Looking Outward Together
- The Hon. Dalton McGuinty, Speaker
- Media Type:
- Item Type:
- “Looking outward together in the same direction.” A quote from “The Little Prince.” The speaker’s greatest hope for Ontario. Ontarians looking to the world filled with confidence. Embracing the global economy. A collective resolve. What we have going for us. The privilege of meeting so many other leaders from different parts of the country, continent, and the world. Talk about medicare. People as by far our single greatest asset. Ways in which that is so. How that supports some of the things the Ontario Liberals have done or hope to do. Education. Training. A personal illustrative anecdote. The imperative to be at our best. A focus on kids staying in school. Some figures. Two ways of approaching today’s economy. The approach chosen by the Liberals. Developing and recruiting talent. The speaker’s belief about what his job is and how he has been doing it. The new Ontario Child Benefit. Our economy with some figures. The speaker’s pitch to the world. Marketing what we have here. The speaker’s vision for our education, health care, infrastructure. A plan to strengthen our economy.
- Date of Original:
- Oct 3, 2007
- Language of Item:
- Copyright Statement:
Empire Club of Canada
Agency street/mail address
Fairmont Royal York Hotel
100 Front Street West, Floor H
Toronto, ON, M5J 1E3
- Full Text
October 3, 2007
Looking Outward Together
THE HONOURABLE DALTON MCGUINTY
Premier of Ontario
A joint meeting of The Empire Club of Canada and The Canadian Club of Toronto
Chairman: Allan O’Dette
President, The Canadian Club of Toronto
Head Table Guests:
The Hon. Dwight Duncan: Minister of Energy, Government of Ontario
Helen Burstyn: Chair, Ontario Trillium Foundation, and President-Elect, The Canadian Club of Toronto
Warren Jestin: Senior Vice-President and Chief Economist, Scotiabank
Stéphane Boisvert: President, Enterprise Sales, Bell Canada
Ratna Omidvar: Executive Director, The Maytree Foundation
Heather Devine Associate, Gowling LaFleur Henderson LLP, and Director, The Empire Club of Canada
Heather Reisman: CEO, Indigo Books
Renato Discenza: Senior Vice-President, Enterprise Sales, Bell Canada
Geoff Smith: President, EllisDon Construction
Coralie D’Souza: Vice-President, Multiculturalism, Ontario Liberal Party
The Hon. Greg Sorbara: Minister of Finance, Government of Ontario
The Hon. Belinda Stronach: MP, Newmarket-Aurora, and Executive Vice-Chair, Magna International
Dr. Ilse Treurnicht: CEO, MaRS Discovery District
Mohammad Al Zaibak: CEO, Helpcaster Technologies Inc.
Greg Wong: CFO, Gulf & Pacific Equities Corp., and Director, The Canadian Club of Toronto
Catherine S. Swift: President, Canadian Federation of Independent Business, and President, The Empire Club of Canada.
Introduction by Allan O’Dette:
Ladies and gentlemen, members of the Empire and Canadian Clubs, it is with great pleasure that I introduce today’s guest speaker. Dalton McGuinty is Ontario’s 24th premier and I can share with you something he told me just before lunch. He would very much like to be Ontario’s 25th premier.
Next Wednesday, the people of Ontario will choose their provincial government, after a campaign that has been—as they so often are—eventful, thought-provoking and exciting. Regardless of who wins, many challenges will face Ontario’s 25th premier—a dollar at par, an aging population, a need to rapidly become a major leader in innovation and research, challenges in education at all levels, challenges in health care—but in spite of these challenges I can tell you based on my conversations with the Premier that he still wants the job. Last week John Tory spoke to some of these challenges and others that he sees as leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario.
Today, we are fortunate to have Premier Dalton McGuinty with us to share his thoughts on these challenges and others that voters have been speaking to him about over the last few weeks as we head into the final stages of the election. I’d like to acknowledge the fact that in an election campaign full of frantic stops, photo ops, and city hops, the Premier has made the time to be with us for today’s luncheon. Just a little background on Premier McGuinty. He was elected to the Ontario legislature in 1990 in Ottawa South, and re-elected in 1995, 1999 and 2003. During his years as a backbench MPP, he served as a critic for energy, colleges and universities, native affairs and the environment. In 1996, he was elected leader of the Ontario Liberal Party. In 2003 he led his party to form government, sweeping to power with 72 seats and 47 per cent of the vote.
The mantra of Premier McGuinty’s Liberal Party in this election is: “We’ve accomplished a lot, but there’s a lot left to do.” Today we look forward to the Premier expanding on these challenges. How can we make this great province a better place? If the Liberal Party wins next week’s contest, how will they work to get us there?
Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming to our podium our very special guest, the Premier of Ontario, Dalton McGuinty.
Thank you very much for your very warm and enthusiastic welcome. It is an absolute delight for me to be here today and to be joined by my wife Terri. I want to thank Allan at the outset for his introduction. Allan has been coming to my events for many, many years now. He remembers when they were substantially smaller. We used to refer to the audience as the head table and that other table. To see him here in a crowd like this reminds us both of how far we’ve come.
Thank you to the Empire and Canadian clubs for this opportunity and thanks to all of you for coming out today in such great numbers. Whenever Terri sees this many people in the room where I am the speaker, she likes to encourage me by saying, “Are you sure we are in the right room?” Such is the support I receive on the home front. Terri you may know is a schoolteacher and one of her favourite books and one of mine is a children’s book entitled “The Little Prince.” In essence it is a book about the clarity with which children see the world and the patience that they need to put up with the rest of us. It was written by a man named Antoine de Saint Exupéry, who knew something about idealism and hope and courage. In fact he wrote it a year before he died flying a battle mission over France after volunteering at the age of 42 to help liberate his homeland. He wrote something I found to be rather remarkable. He said that life has taught us that love does not consist of gazing at each other, but at looking outward together in the same direction.
Looking outward together in the same direction. That was his definition of love. If I were to express my greatest hope for this province, which I love deeply, it would be this: that we would look outward together in the same direction. I want Ontarians to look to the world filled with confidence. I want us to embrace the global economy and not shrink from it. I want our collective resolve, I want our shared determination to not merely survive, not merely do alright. I want us to fly. We have a lot going for us. We are located in what economic thinkers call one of the leading mega-regions of the world with access to the massive U.S. market. Ours is an open and diverse economy. From agriculture to resource management, from financial services to the service sector, from high-end autos to high-tech, we excel. We have the kind of infrastructure emerging countries dream of, whether you are talking about bridges or sewers or medicare, which is a true competitive advantage and the envy of much of the world.
One of the greatest privileges that you enjoy when you represent Ontario as a premier is you have the opportunity to meet with so many other leaders from different parts of the country, different parts of this continent, and indeed leaders from around the world, and it is interesting to hear them talk about medicare. When they talk about it they don’t articulate it as such, but they talk about it with a great deal of envy. We human beings throughout the history of humanity have been known unfortunately to be shallow and selfish and short-sighted and mean-spirited. We can be small, but there’s something noble in people. I’m not talking about something that is awarded from without, but actually something that comes from within, something noble. You know what medicare does. It gives expression to this noble human desire to care for people when they are sick, not because they have money, not because of any office they might hold, not because of their station in life, not because of who they might be connected to, but just because they are sick. You should understand that when people around the world look at our system, this means by which we have found a way to give expression to this desire to help one another, it is truly precious and remarkable.
But our single greatest asset by far is our people. They speak every language, embrace every culture, have ties to every market in the world, and they possess a work ethic that is second to none. We all know that we face challenges. We are a trading province and our trade is overwhelmingly with the Americans and they are experiencing economic challenges. Our manufacturers face outsourcing to China and other countries with low labour costs and our dollar has risen from 63 cents just five years ago to parity today. We have never seen such rapid upward movement and that too is putting pressure on our exporters. We can overcome today’s challenges and seize tomorrow’s opportunities if we look outward and strengthen our greatest asset—our people. In today’s world the best jobs and the most investment go to the places with the best-educated, most highly skilled people. We are only 13 million people here in Ontario, so if we are going to take on giants like China and India we need to ensure we are 13 million strong, that every Ontarian is at his or her best. That’s why Ontario Liberals have dedicated themselves to publicly funded education. Our schools are where we equip our children with the education and skills they need to compete. It is why we are placing our dollars and our energy and focus on smaller class sizes and higher student achievement and is why in our second term we are going to phase in all-day kindergarten.
With Heather Riesman’s help and inspired by her leadership, we are going to fill our school libraries with new books. We need more and more and more of our young people to finish high school and go on to university, college, or an apprenticeship or workplace training. I’m especially proud of a new program we have in place, which targets directly what we call first-generation students. It turns out that the single biggest indicator as to whether or not a young person is going to complete high school and go on to college, university, apprenticeship or some kind of workplace training is whether your mother or your father ever did that. My family is a good example of that. My dad was the youngest of six kids. He was the only one in his family to complete high school. He went on to university and became a university professor. So we grew up in our household with a very heavy expectation that we would focus on our studies, that we would complete high school, that we would go on to college or university and in fact all 10 of us went on to university. Apart from the fact that four of us became lawyers, we all met with success.
This imperative to be at our best is why we have mobilized a small army of teachers and community workers whose sole focus is to help kids stay in school and help dropouts return to school. It is why we have added 86,000 spaces in our universities and colleges. It is why we have doubled student aid. It is why we have added 6,000 new apprenticeships with 6,000 more to come over the next four years. And it is why we have created 14,000 new graduate school spaces. That is the biggest ramp-up in the province’s history and it is why we are investing more than ever before in research and innovation. We want to be the first to come up with new ideas, the first to develop them into new products and services, and the first to sell those breakthroughs, sell the next BlackBerry, and the next best hybrid car to the world.
Basically it seems to me there are two ways of approaching today’s economy. There is an unimaginative, laisser-faire approach where your exclusive focus is the lowest taxes and the lowest business cost. Everything else then becomes secondary to that. This is the approach today’s Conservative Party still clings to. My experience as premier has taught me that this approach is shortsighted and not suited to the realities of competition in the global economy and it certainly is not in keeping with the aspirations of the people of Ontario. Our approach as Liberals is to run hard and fast in the race to lift up our people. I want to thank my brother who is starting that applause. Lifting up our people is right for our society and it is the smart thing to do for today’s economy. It is exactly what government and business leaders in India and China have told me they are trying to do to catch up to us.
In a world where you can borrow capital, copy technology, and buy your natural resources, the only thing that can really set you apart from the competition is the skill and education of your people. So we need to develop talent and we need to recruit it. Richard Florida, a leading thinker whom we managed to lure from the U.S. just recently to the Rotman School of Management, talks about the importance of building powerful, urban centres full of life and energy. These attract what he calls the creative class—workers, artists and professionals, who help fuel the economies of the world’s major cities.
So when our government contributed to a cultural renaissance here in Toronto, to the ROM, to the Art Gallery of Ontario, to the National Ballet School, and the Four Seasons Opera House, when we dedicated gas tax money to transit here and got to work developing downtown Toronto we were doing more than advancing the arts or building infrastructure. We were on a recruitment drive. I don’t buy the conservative approach that says government should just cut taxes and get out of the way of business. Yes, we are phasing out the capital taxes and, yes, we are working with Catherine and others to help small and medium-sized business by reducing business education taxes. But I just don’t believe that the premier’s place is on the sidelines.
I believe it is my job to roll up my sleeves and work with business. So we sat down with Ontario’s auto sector, with management and labour, and we set up a $500-million auto investment fund and we leveraged it into a $7-billion new investment and thousands of jobs. We made Ontario, when it comes to auto production, first in North America and now we are going to leverage our new next generation job fund of over $1 billion to help our companies and workers develop the green technologies the world is clamouring for. Ontario Liberals understand that we need a strong Toronto to build a strong Ontario. This great city is the heartbeat of our province and the engine of our economy.
National governments around the world get this. They know that great cities fuel modern economies. In the U.S. and Britain and the great growing economies of Asia, nations are investing heavily in their cities. At a time of huge surpluses in Ottawa, the Government of Canada should be leading this race. That’s why I’m calling on the Harper government to hand over one cent of the GST to Toronto and other municipalities to support new growth in the economy. Succeeding today means moving forward together and that means leaving no one behind. So we are introducing the new Ontario Child Benefit to provide all low-income families with up to $1,100 per child every year to pay for a healthy breakfast, supplies for school, and warm clothing, so every child will have the opportunity to succeed because we need those kids to succeed. We didn’t see the auto investment fund as corporate welfare and we don’t see the Ontario Child Benefit as some sort of handout. We see them both as parts of a plan; a plan to lift up our economy by building opportunity, because we know that if we give our people the opportunity to succeed whether they’re kids in schools or workers on the line, they can take on the world and win.
Our economy is in good shape. It’s created 360,000 more jobs than we had just four years ago. We’ve created three jobs for every one that we’ve lost, but that doesn’t paper over the fact that we’ve lost jobs particularly in manufacturing, so Ontarians have come together through our $500-million advanced manufacturing investment strategy to help our manufacturers invest in innovative technologies so that they can compete.
Ontarians can take on the world and win if we work and build and dream together and that starts within our schools. We need our children to look outward together, not gaze at each other across a divide, each in their own schools according to their own faith. We need to maintain our focus and concentrate our resources on those smaller class sizes, higher test scores and higher graduation rates. If we spend the next two years, my friends, in a quagmire of our own making, debating what constitutes a religion and exactly where the Good Book must yield to the textbook, we risk standing still while the world passes us by.
That is part of my pitch to the world, but I’m marketing everything that we have here. I tell them that back in Ontario 27 per cent of the people living there were born outside the country. I tell them in the GTA 52 per cent of the people living there were born outside the country. They immediately conjure up pictures they’ve seen of struggle and strife on the streets of Paris and London and Germany and the Netherlands so they say to me, “Well, what are you doing right? How are you making this work with such diversity?” I like to think that an important part of the foundation of social adhesion is that we bring our kids together, allow them to come together, and learn together and grow together.
In our schools I want Muslims sitting beside Sikhs, sitting beside Hindus, sitting beside Jews, sitting beside Christians, sitting beside Buddhists. I want us to aspire to doing something more than just educating children and developing a strong work force and developing caring citizens who help to build a strong, caring, and compassionate society. We need to feel a sense of responsibility here. We owe it to the world to demonstrate that we can be a beacon, we can be a shining example, we can actually find strength in diversity and that’s why it is so important that collectively we continue to support publicly funded education for all our children. You and I have a marvellous foundation on which to build. I know it’s human nature for us to focus on work outstanding, things that have to be done, but this is the greatest province and the most blessed country in the world and we have a strong foundation on which to build. Whether you think of our system of health care, medicare, whether you think of our publicly funded education, whether you think of our research institutions, public and private, our colleges, our universities, our hospitals, our infrastructure, roads, bridges, all of that much of the world envies.
I’m here today speaking to you about our plan to strengthen our economy and I hope I’ve helped you to come to understand that the single most important economic strategy that we can deploy in a knowledge-based global economy is to invest in our people, our simplest greatest asset. For Liberals the economy has never been the ultimate end. It’s been the means to a higher end. A guy by the name of Robert Browning once said, “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp. Or what’s a heaven for?” So at the end of the day what are you and I really after? What do we really want? I think people deep down want to leave something of lasting value to their kids and their kids’ kids, more than just a strong economy. Anybody can lust for a strong economy.
What I want on behalf of all our children and all our children’s children is a strong, caring, compassionate society, that wonderful ideal that reminds us, each and everyone of us, that we are in this together. It speaks to something noble inside people, something deep down in each and every one of us. It tells us it is right to care for one another. It is right to look out for one another. It is right to support one another. It seems to me, my friends, that that is something. A strong economy that supports a caring society is something worthy of our greatest efforts. That is something worthy of the dreams that maybe we secretly dream for all our children. Thank you very much.
The appreciation of the meeting was expressed by Catherine S. Swift, President, Canadian Federation of Independent Business, and President, The Empire Club of Canada.