A Strong Economy Built on Care and Opportunity
Ontario Taking Action to Support Continued Economic Growth
Premier Wynne was at the Ontario Chamber of Commerce Annual General Meeting in Hamilton today to talk with the business community about the strength of Ontario's economy and the next steps in the government's plan for care and opportunity.
Ontario's unemployment rate is at its lowest level in almost two decades and, since 2014, the province has been a growth leader among the G7. Ontario continues to be a North American leader in attracting business investment and is accelerating towards its goal for 70 per cent of workers to have a postsecondary education or apprenticeship certificate by 2020, which is twice the OECD average.
Ontario's economy is the strongest it has been in years, but is not without its challenges. In this period of rapid economic change, every province and state is experiencing disruptions and workforce displacement, navigating trade uncertainty and struggling with the fact that economic gains are not being shared broadly with workers. What sets Ontario apart is the way the government has responded by mandating fairer workplaces and investing in people and their capacity to care for their families and get ahead in the economy. The Premier highlighted a Jobs Plan that includes:
- Record investments in public infrastructure — building roads, transit, schools and hospitals to create jobs now while building the province up for the future
- The Jobs and Prosperity Fund — strategic partnerships to help businesses expand and hire more people
- Global Trade Strategy — international trade missions and support for exporters to help them grow their businesses, thrive in the global marketplace and create jobs and investments for Ontario
- Apprenticeships, Education and Training — A modernized apprenticeship system that currently has over 68,000 active apprentices and is being expanded through the Ontario Apprenticeship Strategy, free college and university tuition for 235,000 students and a strategy that is closing the skills gaps by increasing the number of STEM and Artificial Intelligence grads and giving students more hands-on, real-world learning experiences
- A Major Expansion of Child Care — an 82 per cent increase in early years and child care spending since 2014, to make more child care spaces available at a lower cost, helping parents get back into the workforce.
The Premier also commended business leaders for being the job creators who are continuing to build a stronger economy and said that Ontario's greatest strength is its people. If people aren't able to care for themselves and their families, or get stuck in situations where their hard work is not reflected in their wages, Ontario's economic fundamentals suffer. This is why the next steps in the government's plan for care and opportunity will provide more support for people and ensure a fairer workplace, including:
- Making licensed preschool child care free from the age of 2.5 until children can enter kindergarten beginning in 2020, saving families up to $17,000 per child and helping parents return to work when they choose
- Raising the minimum wage to $15 on January 1, 2019, a $2,000 raise for full-time minimum wage earners, most of whom work at large firms
- Expanding OHIP+ to everyone 65 and over, making eligible prescriptions free for half the population in 2019
- Investing a record $2.1 billion over four years to transform mental health and addictions services
- Increasing support for seniors and their caregivers, including an additional $650 million over three years to add more home care services
- A Fair Housing Plan that has calmed the market and has extended rent controls to all tenants to protect them from unfair rent gouging.
Ontario's economy has been performing well in recent years, but to build on these gains and ensure they are more widely shared, the government is doing more to ease the pressure working families are under, support caregivers and create opportunities.
- At 5.5 per cent, Ontario’s unemployment rate is sitting at an over 17-year low. Last year, employment increased by 128,400, which is equivalent to almost 500 new jobs, on average, per working day.
- Sixty per cent of minimum wage earners are women and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives has found that the vast majority of workers who will benefit from a $15 minimum wage are over the age of 20 and that many are working for large companies with more than 500 employees.
- Increased access to affordable, safe, licensed child care is the number one recommendation from the Gender Wage Gap Steering Committee to close the gender wage gap. Since 2012-13, the government has grown the number of licensed child care spaces in Ontario by 45 per cent, to 427,000.
- According to McKinsey & Company’s 2017 report, “The Power of Parity: Advancing Women’s Equality in Canada,” improving gender equality in workplaces and society could add as much as $60 billion to Ontario’s GDP over the next decade.
- With the changes Ontario has made to OSAP to offer free tuition, there has been a 16 per cent increase in OSAP recipients, 95 per cent of which now receive some form of non-repayable grant funding.
- The province’s investments in education have increased the high school graduation rate from 68 per cent in 2004 to an all-time high of 86.5 per cent.
“A strong economy and a province where everyone can have the care they need, a great education and a good shot at getting ahead are two sides of the same coin. If people aren’t supported, the economy can’t soar. We’ve made big economic gains these past few years by investing in people, but workers are still under so much pressure. Families are under pressure. They need their government to step up and be their champion, which is we have made the deliberate decision at this time to invest in care and opportunity, and demand fairer wages for workers. When we do that, not only are people better off, the whole economy will be stronger and more competitive.”