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Minister Bethlenfalvy's Remarks at the Economic Club of Canada

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Minister Bethlenfalvy's Remarks at the Economic Club of Canada

Treasury Board Secretariat

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Thank you, Kim.

Before I get into today's remarks - when we decided on the title, "Building Smarter Government," I jokingly said to my staff that I should walk on stage to the Get Smart theme song...

I was met with completely blank stares. Similar to what I'm seeing from the younger members of today's audience.

Then I asked if I would be allowed to keep my shoe phone, even after I got rid of all the land lines.

More blank stares.

No one appreciates the classics anymore...

Nevertheless, thank you, everyone, for taking the time to be here this afternoon.

I would like to take a moment to acknowledge some of my colleagues who have joined us today, and I would encourage you to hold your applause until the end if only because so many members of this great team are here with us:

  • Minister of Finance, Rod Phillips
  • Minister of Children, Community and Social Services, Todd Smith
  • Minister of Government and Consumer Services, Lisa Thompson
  • Minister of Infrastructure, Laurie Scott
  • Associate Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction, Prabmeet Sakaria
  • My Parliamentary Assistants MPP Michael Parsa and MPP Rudy Cuzzetto
  • MPP Kaleed Rasheed
  • MPP Gila Martow

A big round of applause for our great team.

As many of you know, November is Financial Literacy Month. So, I want to acknowledge the great work of Rhiannon and the Economic Club of Canada. They are spearheading the work of helping young people build the skills and habits necessary to better manage their money.

Last year during Financial Literacy Month, I visited St. Mary Catholic Secondary School in my riding of Pickering-Uxbridge. I spoke with students about the importance of fiscal responsibility - both in their lives and in government - and I was impressed by their smart, pragmatic ideas about how to manage money.

As you all know, I care deeply about responsible financial stewardship. And it's inspiring to see the work the Economic Club of Canada is doing across the country for our youth.

Let's give our hosts a round of applause.

While I will leave the details of the Fall Economic Statement to my colleague Minister of Finance Rod Phillips on November 6th, I am proud to be here to talk about our plan for Ontario, and one of my key priorities as President of the Treasury Board.

It will be a core component of our Fall Economic Statement, and an important part of Premier Doug Ford and our entire team's plan to build Ontario together.

However, before I get to this plan, I would be remiss if I didn't take a moment to reflect upon the federal election.

As I watched the returns come in on Monday night, I thought back to my childhood in Montreal - specifically, watching the results of the 1976 Quebec election. It was a defining moment for our country. And it was a pivotal moment for me, sparking a lifelong interest in politics.

Since then, I have watched as the giants of Canadian politics have battled. Throughout those tribulations and debates, even over issues as divisive as the very existence of our country itself, those great leaders came together with civility and mutual respect. And united by the desire for a better, stronger country.

For the last several months, Canadians have come together in an intense national discussion. Now, it's time for us to advance together in the interest of governing this great country.

My congratulations to Prime Minister Trudeau and to not only all those who won, but all those who put their names on the ballot.

Today, I'm here to talk about our focus on doing government differently, with stronger accountability, greater efficiency and more public trust. In a word: Smarter.

Many people are unaware of the work we do at the Treasury Board Secretariat. Yes, I sign the cheques. But as a central agency of government, we also play a role in monitoring government processes and practices, assessing risk and giving direction on how government can work smarter for you.

For decades, the process and procedures of government have been operating largely unchanged and unchallenged. As businesses have modernized, updated and innovated, the business of government has lagged behind.

Our goal is to build a smart, fiscally sustainable governing system. A system that puts the people, our citizens, at the centre of everything we do.

This is a plan that will transform the very culture of government...

It is a plan to build smarter government.

When our government took office, we promised that we would spend your tax dollars wisely and clean up over a decade of fiscal mismanagement.

It's an important task. But it's one that's often overlooked.

Whether it's your household's finances or a multi-billon dollar provincial budget, the consequences of unsustainable spending cannot be avoided.

In just one year, we have reduced the deficit and charted a sustainable path to balance. Our bold plan has led to higher revenues and strong investment, a growing job market and higher consumer consumption, which in turn has brought down the deficit.

That's important. Because spending within our means translates to better education for our children, better health care for our parents and better programs and services across the province.

We did this while making life easier for people across Ontario...

... like lowering gas prices, which saves families approximately $260 per year...

... helping students get ahead by reducing college and university fees by 10 per cent...

... improving the flexibility and affordability of child care, by introducing the Ontario Childcare Access and Relief from Expenses tax credit. We're investing over $2 billion over six years, making child care more affordable for 300,000 families per year.

Furthermore, we took steps this year to curb the wasteful spending governments see at the end of the fiscal year - a practice called "March Madness."

This, coupled with our year-end expenditure management exercises and discretionary spending controls, generated $153 million in savings.

That's an important example about how we're governing differently.

The same principle applies to culling regulatory burdens and red tape for businesses.

That's why we will soon introduce new measures that create the right climate for job-creators to thrive. A smarter government means smarter regulations.

Now... I want to explain how we're going to keep building a government that works for you.

Throughout the past year, we have listened. I've criss-crossed the province hearing directly from you. From roundtables to kitchen tables, these conversations have guided every decision we have made about our government's financial tables. What we've learned is that government shouldn't be there all of the time. But government should be there for you when you need it.

We have an opportunity to change the culture of government, focus on processes and outcomes... and ultimately improve the experience for the over 14 million people that call this province home.

Ontario is ready for this change...... change to build smarter government.

I'm here to announce that, starting today, we are implementing a variety of initiatives, which we are calling Smart Initiatives. Under the leadership of Premier Ford these Smart Initiatives will streamline and improve services, fix inefficiencies and build a government that's responsive to you.

So today, I'm going to tell you about three Smart Initiatives I am particularly excited about.

I'll begin with Digital First.

Today, Ontarians can do everything from banking to buying their groceries online.

The people of Ontario recognize that the business world has used technology to become more responsive and make the lives of consumers easier. We believe it's time the government took a lesson from business to make taxpayers' lives easier and government services more responsive.

We need to build a digital system that works for everyday Ontarians - a system that's easy, intuitive and effective. It also happens to have the potential to save millions across government.

For example, our government is enabling a 21st-century health care system that connects Ontarians with more modern, convenient and digitally-enabled health care choices, such as video visits direct to patients and online bookings for appointments. These changes support safer, better and more efficient health care delivery and will better connect rural and remote communities to new and expanded care options to meet their unique needs.

While this project is called "Digital First," it's not Digital ONLY. Our plan protects in-person options for those Ontarians who still want or need to use them. We're giving people the option for a more convenient government.

Our first phase of the project will put the top 10 most-used transactions at ServiceOntario online. Imagine - instead of waiting in line at a crowded ServiceOntario, you can renew your driver's license or health card, update personal information, or register a business from your computer or cellphone, without ever leaving your house.

In addition to Digital First government services, we're also making it easier for businesses to offer digital first services. In September, the government announced changes that allow drivers to carry electronic proof of insurance on their cellphone. This means no more searching through your glove box for your crumpled and faded insurance pink slip.

Every person online means one less person in line.

Our plan also means changing how we work behind the scenes - using Lean 6 Management Processes to bring a critical eye to how we operate.

Digital First will provide greater choice and convenience, while at the same time lowering the costs to taxpayers.

That sounds pretty smart to me.

The second Smart Initiative is Transfer Payment Consolidation.

Let me give you another example. Imagine you work in social services. That work puts you in contact with multiple ministries, and each ministry has multiple funding agreements. These multiples of multiples then make demands on your time and get in the way of what you're really there to do - provide social services.

90 per cent of all government program spending is in the form of transfer payments to support programs and services. This includes health care, non-profits, education and social services...

... this also means that the government has to deal with almost 35,000 separate transfer payment arrangements.

It's ineffective. It's outdated. And it's time-consuming - we can do better. We need to do better.

That is why we are finding ways to consolidate the multitude of transfer payments.

Smarter transfer payments will allow our partners to spend less time on administration and more time on delivering vital services to Ontarians.

Again, that sounds pretty smart to me.

The last initiative I'll tell you about is a big one. Smarter government purchasing.

Estimates have shown that government spends approximately $29 billion every year to buy goods and services

Every week, Ontario families buy in bulk to save money. Why can't government do the same thing?

From pacemakers to bandages, to computer and IT hardware, a modern and fully integrated procurement system will help drive savings of an estimated $1 billion each year.

Throughout the design and implementation of this new supply chain, we will ensure that small- and medium-sized enterprises have a representative voice.

Our new procurement strategies will encourage competition and innovation, and seek to increase participation of businesses of all sizes, regardless of geographic location.

And while I've only had time to mention three specific examples, there are many more projects that will be driven through the leadership of Treasury Board Secretariat. This plan will break down the steel walls that have grown up over time between ministries and take a whole of government view.

Our work will include reviewing government office space to look at selling off unnecessary offices throughout the province.

And capital asset management, identifying where it would be effective and efficient to consolidate planning and procurement functions.

Together - It's about smarter regulations. Smarter processes. And smarter service delivery for everyone in Ontario.

To learn about all these initiatives, I'm thrilled to announce that you can watch our progress at Ontario.ca/Smart.

There, you can learn more about our work, and watch as we make progress.

Taken together, these projects represent an immense opportunity to build a smarter government and protect the sustainability of public services, both now and for future generations.

But, critical to the success of this plan is ensuring that we have the right governance and accountability. That's why, for each Smart Initiative, there will be a single ministry responsible for accomplishing its success. For example, Minister Scott will be leading our Capital Asset Management initiative while Minister Thompson is leading our Supply Chain Centralization initiative.

We have also created a Smarter Government Task Force, composed of members from our PC Caucus who will provide critical oversight of the initiatives' implementation and ensure that they have achieved anticipated outcomes.

You know it's funny - when we were working on this plan my staff challenged me to consider what smart meant to me.

At first, I told them... "not dumb." Because smart government seems obvious.

But the more I thought about it, I realized that smart is about embracing and implementing change, never operating under the assumption that the status quo is best and looking towards innovation for potential solutions to our challenges.

So, today, we are stepping up to the plate. We are renewing our commitment to building a government that our children, and our grandchildren, can be proud of. Not just a government for today, but a government for the future.

Our government promised we would change things in Ontario. We promised we'd spend smarter and put more money back into the pockets of Ontarians. And we promised to restore trust and accountability to the people across this great province.

We're keeping that promise.

It's not just a financial imperative, it's a moral imperative.

That's why I'm excited about the future.

I'm excited about our plan to build smarter government.

And I'm excited about our goal - a goal to build Ontario, together.

Thank you.

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