Ontario Premier’s address to Oakville & Burlington Business Leaders

Premier Kathleen Wynne
Ontario Premier’s address to Oakville & Burlington Business Leaders

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Nolan A Machan

Nolan A Machan

Nolan Machan is the Publisher of OakvilleNews.Org and has over 41 years of local Oakville knowledge. He is committed to providing Oakville residents with the most up-to-date information about our great town.

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Premier Wynne entered the room quietly at the Oakville Chamber of Oakville Luncheon on Friday, January 13, 2017, and made her way to the head table. The Oakville Conference Centre was packed not only with business leaders, but also with more media than we seen enter Oakville for quite some time. Outside, a group of 25 to 35 protesters were out chanting, the majority of which were from the Hamilton Steel Union.

Prior to starting her speech to clearly acknowledged the protestors and their concerns.

Here is the Premier’s speech in its entirety:

2017 is a big milestone year for Ontario. On July first, our province, along with our country, turns 150. This year will be a big celebration of our history and of the diverse, dynamic society we are building.

But we know that the past 150 years tells only part of our story. Oakville and Burlington were thriving communities long before Confederation. And for many, many generations before that, this land was a gathering place for peoples of Turtle Island.

As many of you know, I always begin speeches by recognizing that we are on traditional Indigenous territory. The first treaties were signed long before Confederation. And today, 150 years after Confederation, the treaties are still relevant to our lives. So I begin this way to show respect for the contributions of Indigenous peoples and to recognize the role of treaty-making in Ontario’s past, present and future. On our 150th anniversary, I think that takes on an added importance.

Ontario 150 is not only about our past. It is an opportunity to unite around a shared vision of our future, to talk about what it means to be an Ontarian, and about the sort of province we are building for our children and grandchildren.

I see Oakville and Burlington as leaders within Ontario. I am always inspired by the things you are doing to build your communities up and add to the quality of life here. There are so many examples. The LEED-certified buildings businesses like Siemens and PWC have built. Or the investments you are making in your waterfront, your parks and hundreds of acres of trails and bike paths. The liveable, sustainable communities you are building are exactly what we need to attract the workers and businesses who are driving Ontario’s economy forward.

And I know Kevin and Eleanor are both proud of every one of your achievements. I see it every day in the way they represent you at Queen’s Park. I want to take this opportunity to recognize them for being such great champions for all of you — the people and businesses they represent. They bring your passions, challenges and solutions to the table every day. And we need that.

Our plan to build Ontario up takes the leadership and collaboration of everyone in this room. Make no mistake, together we are doing that building. And the results of what we are building are beginning to show.

A few days ago, the Globe and Mail wrote that, “For Ontario, everything is coming up trilliums.” It was about the strength we are building all across our economy. We created more jobs last year than the rest of the country combined. Our economy is estimated to have grown by about two and a half per cent — one of Canada’s top performers. For 2017, analysts expect us to break out into the lead.

People are moving here from other provinces because of the opportunities your businesses are creating — the innovative things happening at businesses like Ippolito or EarthFresh. These 2 Burlington-based agri-food companies are carrying the region’s proud agricultural traditions into the new century. They are adapting to meet evolving consumer trends, innovating to find more sustainable ways of growing and processing our food and growing and hiring as a result.

There are lots of similar examples. But although we are starting the year in a good position — and are committed to helping businesses build on this momentum — we need to acknowledge that people are having uneven experiences of the growth we are creating.

Not every worker or family is feeling better off — able to get ahead. And many of the people I talk to who are doing better are worried about holding onto those gains, worried about what a slight shock would do to their retirement savings, or concerned that they won’t be able to stay ahead because the cost of living is rising faster than their paycheque.

So today I want to talk about what government can do for the economy and for businesses, but also for families. I want to talk about how a balanced plan to build Ontario up for everyone is about understanding this relationship between the economy and the day-to-day lives of Ontario families.

To set that up, I want to tell you about what I see as probably my biggest challenge as Premier. I confront it multiple times a day. It’s how to find ways to invest in what I know we need to do to create opportunity and security for people in the long term, and at the same time make sure we are providing the supports for everyone to make immediate gains so they can live healthy and productive lives right now. Finding that balance is the challenge every single day. And we are actively working to find it.

I’ll give you 3 quick examples. The first is child care. There simply aren’t enough spaces. So, in September, we announced that within five years, we will help create 100,000 new licensed child care spaces for infants to 4 year-olds. That is going to ease the burden on families and make it easier for more women to participate in the economy. It is also going to mean our kids are getting the very best possible start in life, setting them up for success as they go through the education system and out into the world.

Second is the cost of college and university. Our number one strength in the global economy is the talent and skills of our people. I hear it from all of you all the time. I hear it on trade missions all around the world. But right now there is this stubborn gap in terms of college or university attendance, between young people who are growing up in low-income families and young people growing up in higher-income families. That means not everyone is able to be at their best.

In Red Lake last year, a mom quietly pulled me aside and asked if there was anything we could do about tuition costs to help her daughter fulfill her dream of going to college. The answer is yes, we’re doing it. Starting this September, we’re making college and university tuition free for over 150,000 kids. That builds on the 30 per cent Off Ontario Tuition Grant so that more families will have an easier time sending their kids to postsecondary. Because of these changes, an estimated 230,000 students will graduate with less debt. That is going to make a real difference in people’s lives today, and in the economy for years to come.

Third is public infrastructure, like new roads and transit systems, new hospitals and renovated schools. Ontario is making a record-setting investment in public infrastructure — $160 billion over 12 years. To give you a sense of scale, over the next decade, Ontario is investing an amount comparable to what the federal government is allocating for the entire country. That is the scale of what we are doing here. That’s how we build transformational projects like GO Regional Express Rail — faster, more frequent service on the GO rail network, including electrified and express service from Oakville to Union Station. I do not have to tell you how badly that transit is needed. You have spent the time sitting on the QEW or crowded onto those trains.

And building this much-needed infrastructure is creating tens of thousands of good jobs right now. It makes sure our economy can compete going forward. And it makes a difference in people’s lives every day — whether that is your commute, renovations to your child’s school, Oakville’s new hospital, or the new patient tower opening at Burlington’s Joseph Brant Hospital this fall. For families caring for a sick loved one, that’s going to make a difference.

Family is everything, for all of us. That never changes. Every day I have many issues that come across my desk — decisions that have to be made on a whole range of subjects. Always, at the forefront of my mind, putting it all into context is family.

So when I think about small business owners, I am thinking about what we can do to help those companies grow and hire workers so they can then provide for their families. When I think about our health care system, I think about the families who are relying on it at this moment.

Earlier this week I visited Stella’s Place. I met a mom who had been moving around the province — around the continent even — trying to find the right supports for her daughter, who lives with mental health issues. Stella’s Place is the first organization where she feels safe, accepted — and has been able to make progress. We are now working with them to see how we can expand their services to campuses, where we know our sons and daughters are confronting mental health challenges of their own. It’s about building a health care system that provides the best possible care for our loved ones.

When I’m at holiday concerts at the elementary schools in my community, and I meet young parents beaming with pride, I think about how those moms are doing day-to-day. Are they worried about how they are going to cover the extra costs of field trips? Is their commute taking so long that they aren’t home in time for a bedtime story?

And when we think about family, we also think about our parents and grandparents. My parents are in transition. There is a whole generation dealing with this reality. What are we doing so that people with busy lives, with kids of their own and aging parents, have the supports they need to care for all their loved ones?

Those family concerns, whatever they are, those are the concerns we all carry in our hearts. That is what makes us human — being part of a family. Caring for the people we love. It means government has an added responsibility. We need to bring people together to build communities where our families can thrive today and tomorrow.

The reality is that we are all busy — caught up in our lives. So while most of us agree that something like climate change is an enormous challenge that needs to be solved, we are more worried, on a day-to-day basis, about our families and our own lives. That is fine. It is where government can help.

Electricity is a good example, so let’s be frank. At the start of the 21st century, Ontario’s electricity system was a mess. Blackouts. Smog days. The system was broken — and we had to fix it.

Today, the system is clean and it’s reliable because of the work we have all done to rebuild it. In a little over a decade, over $50 billion has been invested to upgrade Ontario’s transmission and generation infrastructure. There are no more blackouts. No more smog days.

But the cost of the changes has burdened people in every corner of Ontario. When a father of 3 writes me at Christmas to say that because of their hydro bills, they are scaling back on the kids’ Christmas presents this year, it really hits home. That is unacceptable to me.

So starting on the 1st of this month, we have lowered electricity bills by eight per cent — the provincial portion of the HST. That makes a difference. But it’s still not enough. It is why my commitment is that, in the weeks and months ahead, we are going to find more ways to lower rates and reduce the burden on consumers. I have heard the voices of the people of Ontario, and it’s the right thing to do.

The fact remains, though, quitting coal was still the right thing to do. Halton used to have the highest incidence of asthma in Ontario. Today it is way down. Our children are able to breathe easier.

Now, others are following our lead. Look across the country…Look across the globe… and you can see other places struggling with how to do that. Political winds will always blow in different directions, but fighting climate change is still the right thing to do — for families and for our economy — today and tomorrow. We just need to be smart about it.

It is precisely why we chose to cap emissions, starting on January 1st of this year. An emissions cap is the lowest-cost way for families and business to transition to a low-carbon economy. That transition will not be easy — we all know that. So our emissions cap program helps to make the transition affordable for homes and businesses.
We have passed a law mandating that every dollar raised will go back to the people and businesses of Ontario — to environmental programs and initiatives that help cut emissions and make all of us more efficient.

I was at a house in November to see it first-hand. The O’Haras are a young family who took advantage of our home energy retrofit rebate programs. Today they use way less energy to heat and cool their home. By fighting climate change, they are saving monthly. And through our Climate Change Action Plan, we are able to expand those rebate programs so more people can do the same. We have also expanded the rebates for electric vehicles, so more families can go green on the commute.

There is something I have noticed throughout my time in public life — about the way we think about improving our communities. I’d be curious whether you have noticed it too. It is this idea that in politics, we have to first do important things like balance the budget and lower corporate taxes, then we can move on to child care and poverty reduction and access to education and cutting emissions. We can’t accept that. It is a false premise.

Of course we have to do those things together. Of course we need to balance our short- and long- term needs — help families and businesses today and build for the kind of future we know our children need. That’s what our plan is doing.

In just a few months’ time, Ontario will table its first balanced budget since before the recession. Without slashing services and without raising middle-class income taxes. That would not be fair to people today.

Instead, we are balancing the budget while making that record investment in infrastructure I talked about. We are doing it while building not just the fastest growing, most innovative economy in Canada, but an economy that grows inclusively.

That means we are fighting for every family worrying about who is going to care for their new baby. We’re fighting for every high school student worried about what comes next. For every senior who is at risk of being left behind after a lifetime of hard work building this province up. For every father who has been laid off and is looking for work and is thinking about giving up. For every small business looking to grow.

Together, we are making government that force for good we need it to be. On our 150th birthday, I am so proud of our province. We have a lot more to do, but I know we’re up to the challenge.

Thank you all for being here and for the leadership you show every single day. I am looking forward to answering your questions now.

Merci. Miigwetch.

During the speech Premier Wynne did ad-lib adding information about Oakville, Burlington and Halton. One such comment related to the reduction of Asthma in Halton since the province reduced emissions. Halton according to the Premier had the highest number of Asthma Cases in Ontario.

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