A Vision for Ontario
Publication
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 31 May 1995, p. 39-47
Description
Creator
McLeod, Lyn, Speaker
Media Type
Text
Item Type
Speeches
Description
Candidacy campaign platform. Address during the final week of the provincial election campaign. How a Liberal government would expand opportunity, help the private sector to create jobs, and protect vital services such as health care. Choosing between two very different visions and two very different plans for Ontario: between Liberal and Conservative governments. The Liberal plan of balance that gets "our financial house in order while protecting vital services, a balance that starts tearing down the tax wall, without tearing away our economic future." A focus on creating jobs. A 5% tax cut. Comments on the Conservative plan. Evolution, rather than revolution. The kind of government the speaker feels Ontario needs, and how the Liberals will provide it.
Date of Original
31 May 1995
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Language of Item
English
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The speeches are free of charge but please note that the Empire Club of Canada retains copyright. Neither the speeches themselves nor any part of their content may be used for any purpose other than personal interest or research without the explicit permission of the Empire Club of Canada.
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Full Text
Lyn McLeod, Leader of the Opposition in Ontario
A VISION FOR ONTARIO
Chairman: David Edmison, President, The Empire Club of Canada

Head Table Guests

Ben Hutzel, Partner, Bennett Jones Verchere; Lisa DeWilde, President, TMN-The Movie Network/MOVIEPIKS; David Smith, Vice-Chair, Coopers Lybrand Canada; The Rev Tom Little, Rector, St. David's Anglican Church, Weston; Gerry Schwartz, President, Chairman and CEO, Onyx Corporation; Heather Reisman, President, Now Foods; John A. Campion, Partner, Fasken Campbell Godfrey and Immediate Past President, The Empire Club of Canada; Annamarie Castrilli, Former Chair, Board of Governors, University of Toronto and Liberal candidate, Downsview; Philip Olsson, VicePresident, RBC Dominion Securities Inc.; Henry Pankratz, Deputy Chair, Ernst & Young; Warren Jestin, Senior Vice-President and Chief Economist, Scotiabank; Sharon Paul, Executive Vice-President, Public Affairs, Labatt Breweries of Canada; and Spencer Lanthier, Chairman and CEO, KPMG Peat Marwick Thorne.

Introduction by David Edmison

I remember watching the Ontario election returns that dramatic evening in 1990 as the NDP swept to power with a level of support that surprised even Bob Rae. As I recall that night what specially sticks out in my mind are the words of the television commentator as he tried to come to terms with the historic events unfolding minute by minute.

Just as he was breaking to do a commercial, (after all, even the reporting of history in the making still requires funding) he summarised the results to the moment in one brief but compelling sentence. He said: "Don't go away, folks, it's the NDP in a landslide!" and it wasn't just what he said as how he said it. He was genuinely excited, not necessarily because he was an NDP supporter, but because he was a journalist, reporting one of the biggest political stories in Ontario's history.

Well something else happened that night in the riding of Fort William. In the face of the NDP triumph, our special guest retained her seat for the Liberals and quietly and patiently began the task of rebuilding. Within two years Lyn McLeod had captured her party's leadership--an impressive achievement considering her relatively short five-year tenure as an MPP. Under her leadership the party's finances are in the black and there are plans to do the same for the province, if elected, with a formal commitment to a balanced budget within four years.

In 1987 as a rookie MPP entering the House for the first time, Lyn McLeod may not have envisioned her rapid rise to the Liberal leadership, but she was immediately appointed Minister of Colleges and Universities. In this important capacity she initiated a major review of the college system and expanded the educational opportunities for people living in Northern communities. In 1989 Mrs. McLeod was appointed to two challenging portfolios--Minister of Natural Resources and Minister of Energy. In these roles, she effectively addressed some difficult issues including the Temagami conflict, the development of the Rouge River Park and a formal review of Ontario's energy needs for the next 25 years.

Mrs. McLeod has visited nearly every one of Ontario's 130 riding associations during the past year and believes the solution to our most pressing problems lies in the resources of our local communities, not in making arbitrary decisions at Queen's Park. As leader of the opposition, she and her party have focussed on the development of an economic environment that can lead to job creation in the private sector. Her balanced-budget plan includes both government spending cuts exceeding $4 billion over four years and protection of health care and education.

Charlotte Whitten, the first woman to serve as mayor of a Canadian city once wrote: "Whatever women do, they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good." She went on to say, "Luckily, it's not difficult." Well, Lyn McLeod has worked hard for her party and our province and if all is right in her world on June 8, your local T.V. commentator may well break for a commercial with the words: "Don't go away folks, Ontario has just elected its first woman premier!" Ladies and gentlemen, I ask you to please welcome the leader of the Liberal Party of Ontario, Mrs. Lyn McLeod.

Lyn McLeod

Good afternoon, everyone. It's a great pleasure to be with you today. I want to thank The Empire Club for giving me this opportunity to talk about how a Liberal government would expand opportunity, help the private sector to create jobs, and protect vital services such as health care--services that are so important to our province's future.

Elections are about a lot of things. They are about vision. They are about policies. They are about credibility and accountability. But most of all, elections are about choices.

The final week of this campaign is coming down to a choice between two very different visions and two very different plans for Ontario. It is coming down to a choice between a Liberal plan that wants to ensure opportunity and that adds up, and a radical Conservative revolution that has no credibility, and would primarily benefit the wealthy. It is coming down to a choice between a balanced approach that builds on Ontarians' hopes for the future, and a radical Conservative revolution that plays on people's fears.

There is no doubt that there is a lot of anger and frustration in this province. After more than a year of listening to Bob Rae and the NDP talk about how the economy is recovering, Ontarians are only too aware that there are still half a million people out of work. After more than a year of listening to Bob Rae and the NDP talk about how their plan is working, Ontarians are only too aware that there are still near-record numbers of families who have to rely on welfare or unemployment insurance or food banks. After nearly five years of hearing about partnership and accountability, Ontarians still see government as something that is remote--something that is not accountable and does not work for them.

Three years ago, when I won the leadership of the Ontario Liberal Party, I made a pledge that when the election came, we would put before the public a detailed plan of what we intended to do if we formed a government. And that is exactly what we have done. Our plan isn't something that we cobbled together in the heat of an election campaign. It isn't a bunch of quick fixes, slogans or simplistic solutions. It is well planned. It spells out every commitment. It details all of the costs and how they will be paid for. All the policies are there for people to evaluate. All of the dollar figures are there for people to evaluate. All of the dollar figures are there for people to add up. All of the timelines are there for people to measure us against.

If I could sum up our plan in one word, that word would be balance--a balance that blends fiscal sanity with human compassion, a balance that gets our financial house in order while protecting vital services, a balance that starts tearing down the tax wall, without tearing away our economic future at the same time and a balance that is good for Ontario.

Our focus is creating jobs. Jobs are where opportunity begins. Our plan will encourage businesses to come here, to grow here, to stay here and to create jobs here. We will balance the budget in four years. We will do it by cutting $4.1 billion in spending. Financial accountability starts at the top. That is why a Liberal government will cut spending on political staff, political appointments, government advertising and services to MPPs. It's a matter of showing good faith. And we will replace MPP pensions with RRSPs.

Our plan will stimulate activities that create jobs: helping young people to get their first jobs through our Youth Opportunities program, helping businesses to break into new export markets, helping key industries like tourism and culture to continue to grow and create jobs. Our plan includes a modest, five-per-cent tax cut that will help small businesses to grow and create jobs, and give consumers some relief where they need it most--eliminating the five-per-cent tax on car insurance, and providing a tax credit for child care. And because our tax cut is modest, we will be able to guarantee stable funding to schools and hospitals for the next four years.

There are no gaps in our numbers. As I said earlier, the numbers are there for everyone to see--and they add up. There are no $4-billion credibility gaps in the Liberal plan. We are not the only party to present a plan to Ontarians. The Conservatives have presented a plan they call a "revolution." I think that's an appropriate name. It is a revolution. It's a radical departure from economic reality--it won't even try to balance the budget in a first term of government. It's a radical departure from caring and compassion. It's a radical departure from the kind of balance that leads to a strong economy and stable communities. It's a radical departure from common sense.

The Conservative tax cut is built around a massive, 30-per-cent across-the-board cut in personal income taxes. Everything else Mr. Harris promises stands or falls on his ability to deliver that 30-per-cent solution. Balancing the budget and protecting vital services--it's all built around the success of that 30-per-cent income tax cut. The Conservative revolution is like a house of cards, with the bottom card--the most important card, the supporting card--being the 30-per-cent income tax cut. And when that card falls, the entire Conservative revolution comes tumbling down with it. That's where the Conservative revolution falls apart. Ontarians have a right to ask why has no other leader in Canada tried to slash income taxes by 30 per cent, protect services and balance the budget at the same time. Why hasn't even Ralph Klein, the Conservative premier of Alberta, tried it? Does anyone really believe that there is some magic secret that lets you slash income taxes by 30 per cent, protect vital services and still balance the budget? The only person who has discovered it is Mike Harris?

Well, apparently Mr. Harris does have a secret, and that secret is called fudging the numbers. The Conservative revolution has a $4-billion credibility gap--a gap big enough in which to bury a province's economic recovery. And when Ontarians see that $4-billion gap, when they see the same people lining up behind Mike Harris that lined up behind Brian Mulroney, the same people that backed Brian Mulroney and Michael Wilson when they told Canadians time and time again that they were going to balance the budget, they will say, "Tell us how, Mr. Harris."

When Ontarians see that $4-billion credibility gap, they have a right to say, "Come clean, Mr. Harris. Come clean about how you're going to fill that $4-billion gap. Will you cut health care? Tell us now which services you will put on the chopping block. Or will you go back to your old promise to bring in user fees? Will you hike your new health-care tax--the one that put a new burden on middle-income earners while giving s $400-million break to some of the largest and wealthiest corporations?"

It is almost inconceivable that you could leave funds for health care intact, when you have to make up for that $4-billion gap. Under the Conservative revolution, heath care would become a candidate for radical surgery--it just blinds you to everything else. Ontarians are not a revolutionary people. We believe in balance, in moderation, in compassion and in progress. We believe in changing together--not in leaving people behind.

The $4 billion that I talked about earlier isn't the only thing missing from the Conservative revolution. I look at the Conservative revolution and I have to ask, "Where is the humanity? Where is the compassion? Where is the vision--the basic human quality in each of us that allows us to see beyond the problem to the person behind the problem?"

Liberals believe people have to be assured of opportunities and choices. Liberals believe in a sense of optimism that reaches out to people's hopes and goals and tries to build on them, instead of a mean-spiritedness that preys on the people's fears and anxieties and tries to exploit them. I have always believed that when you see anger and frustration, you try to find out the cause and you deal with it. You don't fan those emotions for political gain. But, instead of leadership, I see in the Conservative revolution an obsession with delivering a 30-per-cent income tax cut, an obsession so strong it says, "We don't mind taking away some of the benefits from all Ontarians, because we must deliver a tax cut to the wealthiest Ontarians."

A short while ago, I came across a quote about Ontario, and the danger of revolutions and simplistic solutions. I hope you'll indulge me a moment while I read it. It goes:

"Evolution, rather than revolution, has been a rewarding method of dealing with the challenges we face... It may well be that positions taken in the heat of an election campaign will be found to be undesirable, impracticable, ever intolerable, when viewed in the calm light of more adequate examination."

The author of that statement was Conservative Premier John Robarts. I won't pretend that I know what Premier Robarts would have made of the Conservative revolution, but I do know what a lot of other people are saying about it. I've talked to middle-income earners who ask, "Why am I going to be hit with a new health-care tax so that the Conservative revolution can give a tax break to some of the largest and wealthiest corporations?" I've talked to mums on welfare--women who are ready and eager to do volunteer work or get some training and get out of the welfare rut--and they ask, "Why is it that even if I do everything in my power to improve my situation, Mr. Harris will still slash my benefits while I make the transition to a job?"

Those are all good questions, and we are waiting for Mr. Harris to answer them before election day.

I've also talked to unemployed Ontarians who ask, "Where is the jobs plan in the Conservative revolution?" Mr. Harris's only jobs plan is to throw money into the air in the form of a massive across-the-board income tax cut, and hope it trickles down to create jobs for the unemployed.

Ladies and gentlemen, as I said earlier, this election is about a lot of things. It's about vision and commitments, credibility and accountability. Underlying it all, this election is about values. What do we Ontarians believe is important for our society? I believe, and Liberals believe, in the values I've talked about today--compassion, fairness, and balance. These are the very values that Mike Harris and his Conservative revolution are trying to attack.

Yes, there is a difference.

The Liberal plan focuses on getting Ontario working again and creating jobs. Ontario needs a jobs government. It focuses on creating a climate that will encourage businesses to come here, to grow here, to create jobs here and to stay here. Ontario needs an economic-growth government. And it focuses on protecting vital services like heath care and education--services that are essential to our quality of life. Ontario needs a caring government.

We need a government that doesn't just see problems, but sees the human faces behind those problems--a government that has a capacity to be compassionate even in the midst of trying economic times. We are offering a clear vision of Ontario's future--a vision of a society that offers opportunity, a vision of a society that offers jobs, a vision of a society that values and will protect health care and a vision of a society that offers compassion to those who need it.

That is what the people of this province want. That is what they need. That is what they deserve. And if we are given the privilege on June 8, that is exactly what a Liberal government will provide.

Yes, there is a difference. Thank you very much.

The appreciation of the meeting was expressed by John A. Campion, Partner, Fasken Campbell Godfrey and Immediate Past President, The Empire Club of Canada.

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A Vision for Ontario


Candidacy campaign platform. Address during the final week of the provincial election campaign. How a Liberal government would expand opportunity, help the private sector to create jobs, and protect vital services such as health care. Choosing between two very different visions and two very different plans for Ontario: between Liberal and Conservative governments. The Liberal plan of balance that gets "our financial house in order while protecting vital services, a balance that starts tearing down the tax wall, without tearing away our economic future." A focus on creating jobs. A 5% tax cut. Comments on the Conservative plan. Evolution, rather than revolution. The kind of government the speaker feels Ontario needs, and how the Liberals will provide it.