Rejuvenate, Re-Connect, Re-Earn
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 7 Mar 2002, p. 400-409
Clement, The Hon. Tony, Speaker
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The speaker's personal odyssey. Deeply optimistic about the future of his party and Ontairo, and reasons for that optimism. What Mike Harris will leave behind. Three fundamental criteria for Mike Harris' successor. Accessible health care for all - a detailed discussion.
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7 Mar 2002
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Full Text
The Hon. Tony Clement
Minister of Health and Long-Term Care for the Government of Ontario and Candidate for Leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party
Chairman: Bill Laidlaw
President, The Empire Club of Canada

Head Table Guests

Kevyn Nightingale, CA, CPA, Partner, International Tax Services Group, Treasurer, The Empire Club of Canada and Candidate, National Council of the Canadian Alliance; Balprit Dhillon, Honour Roll Student, Bloor Collegiate Institute; The Reverend Kim Beard, BA, BEd, MDiv, Rector, Christ Church, Brampton; Lynne Golding, Partner, Fasken Martineau Walker LLP and Spouse of Tony Clement; Tom Jakobek, Former Councillor, City of Toronto; Robert J. Dechert, Partner, Gowling LaFleur Henderson LLP and Past President, The Empire Club of Canada; Nicole Eaton, Director, PC Canada Fund; and Tom Long, Partner, The Monitor Group and Chairman, Ontario PC Election Campaign 1995, 1999.

Introduction by Bill Laidlaw

It is my pleasure to welcome back to the Empire Club our guest speaker Tony Clement who appeared on this platform not so long ago addressing the issue of health care in Ontario.

That was of course before the election call. Today we are fortunate to have the minister as our speaker today in our leadership series for candidates for the leadership of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party.

I have had the good fortune of knowing Tony for many years and I have observed him rise through the party to the position he holds today. He is now after the most senior job in the party and he is working as hard at that as he has done everything in his life.

Whenever I think of Tony 1 see him working a crowd, knocking on constituents' doors, dashing from one meeting to the next and, most importantly, doing what is right for Ontarians. Certainly on any issue I have worked on with him, he has listened thoroughly, asked keen questions and assisted as best he can.

Whatever happens in this race one thing can be certain: Tony Clement will be a player in Canadian politics for years to come.

For those of you who are not familiar with his background, Tony is the Minister of Health and Long-term Care. He was appointed to the post by Premier Harris in February of 2001.

Prior to his appointment as Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, he was appointed Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. He also held the cabinet position of Minister of the Environment where he developed programmes and policies aimed at protecting our environment while encouraging eco-friendly industry and technology.

Minister Clement was first elected as MPP for Brampton South in 1995. He was then appointed by Premier Harris as parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation. He eventually moved on to become parliamentary assistant to the Premier.

In 1997 he was appointed Minister of Transportation, his focus being to maintain a safe, reliable transportation network, as he saw this as a key component of Ontario's economic vitality and competitiveness.

His academic credentials include a political science degree from the University of Toronto. He completed his law degree in 1986 and was called to the Ontario bar in 1998.

His political career has spanned the globe. He has worked in Central and Eastern Europe as a consultant to western companies and local governments. Minister Clement has helped many smalland medium-size Canadian businesses expand internationally.

His volunteer activities include the Harvard University's project Liberty and the National Democratic Institute.

We are indeed fortunate to have Mr. Tony Clement speak to us today.

Tony Clement

On November 16 of last year, I began a personal odyssey that has taken me thousands of miles across Ontario. It took me into the neighbourhoods and homes of countless thousands of Ontarians.

This adventure left me deeply optimistic about the future of our party and our province. Why?

Because I discovered a respect for a party that can unleash the power of new ideas. Ontarians remember when we did it before. Now they're waiting for us to do it again.

Because I found a longing for our party to reconnect with the hopes and aspirations of Ontarians. They remember when we did it before. Now they're waiting for us to do it again.

And because I found the expectation that we would reearn the privilege of governing this great province with a vision of where to go and a plan for how to get there.

The people of this province remember when we did all these things once before. Now they're waiting for us to do them again. Well, on March 23, 2002, the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario will choose a new leader. And for all these reasons, our province is watching.

My party is taking this choice very seriously. That's because the person we choose--one member at a time, one vote at a time--will automatically become the next Premier of Ontario, and--it's often been said--the second most powerful person in Canada.

That's a big job and, if I may say so, we have a good, strong field of candidates taking a crack at it. I'm proud to be among their ranks. These people are my friends. I'm not running against them. I'm running for the job of premier.

After all, our party is a different kind of party and our government is a different kind of government, which means this is a different kind of leadership race, prompted by the retirement of a different kind of leader. You see, an awful lot of political leaders in other parties never have the grace to step down on their own terms or at the right time. Many of them come to see themselves as indispensable--or worse.

Consequently, many depart the scene the hard way: by getting themselves fired. With cause.

But however they end up leaving the stage, some other political leaders these days leave very little behind, beyond an official portrait and maybe a public building or two in their name.

Mike Harris is different. When he steps down March 23, Mike Harris will leave behind a monument bigger, and grander, and more meaningful, than any that line the median on University Avenue. Mike Harris leaves behind a completely new way of looking at government.

Mike Harris changed the political landscape in Ontario in many ways:

He got the job by talking about ideas and principles that many experts simply laughed at--at the time.

He challenged the view that said government revenue was the government's money--not yours or mine.

He challenged the view that government could only get bigger--never smaller.

He challenged the view that government could help people better than people could help themselves.

• He challenged the view that politicians never really did in government what they said they would do in elections.

• And he challenged the view that said, "Never ask people what they want from government because goodness knows they might just tell you."

Mike Harris challenged each of these views and ultimately changed all of them. This is his monument, his legacy. And this is the standard that we, who would succeed him, must meet.

That's what makes this leadership succession different from those of other parties. Other parties didn't have a Mike Harris to succeed.

This campaign, I think, has served to remind Ontarians that under Mike Harris, the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario became a party of ideas. And it must remain a party of ideas.

So it's on this point that any serious successor to Mike Harris must meet three fundamental criteria:

First, they must have ideas.

Second, they must have good, common sense conservative ideas that come from the bottom of our party up--not from the top down.

Third, they must have good ideas that actually work. But today the bar has been raised higher still. Voters today are more sophisticated than ever before. People are quite rightly asking of their politicians not only, "What's your plan?" but "How will it work?" I've worked hard to answer these questions. To me, it's the test of leadership. So on January 3 of this year I launched my re-connection tour. I took with me Five Goals for Ontario--the five basic things I believe we must do to build on our success and secure our future. And I took with me a proposition to the people I would meet: "Here are my five goals. These goals are constant--where I know we must go as a people and a province. But how we get there is up to you."

And I told them my goals:

• More jobs in an incentive economy; • Clean, safe, caring communities;

• Accessible health care for all;

• A "skills culture" for Ontario; and • Open, efficient government.

Well, in the weeks since that day, members of my party and their neighbours all across Main Street Ontario have come out in force. They've adorned those five goals of mine with their own common sense conservative ideas on how we can reach them. The result is the vision of one who seeks to lead us to our destination, and the values of the many who want to help him get there.

I'd like to talk about them all, but time allows me to choose just one: accessible health care for all.

I asked Main Street Ontarians how we can preserve the universally accessible and publicly funded health-care system that our citizens believe is a fundamental part of who we are as a people. Here's what I was told:

We're tired of the same old, stale, tired debate that either says do nothing, or do something that no one wants and that can't work. Between the status quo on the one hand, and two-tier health care on the other. People said, "Break out of that box!"

We want a health-care system that works with an OHIP card--not an Amex card. Don't give up on the system we have. Make it work!

Work towards seven-days-a-week, 24-hours-a-day health care to ensure people get access to the care they need, when they need it.

Locate family doctors in or near hospitals and keep their offices open longer hours to serve you better and take the heat off our over-worked emergency room doctors, nurses and staff.

Increase the proven partnerships that already exist in the health-care system, built on publicly funded, privatesector providers, for increased efficiencies and greater accountability.

And increase the levy on smokers to ensure they pay more of the cost to us all for their unhealthy, personal choices.

That's how I chose to meet the test of leadership.

And frankly, on the issue of our times--health care Ernie and Jim both fail that test. Ernie, for carelessly refusing to take his two-tier health-care scheme off the table. And Jim, for putting no new ideas for health-care reform on the table.

Every premier of every province in Canada today agrees that the status quo in health care is not an option. Yet when I proposed meaningful health-care reform initiatives in this campaign, Jim Flaherty said, "Don't go there--that's dangerous!"

That's dangerous. Well, I'll tell you what's dangerous. It's chickening out on the action we urgently need to stop health-care costs from spiralling totally out of controlleaving us with bigger, more expensive government than ever before.

Both Jim's and Ernie's failure to lead on the issue of our times reinforces the threat of one day hearing the words "Premier" and "Dalton McGuinty" in the same sentence.

It's not leadership to toy carelessly with a two-tier scheme nobody wants and doesn't work.

It's not leadership to campaign with high-octane photo-ops issues while choosing to ignore "the elephant in the room": health care.

Because make no mistake: if we bungle the issue of health care we hand the next election to the Liberals.

My detailed action plan for health-care reform, by contrast, meets the criteria I laid out at the beginning of my remarks. They're good ideas. They're sound, common sense conservative ideas. They're ideas that will work.

And all of them come not from some back room on Bay Street but from the front doors of Main Street, where people live, work, raise their families and pay their taxes.

And I've made it my personal mission when I'm premier to take on the challenge of meaningful health-care reform. As Minister of Health, I know it can be done.

But I've discovered too that the job of putting wheels on a dream never really ends and can often take you in some unexpected new directions.

Back about a month ago, for example, my re-connection tour rolled into Toronto, where I spent a lot of time with a lot of people who told me about this city's special needs--and those of other municipalities too.

So, midway through my tour, I laid out a five-point plan for our communities that includes redirected and dedicated tax revenues to invest in transit infrastructure and a new vision for a developed and clean waterfront here in Toronto.

Another good example comes from the days I spent in rural Ontario, where I learned about the struggle of our family farms to preserve a special way of life in a changing world.

So I pulled off the road again, to spell out a specific plan to help change the tax environment of our rural communities and counter the subsidised competition of our competitors across the border.

Still after all that, there was one more revelation in store for me, and it is this:

Unless Ontario is a powerful magnet for jobs, talent and innovation, unless we become a true job- and wealth-creating engine, all the rest will be for naught.

Perhaps more than any other issue, the concern of Ontario parents for their children, and grandparents for their grandchildren, struck home to me. The concern is a simple one expressed in so many similar ways. How is our next generation going to find their way in life as tuition fees climb, the price of a new home seems never to come down and the lure of other provinces and countries grows stronger every year?

Those asking the question knew full well that as this next generation struggles to find its way, the rising pension and health-care costs of our aging population will only continue to climb. What hope can there be for a generation faced with such challenges?

Well, let me tell you. Today I am announcing a new, and I believe visionary, step towards addressing the challenge we all face in ensuring that our next generation finds its way. I call it Jump Start 250.

Should I become premier, Jump Start 250 will ensure that the first $250,000 of income for each Ontarian turning 18 after January 1, 2003 will be free from provincial tax. This $250,000 lifetime exemption will replace the basic personal exemption that currently exists. Once the lifetime exemption has been used up, taxpayers in this age group will resume full tax-paying responsibilities. But in the meantime we will have invested in them--no, helped them invest in themselves--to win a good education, start a family, buy a home and stay in Ontario for good.

Of course this would work even better if it also applied to federal tax. So as premier I will call on Jean Chretien to have his finance minister match this proposal in the 2003 budget.

This is what I mean when I say that each decade in our province's history has faced a new generation of challenges and that to solve them requires a new generation of ideas.

My team and I have worked hard to build on the issues raised on our tour and the ideas we heard. I believe we have clearly identified solutions in many areas, some of which I have had time to discuss today.

Shortly I will release the full, comprehensive platform for all of you to explore for yourselves, by clicking on my website:

I am convinced this platform is based on a true sense of where Ontario wants to go. Just as Mike Harris did as he built the Common Sense Revolution, based on a clear sense of the hopes and dreams of everyday Ontarians, I believe my platform re-connects with the basic aspirations of the new Ontario and all its citizens at the dawn of our new century. I believe it will help our party re-earn the right to govern.

So let me close by bringing you back full circle to my argument for rejuvenation. In the end, it's about leadership. In the course of this campaign I have articulated a clear vision for the future and have ensured that my vision is aligned with the aspirations of everyday Ontarians. And now I ask for a mandate to lead the rejuvenation of our party and our province.

My name is Tony Clement.
I am a conservative.
I am a listener, and a doer.
I am a team-builder, and a bridge-builder.
I am a first-generation immigrant to Canada. I am the father of three young children.

I believe in the future of this province with all my heart.
And I believe that if we use our heads we can accomplish all that we dream.

Thank you.

The appreciation of the meeting was expressed by Robert J. Dechert, Partner, Gowling LaFleur Henderson LLP and Past President, The Empire Club of Canada.

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Rejuvenate, Re-Connect, Re-Earn

The speaker's personal odyssey. Deeply optimistic about the future of his party and Ontairo, and reasons for that optimism. What Mike Harris will leave behind. Three fundamental criteria for Mike Harris' successor. Accessible health care for all - a detailed discussion.