The Ontario we have and the Ontario we deserve
- John Tory, Speaker
- Media Type:
- Item Type:
- Some introductory remarks. A story about the speaker’s sister. The gap between the Ontario we have and the Ontario that we deserve. A leadership gap. How to close that gap. Ontario’s greatest resource. Ontario as a leader in Canada and around the world. Why that is slipping. Troubling signs for the Ontario economy today. Some statistical details. Some illustrative anecdotes. The need for leadership to turn potential into reality. Some remarks about Dalton McGuinty. Ways in which Ontario deserves a higher standard of leadership. What the speaker would do to strengthen Canada’s position as an international financial centre. A promise to reduce the overall tax burden. Closing the gap about investment and jobs, but also investing more in health and education and helping the disadvantaged. The speaker, putting his business experience to work. Increasing accountability. Spending smarter. Ending some practices. Health care and education issues. The Ontario the speaker sees as he travels. Recruiting and training more doctors and nurses. An important balance in Ontario. Addressing the human condition. The justice system. Fixing neighbourhoods. The Ontario the speaker saw in Caledonia. Standing up for the rule of law. A commitment to Ontario.
- Date of Publication:
- 27 Sep 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
September 27, 2007
The Ontario We Have and the Ontario We Deserve
Leader of the Ontario PC Party
A joint meeting of The Empire Club of Canada and the Canadian Club of Toronto
Chairman: Catherine S. Swift
President, The Empire Club of Canada
Head Table Guests:
Jaime Watt: Principal: Navigator Limited, and Director, The Canadian Club of Toronto
Akanksha Gangul: Grade 12 Student, Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute
Grant Kerr: Associate Pastor, St. Paul’s United Church, Brampton
Andy Pringle: Ontario PC Candidate, Etobicoke Centre
Lisa A. Baiton: Vice-President, Government Relations, Environics Communications Inc., and Second Vice-President, The Empire Club of Canada
Rick Byers: Ontario PC Party Candidate, Oakville
Renato Discenza Senior Vice-President, Enterprise Sales and Executive Sponsor for Ontario, Bell Canada
Allan P. O’Dette Director, External Relations and Public Affairs, GlaxoSmithKline Inc., and President, The Canadian Club of Toronto.
Introduction by Catherine Swift:
It has been said that although you can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, all that is needed in politics is to fool most of the people once every four years or so. All elections are important, but I would argue that this upcoming Ontario election is especially important, and not only because Ontarians will be asked to vote on a referendum question that could drastically change Ontario’s electoral system. It used to go without saying in Canada that Ontario was the economic engine of the country, but this role is far from certain today.
Although we are still hanging on to a fairly decent economy, many threats loom on the horizon. Our high dollar looks like it is going to be with us for a while, and it is hammering our important manufacturing sector among others. Input costs for everything from fossil fuels, electricity, and commodities are very high and show no signs of letting up anytime soon. Labour shortages are growing and given our demographics will likely worsen in the future. International competition is fierce with the robust growth in China and India. And we all know of the problems with our vital health-care system, that to date most political leaders continue to pretend is sustainable in its current form, when all factual information indicates the opposite. These conditions are not unique to Ontario, but they are especially acute here.
For all of these reasons, this upcoming election is pivotal and I hope Ontarians will think long and hard before making their choices. We are very fortunate today to have with us the current leader of the Official Opposition, John Tory. John has had a storied career to date, and he’s still pretty young! After graduating from law school in 1978, John’s early career years were spent practising law in Toronto. He served for four years as Principal Secretary to former Ontario Premier Bill Davis, from whom he learned many lessons about public policy, leadership and community service. He then embarked upon a successful career as a CEO—first with Rogers Media and then Rogers Cable.
Throughout his career, John has been heavily involved as a volunteer for many charitable causes. As the 2001 volunteer Chair for the United Way of Greater Toronto, he spearheaded community fundraising drives that set a new record for money raised to help the homeless and less fortunate. John was also active as a volunteer with other organizations such as St. Michael’s Hospital and the Salvation Army. He was honoured in 2002 as Volunteer Fundraiser of the Year. An avid sports fan, he was a volunteer Chairman of the Canadian Football League for nine years, including four as League Commissioner. He was first elected as an MPP in a by-election and became leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party in 2004.
Please join me in welcoming John Tory.
Presidents Catherine and Allan, head table guests, ladies and gentlemen: Catherine, may I thank you very much for those very kind words of introduction. I will confess right from the beginning I was having one of those contact lens moments before I came into this room. Those of you who have worn contact lenses understand. As a result I went into the bathroom to try to fix them. I don’t have them in, so I have no idea whether there’s anybody here or who you are if you are here. However, because I checked in advance, I do know that my wife Barbara Hackett is here. She has been out on the campaign trail with me. I have been trying to convince her that going around in a bus is like a second honeymoon. I was having some success when I got to Niagara Falls the other day, as it is the honeymoon capital of the world, but things went downhill when I told her last Thursday we were spending the night with Dalton and Howard but never mind. I also know that my father is here and I am delighted he is. I know my sister is here and my sister Jennifer is a bigwig at the Royal Bank and I want to tell you a story about that.
This is an absolutely true story. A few weeks before the election started I went to a bank branch in Scarborough and the machine wasn’t working but it was a Saturday and the branch was open and all I wanted to do was deposit a cheque. I went into the bank branch and asked if I could deposit the cheque and was asked for several pieces of identification. That was not very good for my political self-esteem; I was a man about to contest an election. I kept producing one piece of ID after another and finally the teller looked at them and said, “Oh by any chance would you be related to Jennifer Tory?” I said, “Yes she is my sister.” And she said, “Well anything you like. What would you like to do?” So you just carry on. In any event I’m very proud of her and the success that she has had. What I’d like to talk to you about today, and I very much appreciate the invitation of these two clubs that asked me to speak and your attending this lunch today, is the Ontario we have and the Ontario that we deserve.
The gap between the two in my view is a leadership gap and I want to share some thoughts with you as to how we can close that gap, because closing that gap I think will require leadership that both listens and acts. Leadership that is prepared to face tough issues and make difficult choices. Leadership totally committed to the success of enterprise and equally committed to the need for social progress. Now the Ontario I know, and Catherine made mention of this, is the manufacturing heartland of Canada. It is also part of Canada’s breadbasket and whether you are talking about livestock or produce or the wine industry our farmers have always put Ontario on the map.
Ontario’s greatest resource has always been its educated and hardworking people. Toronto is the centre of Canada’s financial-services industry. We are one of the most culturally diverse places in the world and the home of many of Canada’s most popular tourist attractions. There is no reason why Ontario should not be a leader in Canada and around the world. And if we see our position slipping as we do today we should take a close look at why, because something is obviously standing in our way. That something is weak leadership. Despite all of the advantages that make Ontario great, despite our incredible promise, there are troubling signs for the Ontario economy today.
One hundred and forty thousand people have lost manufacturing jobs since January of 2005. Ontario’s economic growth for 2007 is projected by the Bank of Nova Scotia to be dead last in the entire country. Earlier this year Ontario’s unemployment rate actually exceeded the national average for the first time in 30 years. That’s right—30 years. But statistics are just numbers. A politician can easily stand up and pull out this study or that statistic to hide behind. Numbers don’t tell you everything. Behind every number there are real people and real businesses. I have been to every corner of the province. Let me tell you about the Ontario that I see.
The city of Cornwall has had some very difficult times in recent years. It made national headlines when the local Domtar plant closed and 910 people lost their jobs. These are talented trained workers, who were the source of Ontario’s economic strength for so many years. Now when you meet them, as I have done on a number of occasions, many will tell you that they have actually found new jobs and they will tell you those jobs pay about half what they made before and that their families are struggling. Meeting them I saw what the human face of being dead last in economic growth really looks like. I met the owner of a small manufacturing company in Timmins recently. He told me that in one month he’d had five visits from different inspectors and officials from the Ontario government. Worse still, some of the inspectors and regulators who visited him actually gave him contrary advice. I’m sure there are some people in this room who have had that experience.
That month he said he spent more time dealing with government officials than he did trying to strengthen his business. This is a man with the energy and the talent and the desire to expand his business and to create jobs in that community but he can’t. That’s not right. I’ve had these kinds of conversations far too many times, but the story that perhaps best illustrates how we could do better, much, much better, comes from Ontario’s new diamond mining industry. In Ontario we are so fortunate to have tremendous natural resources as well as the talented people to turn those resources into jobs and wealth, but it takes leadership to turn this potential into reality. Now Dalton McGuinty was quick to attend the photo-op at the groundbreaking for Ontario’s first-ever diamond mine. It promises hundreds of new jobs including many for Aboriginal people and billions in new investment, literally billions of dollars in new investment, in a part of northern Ontario that has struggled.
Mr. McGuinty stood at that ceremony and said that Ontario’s competitive taxes on diamond mining helped attract that multi-billion-dollar investment with those hundreds of jobs. And then just weeks later, Mr. McGuinty’s finance minister stood in the legislature and more than doubled those same taxes in his budget. One leader in the diamond industry warned us that Ontario’s first diamond mine might well end up being its last. Another said in news stories carried internationally that it was the kind of treatment that you would expect from a third-world country.
Ontario deserves a higher standard of leadership than that and our economic future requires a higher standard of leadership than that. We simply must stop treating businesses as adversaries to be held in suspicion. This province is full of smart, hardworking, innovative people with the potential to power an economy that is second to none. They need a government that is their reliable consistent partner and their booster, not a roadblock. But under the current government, taxes and regulations have continued to change often in secret, usually without notice or consultation, and the assumption is that people will just get over it. I will change the way government creates rules and regulations and will reduce the overall burden of regulations by 25 per cent, at least 25 per cent. It has been done in the province of British Columbia and it will be done here under a new Progressive Conservative government. We cannot take for granted the strength of the financial-services industry that creates so many jobs in Toronto. We cannot simply drift and hope for the best.
I will lead a national push for a common securities regulator so that Canada can strengthen its position as an international financial centre. It is time for real leadership and real action for this industry by the province, namely this one, that should be leading in all of Canada. We will make long-term investments in our tourism and cultural sectors so that the number of people employed in these industries will continue to grow. I will not give up on the United States market, as the current government seems to have done. Now Dalton McGuinty promised not to raise taxes only to break that promise in his first budget. That broken promise had consequences for working families and for Ontario itself as a place to invest and to create jobs.
I will reduce the overall tax burden. Upon taking office we will move immediately to repeal the so-called health tax and return that money to the hardworking people who have earned it. We will start with those who need help the most by eliminating that tax on January 1, 2008 for people earning under $30,000 per year, those who can afford it least of all. The tax was created in a way that punished lower-income people, made them pay a higher rate of tax than other income brackets, and that is something that will be corrected first because it was wrong to begin with. The tax was wrong because it was a broken-promise tax. The way it was done was wrong because it was regressive. I will cap residential property assessment increases at 5 per cent per year. I will reduce business education taxes and we will eliminate the capital tax to encourage investment and to grow the economy. Ontario has the people and the resources to be a leader in economic growth and job creation. We should be second to none, but when it comes to ensuring Ontario has the prosperity it needs, there is a big gap between the Ontario that we have and the Ontario that we deserve.
If we are going to close this gap we need new leadership. Now there is a very powerful reason why we need to close this gap and, yes, it is about investment and it is about jobs, but there is something even more important at stake and that is that a prosperous economy gives us the resources to help those in need. When the economy grows, government revenues grow with it. When government revenues grow, we can invest more in health and education and helping the disadvantaged. I’ve seen remarkable compassion when I talk to people all across Ontario, but we have to do more, much, much more than we are doing to turn that compassion into action.
We need new leadership in this province in order to ensure that each tax dollar is spent responsibly. We must put an end to the kind of waste and mismanagement, which has become embedded in the culture of government especially these past four years. I will put my business experience to work dramatically increasing accountability, spending smarter and ending practices like the irresponsible year-end spending with so-called extra money. I have never heard of this concept of extra money. It is going to come to an end: that sort of irresponsible practice of rushing money out the door without accountability because it is just plain wrong. Our health-care system is a blessing that is too easy to take for granted. Our universal publicly funded health-care system carries with it a promise. No matter where you live or what you can afford, when you or someone you love falls ill, our health-care system will be there for you. But when government does not manage health care properly, the gap between the promise of our health-care system and the reality of our health-care system only grows. Right now in Ontario one million adults and 130,000 children cannot find a family doctor. Many of these people are seniors, many of them are newer Canadians. One million of our fellow Ontario citizens cannot find a family doctor. And yet once again it is not really the numbers that tell the whole story.
Let me tell you again about the Ontario that I see when I travel. You may have seen me make reference in the debate to a woman from Coburg. She has been advertising in the local newspaper for a family doctor. What I didn’t say during the broadcast of the debate is that she is 91 years old. Two women I met in London about 10 days ago, one a young mum and another a senior citizen, told me about filling out application forms for family doctors and then being told when they submitted those application forms that they were going into files with thousands of other forms and that those two women among all the thousands of other people shouldn’t expect to hear back. Application forms for a family doctor. We simply must do better than that.
Our government when elected will invest 400 million new dollars every year by the end of our mandate to recruit and retain more doctors and nurses. We will use that money to help defer debt repayment for graduating medical students who stay and practice here in the province of Ontario. We will provide flexible retirement arrangements for older doctors and we will encourage the recruitment back home to the province of Ontario the more than 9,000 Canadian-trained doctors now practising in the United States. I will go to the United States to persuade them personally because that’s what a leader should do. Quite frankly I can’t think of a better use of a premier’s time. I will open up our health-care system to partnerships with the private sector in areas where they can provide quality service at a competitive cost to the taxpayer all under the single-payer system where you never need to pay with anything other than your OHIP card. My priority, let me very clear about this, is on getting care for patients. I will not let political posturing get in the way of getting people off waiting lists and out of pain. If it’s quality care and you need only present your health card, I will welcome those entrepreneurs who will provide that care and accept that card that we all carry in our pockets together.
Let me tell you something else that makes me very proud of being an Ontarian. We have got a very important balance right. We built a society based on the fundamental principles of equal justice, common standards and the rule of law, and yet at the same time within those common standards we became the world’s most multicultural nation serving as a testament to the Canadian commitment to diversity. Supporting inclusion and fairness for minorities didn’t happen by chance. It happened because we are a tolerant, inclusive people and because we had leaders committed to social progress. Whether it was the Charter of Rights and Freedoms or funding for catholic schools, there was always a debate, there was always a little worry, but these things are part of our society today and we are the better for it. Now I know that my position in including all faiths, not just one, in the public system has prompted plenty of debate and that’s fair. For me this is a fundamental issue of fairness. There are two viable positions. Fund all faiths or fund none. I have chosen inclusion, as I will always do.
Now Ontario is known as a peaceful and civil society where despite there always being more work to do we have made steady progress in ensuring that the benefits of our prosperity are shared. I’ve long believed that we have to do more to help those who are disadvantaged in our society. Catherine mentioned some of the work that I was privileged to do as a private citizen. Whether it is the quality of housing or access to community services or availability of job opportunities, I believe there is still a gap between the haves and the have-nots in our province and our platform makes firm commitments to addressing it. I said at the Board of Trade two weeks ago that we simply must decide that we are going to revitalize the far too numerous disadvantaged communities that we have allowed to grow in our major cities. This means addressing physical infrastructure like housing and community facilities. The state that these are in today should be a source of embarrassment. But it also means addressing the human condition. Far too many of our fellow citizens, many of them newer Canadians, aren’t getting the support they need so that they can make their contribution. Make no mistake. They want to contribute. They are able to contribute and they are not asking for a handout. They are simply asking for a hand-up, a mentorship, a homework club for their kids, or an English course for themselves. I will lead and I will get results for these fellow citizens of ours because it is right and because it is what a real leader should do.
In many neighbourhoods, isolations and breakdowns in our system have created breeding grounds for gangs and for drugs and for gun crime. One of the saddest parts of my job has been to attend the funerals of young people shot and killed on the streets of our city. I’ve met with the families at those funerals and elsewhere and been told they feel abandoned. They have told me that they are frustrated with our justice system. They see the vandals and the gun-toting drug dealers back in their neighbourhoods hours after they’re arrested. They will tell you a statistic that they know all too well. Seven out of 10 people charged with murder in Toronto last year were out on bail or probation at the time of their arrest. This is one of many indicators of a system that has gone seriously wrong. I stood at the casket of young Jordan Manners, a young man shot dead in his school, a young boy shot dead in his school, and when his mother asked me to promise to do what I could do so that her son didn’t die in vain, I said that I would do as she asked.
Keeping that promise is about fixing these neighbourhoods and it is about helping those kids and families, but it is also about focusing people’s attention on the breakdowns in our justice system so that we can fix it. And I can tell you right now I will speak out on this issue today and tomorrow and every day of this campaign and every day thereafter and I just won’t be speaking about the breakdown. As the premier of this province I will be doing something about it as well because it simply has to be fixed. I will put an end to the catch-and-release justice system that has flourished under Dalton McGuinty. Unacceptable bail and sentencing and plea-bargaining deals for dangerous criminals will be brought to an end. I will make that system more transparent. There will be regular reports on the number of bail-and-sentencing deals taking place and the number of people who are released only to reoffend. We should know that information. We will order an automatic inquest any time that someone is out on bail or probation or parole and causes a death. If you cannot walk down the streets of any community in this province without fear of being mugged or assaulted or shot, then yes that is a breakdown in justice that threatens our quality of life. When you cannot count on the law to protect your safety, to protect your property, and to treat you the same way as everybody else, then the foundation of civil society is diminished.
Just this past weekend I went down to the town of Caledonia as I have eight times now. I met with several local families who have been living in fear for 577 days while an ongoing Aboriginal land occupation has torn apart an entire community. People have been assaulted, acts of vandalism have been common, schools have been closed, businesses damaged. Let me tell you about the Ontario that I saw in Caledonia. It is an Ontario where frightened people look you in the eye and they tell you that the rules and the laws that all of us in this room take for granted just don’t seem to apply there anymore. Right now in our province our fellow Ontarians have been living in the shadow of razor wire fences for sometime. And our fellow Ontarians have been called upon to show so-called passports just to access their own homes. The current government has done virtually nothing about this travesty of justice.
As premier, I would stand up for the rule of law. One law for all. Just as I reject two-tier medicine and two-tier religious school funding, I also reject two-tier justice. I can tell you that I feel very strongly that we have let down our Aboriginal people over decades on land claims and other issues and that I intend to do much, much better working with the federal government and anybody else I can to do better for our Aboriginal people. We will not solve that problem by letting people, any people, ignore the rule of law. The current premier turns a blind eye to protestors who issue illegitimate so-called building permits to force payments from people who have clear title to land and who have sought and received all required approvals. We must clarify the laws so that people know their rights and so that those who choose to occupy land, any people who choose to occupy land, understand that there are consequences that follow that choice. The amended law that we will bring in when we form the government will respect the valid interests of all sides, will protect innocent bystanders, and provide a clear legal framework for the police.
These are steps that any real leader would take to preserve and protect those institutions that lie at the heart of our civilized democratic society. I will lead in this area where others have refused to do so. I want to be a leader for Ontario that people can look up to. One whose word is his bond, who will never stop listening to them. The notion that your word is your bond I think for most of us is something that is put into us from the earliest days. It certainly was in my home.
I have said before that I remember going with my grandfather (he had a trucking business in downtown Toronto) to his garage and I used to go there many Sundays. It was a place that was fascinating for a young boy. I saw him do business by shaking someone’s hand. And my concept of what you are doing when you are campaigning for public office is you are shaking the hand of the voters. You shake some of their hands physically, but when you make a commitment to them you are shaking the hand of every voter and telling them that I’m going to do what I said I’m going to do. Your word is your bond and you must never stop listening to the voters because they always have something to say and you can always learn.
I want to live in an Ontario that captures the promise that I see all around us—the equality of opportunity, the benefits of enterprise, and the effectiveness of our health and education systems for all to access. I want to build an Ontario where no poverty is permanent, where our shared values and common stability mean that there are no strangers. An Ontario where the chance for improvement and a better future is the birthright of all.
As a Progressive Conservative, I believe in an Ontario where freedom and responsibility are partners in shaping the future that we need. As a Progressive Conservative I believe that economic growth and social progress go hand in hand and that you cannot have one without the other. The challenge we face embraces the courage to listen and the determination to lead. Ontario needs leadership that will face up to the tough choices and does not fear the tough choices. Every Ontarian has the right I think to aspire to something more for his or her family, for his or her community, or for his or her province. That is the promise of Ontario. It’s our duty to protect and to strengthen and to enhance that promise so that Ontario can lead once again. That’s why I want to be the premier of this province. Thank you very much.
The appreciation of the meeting was expressed by Allan P. O’Dette, Director, External Relations and Public Affairs, GlaxoSmithKline Inc., and President, The Canadian Club of Toronto.