The Hon. Bernard Lord
Premier, Province of New Brunswick
MY CANADA--TODAY AND TOMORROW
Chairman: Bart J. Mindszenthy
President, The Empire Club of Canada
Head Table Guests
Tim Reid, President, Strategic Investor Relations and Director, The Empire Club of Canada; Lauren McCain, Grade 12 Student, Havergal College; Rev. Michael Clarke, Pastoral Staff, Christ Church, Brampton; Deborah Grey, Partner, Parliamentary Group, Ottawa, with the distinction of being the first ever elected Reform Party MP; The Hon. Mike Harris, Senior Business Advisor, Goodmans LLP and Former Premier, Province of Ontario; Charles S. Coffey, Executive Vice-President, Government Affairs, RBC Financial Group and 3rd Vice-President, The Empire Club of Canada; George L. Cooke, President and CEO, The Dominion of Canada General Insurance Company and Past President, The Empire Club of Canada; Belinda Stronach, MP, Electoral District of Newmarket-Aurora; and Jay Forbes, President and CEO, Aliant Inc.
Introduction by Bart Mindszenthy
Reverend Sir, distinguished head table guests, members of the Empire Club of Canada, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the first meeting of the 102nd season in our history and welcome to this, the first of our very special Premiers Speakers Series that will run throughout the season.
We have invited all the First Ministers to come and talk to us about their Canada--today and tomorrow, to articulate what they see as the major challenges and opportunities for our country in the next decade.
In anticipation of this series, Ipsos-Reid, the national polling and research firm, graciously volunteered to check the pulse of the nation about the future for the Empire Club of Canada. The results--compiled just a few days ago exclusively for the Empire Club and released yesterday--show a strong and clear trend.
Whether in New Brunswick or British Columbia--in fact, everywhere across our country--the number-one concern 10 years from now, out of the 14 areas of concern we had tested, will be services for the elderly and their specific home and health-care needs. That's followed, nationally, by such issues as family health care, waste disposal, energy and a clean environment.
And in Atlantic Canada, the rank order of these greater challenges identified by residents of the region as to what issues a premier can expect to face a decade from now are identical to the national snapshot.
Indeed, while from time to time we may have differences of opinion, as both governments and citizens, on how we should address many of the issues we face today, it's clear from the Empire Club survey that Canadians are united in their view of the challenges that await this great country and its provincial and territorial premiers.
To see the full study, please visit our Web site at www.empireclub.org.
Today, we have the pleasure of welcoming this nation's youngest premier of one of our oldest provinces--New Brunswick.
Premier Bernard Lord won a huge mandate in 1999 at the age of 33. Last year, he was re-elected with another majority government.
Guided by the principle that politics is about vision, ideas and leadership, he has led a strong drive to balance budgets, resources and priorities to the benefit of all the people of New Brunswick.
In recognition of his drive and leadership, Premier Lord was chosen as one of Time magazine's top-25 New Generation of Leaders in Canada.
Born on September 27, 1965, Premier Lord was reared in a bilingual home in the Moncton area in an officially bilingual province. So birthday greetings are in order, well, just days from now.
He holds a bachelor's degree in social science with a major in economics, as well as a bachelor's degree in common law, from the Université de Moncton.
Premier Lord has earned many honours and is the beneficiary of a host of accolades. But suffice to say that he continues to demonstrate that he's a rising political star on the Canadian landscape, dealing with the great challenges that face his Province of New Brunswick and this country, today and for tomorrow.
Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the podium of the Empire Club of Canada the Premier of New Brunswick, the Honourable Bernard Lord.
Thank you Mr. President for your kind introduction. Head table guests, ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon, bonjour. I want to thank you for the invitation to come here and speak to you today.
It is indeed an honour for me to be the first Canadian premier to speak with you as part of your special speaking series, My Canada--Today and Tomorrow. I congratulate you and the Empire Club for taking the initiative to put together this very unique speaking series of premiers. The theme you have chosen, My Canada--Today and Tomorrow, reminds us all that while we have challenges to overcome today, it's up to us to shape our future. Even though Canada is a great place to live, I believe that our best days lie ahead.
This year we are 137 years old as a country. As citizens of one of the four founding provinces of Confederation, New Brunswickers are extremely proud to be Canadians. And we consider ourselves to be Canadians first. But this year, 2004, we are reminded of a longer history in our province.
Not 137 years, but 400 years. For it was 400 years ago, in 1604, that Samuel de Champlain, great explorer and discoverer, founded the first permanent European settlement in Canada on tiny St. Croix Island near the Bay of Fundy.
It was a harsh and bitter winter that year. All suffered. Many died. Just over half survived with the help of the Aboriginal people.
Those who survived that winter sowed new seeds of the strength of character of Canada and New Brunswick-English, French, Aboriginal and new Canadians. This first quilt that knitted together different cultures has become today a national tapestry of peoples and life stories from around the world. We are a multicultural land with two official languages, but we share a unique perspective on the world beyond our borders, that comes from our common history and common principles that transcend our immense geography and cultural diversity.
We have travelled many distances together as Canadians--from settlement to colony to dominion to nation. The story of Canada has always been one of evolution and advancement, determination and perseverance. And here on the northern ledge of the world, at the very top of a continent, we have forged an open, tolerant, dynamic nation-state, nestled in geographic beauty where citizens are free and enjoy a wonderful quality of life. This is a pride we share.
New Brunswick is in many ways a microcosm of the Canadian experience. We recognize not just two official languages but two official linguistic communities. That is part of who we are.
I believe that Canada is defined not by geography or lines on a map, but by the values we hold, the principles we share, and the ideals we pursue. Values like openness, tolerance, compassion, and civility. Principles like fairness, freedom and responsibility. And ideals like peace, family, and community. This is what helps make us who we are. That is what makes us different. That is what makes us Canadian.
It is not the thickness of our borders or the depth of our coastal waters that will somehow make us more Canadian. It is the confidence we hold and the vision we share--in ourselves and of our country. The confidence that comes from defining ourselves as who we are, not who we are not. The confidence that comes from being positive about the future we have together, not simply content with the past we have had. Only by looking forward, grasping the future head-on, can we achieve as Canadians what we are truly capable of. This is the Canada I believe in--confident, strong, and determined to make a difference at home and abroad.
So, what's holding us back? After all, it is not inevitable that we should succeed. We have made a special home for us in the world, but it is by no means guaranteed. We must not take for granted our quality of life that is derived from our economic success and social progress.
We face many challenges.
The challenge of a growing, aging population that is putting more and more pressure on our health-care system for new services.
The challenge of making education and training a renewed priority for children and workers alike, when our public finances are stretched and limited.
The challenge of ensuring more jobs and prosperity for Canadian workers and families by improving our tax competitiveness and productivity compared with the rest of the world.
The challenge of maintaining and protecting a clean and safe environment for our children and grandchildren while pursuing new economic opportunities.
The challenge of discovering new treatments and new drugs to fight new diseases and emerging super bugs that are more resilient and immune to our antibiotics.
The challenge of protecting our communities and families against organized crime or terrorism that threaten us in this ever-changing world.
And the challenge of urgent road and infrastructure repairs and investments to attract new investment and improve the quality of life not just in our big cities like Toronto, but in our small towns like Shediac-Cap Pele.
So where do we want to be in 10 or 20 years? This is the question we must all ask. When we look back 10 years from now will we see a golden decade of achievement and success or a lost decade of regret and missed opportunities? The choice is ours.
To help us make that choice we need to be honest with each other. Honest about these challenges and honest about how we must meet them.
Last week in Ottawa, Canada's First Ministers gathered to address the crucial issue of health care for Canadians. The agreement we signed confirmed the path to reform provinces are already on. It confirmed our long-standing insistence that the federal contribution to health care in Canada was clearly insufficient. And, for New Brunswick, it confirmed the direction of our provincial health plan released last June.
The agreement we signed will help improve access to health-care services, reduce wait times, improve working conditions for health-care professionals, and make our health-care systems more accountable to the people they serve. It will do all these things.
But what it will not do is also important. It will not fix health care for a generation. It will not guarantee every health-care need in the future will be taken care of. It may have closed the Romanow gap but it will not close the "reality gap." The reality gap between expectations and resources. The reality gap between change and the status quo. This gap remains. In fact, given the tremendous amounts of money pledged last week, it may have even grown. The reality is that there is much more hard work ahead to make our health-care system more accessible and effective.
And more money, even what was committed by the federal government, is not the only solution. We must invest not just in more health care. We must invest in changing health care. One has to go with the other. For unless we make changes to the way we deliver health-care services today, we won't be able to meet the challenges our health-care system will face tomorrow. In New Brunswick we are making those changes with our four-year provincial health plan, a longer-term plan to make our health-care system more accessible to patients and more sustainable to taxpayers.
How we sustain our health-care system into the future is not just a social question. It is in very real terms an economic question. Unless we have a growing, prosperous economy generating the economic wealth we need, we will not be able to afford the kind of health-care system that we want.
Let me be direct. You can't provide 12 months of health care on a six-month economy.
The old saying goes: there is only one taxpayer. You and me. That taxpayer can't be asked to pay more just for the same service. Asking taxpayers to pay more should be the last resort, not the first option. The objective should be to create more economic success in order to have greater social progress.
What Canada must do is take the steps to supercharge our economy to generate the wealth and growth we must have to pay for the social programs we want; supercharge through a more competitive taxation system that leaves more money in people's pockets, stronger investment incentives for businesses, that rewards success and new and more investments in early literacy for kids and post-secondary education for graduates.
The challenges of more and better health care, a cleaner environment, child care and education are all in the end financial questions of choices and priorities.
Our government in New Brunswick has made those choices. Since 1999, 80 per cent of all new spending has gone to health and senior care. Thirty per cent has gone to education. Where did we get the other 10 per cent? By reducing funding for everything else.
At the same time we did this, we did something else. We started to take new real steps as a province to make us more competitive and prosperous, to reduce our financial dependency and to keep New Brunswickers working and learning at home.
We have developed a comprehensive Prosperity Plan founded on four basic building blocks:
1. Investing in people;
2. Embracing innovation;
3. Building strategic infrastructure; and
4. Creating a competitive business and fiscal climate.
Here are some things you might not know about New Brunswick. The lowest small business taxes aren't in Alberta; they're in New Brunswick at 2.5 per cent and are to be reduced to 1 per cent by 2007. The best year-over-year job growth in Canada last month wasn't in Ontario; it was in New Brunswick. The best credit rating in Eastern Canada is in New Brunswick. In New Brunswick, if you earn minimum wage, you pay no provincial income tax, period. In the past five years, we have taken over 40,000 low-income earners right off the tax rolls. Every New Brunswick family earning up to $70,000 per year is enjoying a reduction in personal income taxes of 10 per cent or greater this year compared to 1999 when we first came into office. And, over the past five years, we've run a surplus and reduced our net debt.
The potential of our province and our people is outstanding. We've made real progress.
True economic growth lies not with government programs, but with creating opportunities for the inventiveness and entrepreneurship of people to shine through. That's what we are doing in New Brunswick. But we still have much more to do.
So, how do I see My Canada--Today and Tomorrow? I have often said in my province that for New Brunswick to be strong, all regions of New Brunswick must be strong. I believe the same holds true for Canada.
But we won't get there by bringing anybody down. We must lift ourselves up.
I don't believe you can build a province or a society on welfare--social, corporate, or government. And most New Brunswickers agree with me. We know that's no pass to prosperity.
As premier of New Brunswick, I feel strongly that my job is not just to build and strengthen New Brunswick, but to build and strengthen Canada. That when New Brunswick gets stronger, so too does Canada.
And that is how I see my Canada, our Canada. A Canada that meets challenges, not turns away from them.
The challenge of making Canada the most productive, competitive and innovative economy in the industrialized world.
The challenge of ensuring that Canada is a place where people can continue to be free and safe.
The challenge of keeping our young people right here in Canada, building our country and creating opportunity and prosperity for themselves and their families.
And the challenge of building a new sense of national unity and purpose that reinforces why we call ourselves Canadians.
A Canada where we not only meet challenges but challenge ourselves to be smart, fast, innovative, competitive, caring and compassionate as we pursue an ideal.
Where we pursue an ideal that says you can build a province and a country on such values as opportunity, responsibility, diversity, tolerance, fairness, and inclusion.
That's the Canada I want to build with you.
Thank you, merci.
The appreciation of the meeting was expressed by Tim Reid, President, Strategic Investor Relations and Director, The Empire Club of Canada.