The Hon. Al Palladini, Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism
ONTARIO--A PROVINCE OF HOPE AND OPPORTUNITY
Chairman: Robert J. Dechert, Second Vice-President, The Empire Club of Canada
Head Table Guests
Deborah Mulford, Director, Multinational and Government Accounts, Amex Canada; David Gaio, Grade 12 Student, Central Technical School; Rev. Douglas Kramer, St. Philips Lutheran Church, Etobicoke; Susan Brissette, Project Services Manager (Canada), British Energy plc.; John Smith, President, British Canadian Chamber of Trade and Commerce and Senior Manager, Global Private Banking, Royal Bank of Canada; Terry Curran, Consul General, Consulate of United Kingdom; Michael Coates, President, Hill & Knowlton Canada Ltd.; and Simone Filogene, Manager, Government Relations, Glaxo Wellcome (Canada) Ltd.
Thank you, Bob, for that kind introduction. Ladies and gentlemen, head table guests, it's an honour to join you here today.
Great Britain and Canada have long enjoyed strong ties--ties of family, culture and business. As a matter of fact, the U.K. and Ontario alone do more than $4 billion worth of two-way trade each year. I'm delighted that the British Canadian Chamber of Trade and Commerce has kindly agreed to co-host this luncheon. During my last visit to London, I had the pleasure of meeting with the Canada U.K. Chamber of Commerce and exchanging some great ideas.
I know that the Empire Club is one of Canada's oldest speakers' forums. And I appreciate that over the years, you've been addressed by more than 2,500 prominent speakers--Canadian and international leaders. In your 95year history, I wonder if your distinguished members have been addressed by a former car salesman.
You know, I've been asked many times about how difficult it was to change careers from selling cars to being a politician. I must admit, there are a lot of similarities between the two, but one thing I know for sure is that car salesmen get more respect.
As a car salesman, I did a lot of door knocking trying to make a sale. Some people bought and some didn't, but they were always polite and treated me with respect.
As an aspiring politician, I can recall canvassing door-to-door during the election in my riding of York Centre which had been a Liberal riding for the previous three elections. One particular afternoon in Maple, I approached the front door of a house and immediately noticed a sign saying: "BABY SLEEPING--DON'T RING DOORBELL." I quietly knocked on the door and within seconds a woman came to the door. I introduced myself. "Hi, I'm Al Palladini. I'm on the Mike Harris team and I would like your support in the upcoming election." She answered immediately saying: "We're Liberals!" and then slammed the door in my face.
I picked myself up off the ground, somewhat shaken, but still quite determined. At the next house I rang the door bell and waited--but no answer. I rang the door bell again and a woman inside yelled out: "Who is it?" I went through the same routine and before I could finish she yelled out: "We're Liberals!"
I walked away, shaking my head and asked myself what the hell was going to happen next. I proceeded to the next house really feeling paranoid as I knocked on the door. A middle-aged Italian man came to the door and before I could open my mouth he said: "You're Al Palladini, I can't believe you're a Conservative. Are you sure you're Italian?" I said: "Yes of course I'm Italian. Just because Christopher Columbus was a Liberal doesn't mean all Italians are Liberals."
The man looked at me strangely and asked how I knew Christopher Columbus was a Liberal. And so I told him: "When he set sail, he had no idea where he was going. When he got to North America he had no idea where he was and when he returned home he had no idea where he had been. And on top of all that, he did all his travelling on borrowed foreign money! That's how I know he was a Liberal."
Well, the road to success is knowing where you're going--and how you're going to get there. But most important is having the courage to stick it out when the going gets tough.
Like Christopher Columbus, my late father had courage. At the age of 43, he immigrated to Canada from Italy, hoping to make a better life for his wife and four children. And through hard work and sacrifices, we realised the dream of Canada. My father was always reminding me how fortunate we were to live in such a great country full of hope and opportunity, where dreams could be realised through hard work.
I'm proud to say that I have lived that dream and the excitement of making and being responsible for your own decisions. There's nothing like running your own successful business.
That was all very exciting but I've moved on from selling cars. Changing directions, changing jobs, changing focus. Sorry to use an automobile pun, but it's like getting a new lease on life. Although I don't sell cars any more, I still think of myself as a salesman. But now, I sell confidence in Ontario.
I want to share with you the many reasons why Ontario's economy is doing so well.
Let's talk about aerospace, a high-skilled, hi-tech sector that last year earned Canada more than $10 billion, most of it from exports. What most Ontarians don't seem to know is that we alone account for 40 per cent of Canada's aerospace production; and this sector directly employs 23,000 people in this province. When you take away government contracts (most of them military contracts), our aerospace industry outranks the E.C., the U.S. and Japan in commercial sales and exports. Now that's a vital sector and one which this government wants very much to encourage.
The automobile sector is another pillar of our economy. Last year, it employed over 130,000 people and produced almost $80 billion worth of automobiles and parts. This year, the news is even better. Chrysler of Canada recently announced that it will add a third shift to its Brampton plant, adding another 1,000 jobs. After Michigan, Ontario produces more vehicles than any other jurisdiction in North America and is the sixth-largest automobile producer in the world. We can certainly be proud of our automobile industry.
We need to be looking for ways to expand the range of goods and services that we sell internationally, and to diversify the markets that we sell into. That's one of the reasons why, last December, I announced the creation of a new export marketing task force. The task force will help us increase Ontario's profile internationally and identify the export markets that we should focus on. Our objective is to expand Ontario's market share of world imports by half a percentage point. Half a percentage point may not seem like a lot but it would result in as many as 165,000 new jobs for Ontarians.
In January, Premier Harris and 175 Ontario companies went with Team Canada to Latin America. Trade experts predict that Latin American imports will continue to grow by 12 per cent through to the year 2000, making this the fastest-growing export market in the world. During the mission, Ontario companies pulled together more than $177 million in new contracts and agreements.
Team Canada missions are important for our export industry. However, we must follow up and take advantage of those opportunities. That's why I will soon be travelling with a Team Ontario delegation back to Latin America to finalise some of the deals that we began to stitch together a few months ago. In my previous job, I learned that you have to work hard for the customer to close the deal. Follow-up was key. That's what my mission to Latin America will be all about--helping Ontario companies follow up and close the deals.
Speaking of exports, one of our most valuable exports never actually leaves this province. You're probably wondering how it can be an export if it never leaves the province? As our fifth-largest export industry, it generates $6 billion from outside Canada plus more than three-quarters of a billion dollars from the other provinces. My friends, I'm talking about our tourism industry.
Ontario attracts millions of tourists each year. We have some of the best tourist attractions--adventure travel tours, fly-in fishing camps, urban cultural centres second to none and some of the best restaurants, hotels and resorts in the world. Every year, we receive over 100 million tourists in Ontario. That's almost half of all visitors to Canada. Most of our international visitors come from the U.S., the U.K., Germany, France and Japan. The tourism sector directly and indirectly employs about 8 per cent of the province's work force. That adds up to nearly half a million people.
More tourism means more jobs. It's that simple. Together with our industry partners, the Ministry is planning a major kick-off event for tourism week, May 18 to 24, in downtown Toronto. As well, we'll hold a week of special events across the province, including an open house at each Ontario Travel Information Centre to celebrate our new tourism slogan. I'm sure that you're all familiar with our present slogan: "Ontario: Yours to Discover." Our new theme will be: "Ontario: More to Discover." It will remind visitors that our province really is one of the world's best places to visit.
The city of Toronto also happens to be one of the best places in the world to visit, to live and work in. As Canada's largest city and North America's fifth-largest, the strength and vitality of the city of Toronto is crucial to this province and our country. Last year alone, about 80,000 new jobs were created in the GTA. And for two years running, Fortune magazine has sung the praises of the city, naming it in 1996 as the best non-U.S. city in the world in which to do business, and in 1997 as one of the top 10 in North America.
A sure sign that Toronto is taking off is the news that construction of the 50-storey Bay-Adelaide Centre will begin this fall--the first major new office tower in over a decade to be built in the downtown core. In January, The Economist magazine described Toronto's economy as thriving and went on to say that the new Toronto--the megacity--"need not fear for the future."
Toronto and Ontario are booming. Investment is up. Exports are up. Housing starts are up. Inflation is below 2 per cent. And consumer and business confidence are way up.
Current estimates are that Ontario's GDP grew by about 4.5 percent in 1997. And private-sector forecasters expect Ontario's GDP growth rate to outpace the growth projected for any of the G-7 countries. Ontario's job market is booming. Since February of 1997, employment in Ontario has risen by 263,000 jobs. And since our government took office in mid-1995, 350,000 net new jobs have been created in Ontario. That's half of all the new jobs created in Canada in the same time period.
And just this morning, Statistics Canada reported that the unemployment rate in Ontario has fallen to 7.4 per cent, the lowest in almost a decade. Ontario is once again becoming the province of hope and opportunity. The driver of Canada's economy.
Ladies and gentlemen, as we near the 21st century, Toronto and Ontario are poised to excel in the 21st century as business hubs, magnets for investment, exporting economies and first-rate tourism destinations.
One vital part of my job involves selling Ontarians, other Canadians and people around the world on what a terrific province we have and what a smart decision it would be to invest here, do more business here and create more high-skilled jobs here.
I'm sure you have all seen Torontonians sporting those flashy red Roots Canada hats worn by Canada's winter Olympians. I just love seeing people, especially teenagers and children, wearing those hats. For me, those hats seem to shout out: "I love Canada."
And you know, when we Canadians put our minds to it, we really can be the very best in the world. Well, that's how I feel about Canada, and it's how I feel about Ontario.
In your business dealings here in the province and around the world, I would invite you to join me in doing the equivalent of putting on a Roots Canada hat. Let's celebrate Toronto's and Ontario's successes loud and clear.
Together, we will drive up the job numbers, attract more investment and make Ontario a better place to live. Thank you very much for your hospitality.
The appreciation of the meeting was expressed by John Smith, President, British Canadian Chamber of Trade & Commerce and Senior Manager, Global Private Banking, Royal Bank of Canada.