relationship and finding common ground. And I believe that together, we exert great influence over our future prosperity and that of this country. So that's what I'd like to talk about today.
Together, Alberta and Ontario account for 50 per cent of Canada's total population and generate about 54 per cent of the nation's GDP. Our provinces are centres for vital industries and are populated by hard working people with huge potential. But we have also experienced major changes over the last few years. Our demographics have shifted dramatically, and we've been required to adapt to the economic and social realities of the new global marketplace.
Political leadership today is about making sure we stay on the right path, and providing our people, our communities and our industry with the best tools for continued success.
And on that note, I want to pause for a moment to congratulate Mayor Nenshi on his re-election this week. Your mayor has earned legions of fans across this country, and I count myself among their ranks. I'm really looking forward to meeting him later today. I'd also like to congratulate Don Iveson, the new mayor-elect of Edmonton. Thirty four years old - a generational shift indeed!
For those of you who don't know much about me: I got into politics as a school board trustee and I was first elected to our provincial parliament ten years ago, and have served in various roles from Minister of Education to Minister of Transportation, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Over the course of my career in politics I have watched Ontario's economy evolve along with those of other provinces and territories.
Since being sworn in as Premier earlier this year, I have made economic growth and job creation the priorities of my government. And part of that process, I believe, is recalibrating our relationship with other provinces and territories. As One Canada, it is vital for us as a country to find ways to work together.
It is not enough for any of us to only seek out new opportunities for trade and partnership overseas - we also have to figure out ways to work together within Canada, too. We have to build on each other's success and share our expertise and experience to lift each other up.
The energy sector, of course, is a prime example of what can be done using this approach. Oil and gas are clearly fundamental to Alberta's economy, and Canada's. But it's good for Ontario too - and I want everyone to know that. Many of our Ontario manufacturers now directly support your industry, and I want to build on this relationship.
For example, Burnco Manufacturing in Concord, Ontario was a thriving equipment and automation company a decade ago that served the Ontario manufacturing sector. As traditional manufacturing declined continent-wide, the company repositioned itself as a specialized structural steel fabricator for bridges, industrial buildings and heavy-duty equipment. It now supplies several energy and infrastructure firms right here in Alberta, and has signed important contracts with CNRL, Atco Group and Potash Corporation.
In the summer, I had the opportunity to visit Newterra, a company based in Brockville. They are a leading provider of modular water and wastewater treatment solutions to the industrial and municipal markets. And they offer a broad range of turnkey treatment and remediation systems to the world's most demanding industrial end users, including oilsands companies as well as oilfield service providers right here in Alberta.
Ontario companies are closely tied to Alberta companies. Your success feeds our success and vice versa.
I believe that this model of partnership and the ability to play off each other's strengths can be applied in so many other ways. As Premier of Ontario, this is the relationship between our provinces that I will champion.
This year, I am Chair of the Council of the Federation, which brings together all of the provincial and territorial premiers. The truth is, the federal government is taking a step back on many issues that matter most to our provinces and territories, and so we premiers are stepping up together.
Premier Redford and I met with our colleagues this summer in Niagara-on-the-Lake in Ontario, and we demonstrated that we can combine forces to great effect.
We got together to establish a price for the six most common generic drugs. This will save taxpayers in participating jurisdictions $100 million every year. We also called on the federal government to rethink its proposed Canada Job Grant. Provinces and territories have constitutional responsibility for skills training, but the federal government's unilateral changes to the way it contributes would require provinces to find $600 million in additional funding just to maintain current programs. After we reached out to the federal government together, we were able to finally get a meeting to discuss the program, six months after it was announced, and we are hopeful that changes are coming.
My colleagues and I will work with the federal government to ensure the most vulnerable people get the support they need to find jobs. We have shown how effective provincial and territorial voices can be when we all work together. But there is so much more that we can do.
In the energy sector, Ontario recognizes your need to get resources to markets. And safe, reliable transportation - including efficient passage through Ontario - is essential. But we must ensure that environmental standards and safety issues are addressed as they are paramount to any project's success.
As we grow our economies, we have to prioritize our collective responsibilities to future generations. We must think about sustainability and the reality of climate change and find innovative solutions to our evolving needs. In Ontario, we are shutting down coal-fired generation plants and putting cleaner energy into the grid. And that has led to job creation and a much more reliable electricity system.
We all have different strengths; that is why I am committed to working on the development of an effective national energy framework for the country. Premier Redford is chairing the COF Energy Strategy Working Group together with Premier Dunderdale of Newfoundland and Premier Selinger of Manitoba, who I met with yesterday in Winnipeg. Facilitating these efforts is a priority of mine as the Council of the Federation Chair. We've agreed on common principles - at least most of us have - for an energy strategy.
Now, provinces and territories need to work together to:
- build the energy infrastructure we need to meet global energy demands as well as our own,
- protect our environment and
- create jobs across the country.
I will work with Premier Redford and all the Premiers to navigate a successful path toward these objectives. It goes without saying, we won't always agree but that's exactly the point of collaboration to bridge the divides as One Canada. And together, Ontario and Alberta will play a key role in helping us to get there.
From my perspective, some things that should never be negotiable are:
- the inclusion of the aboriginal communities to participate and
- the protection of our natural environment
I know that the Alberta government recently established a policy on Consultation with First Nations on Land and Natural Resource Management. You are well-advanced on this front. You understand the need to engage with Aboriginal communities, hear their voices and ensure that they benefit from these projects.
As you know, Ontario has the largest chromite deposit in the Western Hemisphere - the Ring of Fire - and throughout the process of extracting this resource, we are ensuring that First Nations are included and the environment is protected. It is fundamental to Ontario's smart, sustainable and collaborative approach to natural resource development, and I think we can make a compelling case to the federal government that the involvement of Aboriginal communities is imperative.
Of course, the future prosperity of Ontario and Alberta relies on more than just our effective management of our natural resources. We have to take care of our people. We are on the precipice of a retirement income crisis in this country. Over the past thirty years, the burden of planning and saving for retirement has shifted to individuals. The savings vehicles we have in place don't do the job anymore.
Most Canadians only dream about maxing on their RRSP contributions, if they can make any contributions at all. As a result, more than half of young Canadians - those under the age of 42 - will make less than 80 per cent of their current income when they retire. Low investment returns don't help either.
I am determined to address this problem. There is an obvious fix at hand. In the 1990's Canadian governments took the difficult step of reforming the Canada Pension Plan. Premiers worked together to make this possible. And we can work together on this issue now, along with the federal government.
That's why we are calling on the federal government to listen to Canadians and to provincial governments and enhance the CPP. I would prefer to improve retirement incomes through enhancing the CPP, but one way or another, I will make sure the people of Ontario have security and support when they retire.
There are two other important nation-building themes I'd like to address today. One of the criticisms that I often hear directed at government is the need to be more like business. I think this is a valid point. The most successful businesses do not accept the status quo. They constantly push themselves to improve and evolve, to find new ways of doing things and accelerate their own success. I believe governments must do this too.
As many of you are aware, Ontario, BC and the federal government recently announced our intention to move forward with a Cooperative Capital Markets Regulator. I firmly believe this will make our capital markets more efficient and more effective. There is no other country in the world where you need to go to 13 different regulators and pay 13 separate fees to raise capital nationally.
We're proposing a streamlined cooperative system which would provide increased protection for investors, and help our businesses grow and compete, while at the same time respecting local expertise in each province. At the same time, we have ensured that the role of the Federal Government is limited.
I know you have concerns including how this would affect smaller players in oil and gas industry and I respect Alberta's position. But I'd like to see if we can address these concerns as we move forward -- recognizing both our provinces' interests. This is not a symbolic act; I truly believe this process will lead to a stronger national economy.
Finally, I'd like to talk about one last thing, and that's infrastructure. Smart businesses understand the bricks and mortar foundation on which their success is built. And this is why I am a major advocate for investment in strategic infrastructure across Canada. Provinces and territories have different needs, but we are all grappling with the realities of aging or inadequate infrastructure.
In Ontario, we are suffering from decades of underinvestment in public transit in our growing cities, as well as the realities of small, rural and northern towns that have not had stable funding for infrastructure projects like roads, bridges and underpasses. In Alberta, I know you have seen the need to quickly adapt your infrastructure to your growing population, especially in and around Fort McMurray. But like us, you have also seen the startling impact that our natural environment can have on our infrastructure, and on the people of this province. The flood that hit Calgary this summer showed your tremendous courage, compassion and perseverance....and I know you are still dealing with the ramifications on your lives, your mental health and on your economy. But it also demonstrated the very serious need for strategic infrastructure investment by every level of government. You should not be expected to deal with this on your own. We all need to speak up and work together so we can prepare for future events like this and provide our populations with the solid foundation of infrastructure that they deserve. That is why we absolutely need the Federal Government to work with us on a National Infrastructure Strategy.
This morning, I had a very productive meeting with Premier Redford. After I was sworn-in to office earlier this year, she was the first leader with whom I met. We made a great connection. This summer we worked closely at the Council of the Federation. And together, we are co-chairs on the Fiscal Arrangement Working Group, and will advance the case for predictable, sustained and effective investment in the infrastructure needed to create jobs and a better environment for us all.
I think we both agree that we have to look with fresh eyes at how our provinces work together to ensure a healthy, productive, educated and economically vibrant nation. And our conversation today was a continuation of what I believe is a very powerful partnership between two leaders and between two provinces. I look forward to everything we can accomplish together.
Thank you. Merci. Meegwetch.