- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 24 Apr 1989, p. 352-361
- Peterson, David, Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- A joint meeting of the Empire Club of Canada and the Canadian Club of Toronto. An assertion that the single most important public policy lever that government and society has to shape the future, is in our educational system. Address given on the first day of Education Week. Questions to be asked such as "how different each one of our own lives would be had we not had the opportunity to have the education that we do have; will our children lead the same kind of life that we have led; what will be the effects if they don't have an opportunity to fulfil themselves; are we fulfilling our commitment as a society in educating our children to take new roles in an ever-changing world?" The reality that Canada is not keeping pace with other nations; nations that our children will be competing with for jobs and opportunities in the future. Changes in world trading. Where Canada's traditional jobs are going. The challenge to develop new jobs and add more value to the economy and provide higher wages for the people who perform them. The establishment of the Premier's Council to develop global, economic and technological leadership, in conjunction with the private sector and academia. Some examples of activities of the Council and of business. A determination of the Council as to the primary importance of education. The interrelationship of jobs, education, and skill training. Examining students' learning needs. Some suggestions for changes in direction in education. A move into co-operative education. Bestowing our hopes for the future through our education systems and our commitment to young people.
- Date of Original
- 24 Apr 1989
- Language of Item
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- Full Text
- EDUCATION AND THE FUTURE
David Peterson Premier of Ontario
Chairman: Joyce Koffman, President-Elect, the Canadian Club of Toronto
I think that it is very considerate of all of you to be here for my installation. I did not expect so many of you and perhaps it is your curiosity to see how effective employment equity is as it functions within the guidelines of the Canadian Club. Certainly, there is no discrimination as to salary. However, I realize that if the truth be known, you are here because of our very important guest speaker, the Honourable David Peterson.
Mr. Premier, your topic today could cover many areas. I would like to quote from an eminent Canadian writer about some of the changes that he saw affecting society.
The population while still increasing has every year more and more old people and fewer and fewer infants. This will mean to the eye of the economist, clear changes in the structure of industrial life; more provision for the wants of old men and women and less for that of children; the toy trade less important than the wheelchair industry; the tin trumpet beaten by the ear trumpet; fewer children's books and ever so many more books of reminiscence, with infancy and senility joining forces to augment the trade in macaroni and milk.
So said Stephen Leacock in 1941.
In 1989, your government is faced with the reality of this prognostication, this and many more problems. You are quoted as saying: "They are not easy problems to solve" and although the critics are ever present, we appreciate your dedication and leadership and look forward to hearing about some of the solutions you are seeking. Perhaps some intimations of a throne speech.
Premier David Peterson:
Joyce, I thank you for your kind words, and distinguished members of the head table. Gordon, I must say it's a pleasure to be here when they're finally throwing you out. And let history record, it's not the first or the last career that I have finished off, but may I thank you for the great contribution. Tony's leaving very shortly as well. And for these two distinguished gentlemen who have reigned over the Empire and Canadian Clubs, I bring my greetings and my thanks.
And may I say what a joy it is for me to be back. I believe this is the third occasion that the clubs have got together to hear my words and I think it's particularly auspicious that you arranged this luncheon before the budget, because, after next Thursday, only Hal Jackman will be able to afford to attend. Look at that cigar. It's worth more than my suit.
For me it is a joy too that the two clubs would come together to hear some of my thoughts on this occasion and I must say it's very thoughtful of you, Gordon, to invite my parents from London to be with me. You're quite right. It is far more scary to speak in front of them than it is in front of you. They will not hesitate to give me their advice on my remarks after I have finished, let me assure you. And it is also auspicious, l think, that I am sharing my thoughts with you some 24 hours before the legislature of this Province reconvenes for a session that will have a Throne Speech, giving you a sense of our agenda for reform for tomorrow and for the long term. Tomorrow the Speech from the Throne will target the key priorities that this province must address over the next few years and outline the kind of solutions that we plan to pursue in areas of education, social-assistance reform, environment, economy and other areas as well. But it has to be said that a priority for our government is our future, not the past. Joyce, I was very interested in your quotation from Stephen Leacock when you introduced me and you described the problems of our country, indeed, of the Western industrialized world. And you talked of the pressures and the changes that that brings and all of that is one set of pressures. But wouldn't it be a terrible tragedy to let that preoccupy us and not concentrate on our future as a province and as a country. We can never let our young people, who do not vote by the way, be sacrificed in terms of our responsibilities to them.
Really that is going to be the tone and theme of our Throne Speech, that the single most important investment that we can make as a society is in our future and in our children. We want our children to grow up in stable communities. We want to make sure that they have enough to eat. And isn't it a tragedy that in the midst of this unparalleled affluence in this city and in this province, we still have more kids going to food banks than ever before.
We've got to make sure that they are given unparalleled opportunities to learn and we've got to make sure that we bequeath to the next generation the fundamental legacy of quality health-care assistance, social-service assistance and a clean environment. And, at the same time, we have to recognize that our ability to shape this heritage depends on our capacity to maintain the economic buoyancy which underpins progress in all of these areas. Our children will be able to reap the quality of life we seek for them only if we sow the seeds of economic growth today which will make it possible in the future.
I would argue that the single most important public policy lever that we have as a government - indeed that we have as a society - to shape the future, is in our educational system. A system that will not only provide our economy with the capacity to grow in the future but also will provide individual children, individual people, with the ladder of opportunity available to all society. Today is the first day of Education
Week and I think it's appropriate to ask how different each one of our own lives would be had we not had the opportunity to have the education that we do have. The question now is, will our children lead the same kind of life that we have led and what will be the effects if they don't have an opportunity to fulfil themselves, and are we fulfilling our commitment as a society in educating our children to take new roles in an everchanging world?
The answer, it seems to me, if we fail, is that we will be the first generation of modern history to see our children not be able to have the same standard of living that we have achieved, we their parents. We spend an enormous amount on education. Our educators, our parents make a tremendous effort in education. It is our job to maximize on that investment and make sure we're getting a real result, and I don't think there's any question that our schools are doing a better job than they were some years ago. But there's another reality, and one of those realities, as many would say, is that we're not keeping pace with other nations, nations that our children will be competing with for jobs and opportunities in the future. And no longer can Canadians count on making a living the way we have made it in the past. The nations that we used to supply with conventionally manufactured goods are now supplying themselves. The customers who used to buy our raw resources are now turning to Third World countries. We cannot compete with the new players on their ground of lowcost labour and low value-added products. Our workers will not tolerate Third World wages and certainly should not be expected to do so. We should not have to become poor in order to compete. But it is a fact of life that many of Canada's traditional jobs are going to less developed nations. So the challenge for us is to develop new jobs in their places, jobs that add more value to the economy and provide higher wages for the people who perform them.
That is why, some time ago, we established the Premier's Council, to develop in conjunction with the private sector - business and labour - as well as leading members of academia, to steer and turn into the forefront of global, economic and technological leadership. The Council has studied the Ontario economy in unprecedented depth and there's going to be a great debate at the Board of Trade this evening between those who don't believe that the government has a role in shaping the future and of working with the private sector and those that do.
One of the things that the Council has determined is that our education system is more important than ever in achieving prosperity and in assuring that all can share it. We face the need to produce new products and services for new markets, but our ability to do so will be undermined by changes in our own work force if we don't respond. Over the next decade, the growth rate of our labour force will decline and its average age will increase. Our work force will include more women and a higher proportion of immigrants.
In order to achieve the kind of standard of living we want all of our people to enjoy, we will have to ensure that every member of our society has the greatest possible opportunity to contribute to our ability to compete. A global economy characterized by wide-open markets and newly emerging competitors will change the way that Ontarians make a living in a number of very fundamental ways. The decline in lowwage sectors will eliminate many low-skill jobs. The shift to knowledge-intensive industries will require workers to sharply improve their skills. The growth of specialized firms will make it essential for workers to have broader skills so they can perform more functions in smaller and more integrated workplaces.
Indeed, these challenges are already being felt in our economy. We can no longer just talk about the coming age of technology. It has already arrived and it's already testing our ability to adapt to it. Already, two-thirds of Canadian businesses have introduced advanced office techniques. Almost half of Canadian businesses have introduced advanced manufacturing techniques. Early in this decade, foreign competition sharply accelerated the adaptation of new technology, for example, in the auto industry. The autoparts industry is now following suit. And the auto sector is just one that's leading the way in new methods of production. By next year, there will be 21/z times as many workers involved in the use of robotics as there were four years ago. And the number of workers using personal computers and computeraided design will have doubled. Technology changes faster than our attitudes and, in many ways, much faster than the capacity of our institutions to keep up, but we have to catch up, and we have to run ahead.
Advanced manufacturing will eliminate many traditional approaches and will require new skills and new attitudes. Top-down decision making will give way to shared responsibility; piecemeal changes will be replaced by integrated planning, and those who attain a relevant education will be in the best position to take advantage of the changes. And those who fail will be left behind. Quality education provides prosperity for society as a whole, and the strength of industry depends largely on the quality of its work forces, as many businessmen tell me, and they are now prepared to do something about it. That is why all of us must place a higher and higher premium on knowledge, on skills, and dependability and flexibility of our work force.
Let me give you just one example of this reality. Goodyear Tire came to us a year or a year and a half ago and said they wanted to build a new plant in Ontario, and, like all good capitalists, they asked for a little help from the government. They decided they wanted to locate on the 40I corridor to the east of Oshawa somewhere because their principle customer was General Motors in Oshawa, and we said anywhere they wanted to go was fine with us. Unbeknownst to the government, Goodyear sent out a team of men and women to analyse all of the areas east of Oshawa along the 401. They came back and said they had chosen Napanee to place their new factory. The question was why?
Because they had analysed secretly every high school in eastern Ontario and every technical education program and they came to the conclusion that the best program was in Napanee, at that high school, and that would provide the most stable work force that they could find in Eastern Ontario.
Hence, a $320-million investment is going into Napanee, Ontario. They realized that the work force is the single most important factor in the future success of their investment. Indeed, in many innovation-based industries, the industries have to provide the majority of economic growth in the future. The quality of labour is a greater concern than the cost of labour. Low-cost workers also have little to offer if they're low-skilled workers.
So I believe it is incumbent upon all governments, and I include the federal government with their labour adjustment programs, to recognize that jobs and education and skill training go hand in hand. It will be the key to the future of this province and this country. More than half of the jobs that are created will depend on some education beyond high school and one-third will require a college education. How then will we be able to meet that need when one-third of our young people do not even complete high school today. How will our children take advantage of global opportunities when they spend less time in school than the people they compete against. Our children's ability to participate fully in the economy, indeed in society, depends on our ability to provide them with the basic tools that they need, and we have got to ensure for them the opportunity to benefit fully from every stage of our educational system.
In the foundation years in junior and senior kindergarten, they need a solid introduction to the world of education. We've got to ask ourselves if we're giving our children too late a start in education. Our children should have an opportunity to start school earlier than they do now, at an age when they could reap the greatest benefit. The early childhood years are vital for acquiring the basic learning and social skills needed to lay down the foundation for educational achievement. Children raised in an era of computers and educational television are able to start that process at a much earlier age than ever. One need only look at one's own children today, and I could tell you, in my case, my kids are a lot smarter than their old man. That does not apply to me and my parents. I want you to know that.
We believe that a good start is vital, that we must also take a look at the students' learning needs throughout the school years. In the formative years, Grades 1 through 6, students must be given the chance to broaden the life and learning skills they will need forever, and that is why, in the coming year, the government will complete its commitment to reducing class sizes in Grades 1 and 2. It's a good beginning but other kinds of efforts must follow as well. In the transition years, Grades 7 to 9, youngsters must have the opportunity to make the adjustment from basic learning to the more advanced and specialized studies of high school. During this period, they must not be cast into a stream that may not take them where they ultimately want to go. No one in our view should be required to foreclose on their options at the age of 14. In the specialization years, Grades 10 to 12, students must be able to build on a solid base of learning skills and carve out the niche that is right for them. We must recognize that it will not be the same for every young person in this province and we must be sufficiently flexible to assist each one. After all, we cannot expect that every boy and girl would grow up to be a lawyer because it may lead to politics.
Indeed as a society we're already educating something like 10 times as many lawyers and accountants as Japan, but only one-third as many scientists and engineers. That says something about the focus of our country. Lawyers and accountants are just overhead as far as I'm concerned. But we need more focus on science and technology and more assistance for young people with the aptitude and desire to go into the skilled trades. We can no longer afford to regard highlyskilled trades as second-class opportunities. Our children need to be exposed to a variety of options including jobs in the advanced manufacturing sector. We in Ontario have not done enough to help our young people prepare for these jobs and the forecast shortage of skilled trades people demonstrates that fact.
These are some of the kinds of things we must change if our children, regardless of family income, are to have the kind of future that they deserve, and if our economy is going to provide the kind of growth that it will need in the future to sustain the kind of humane and tolerant and decent society that we have here in Canada. Without educated workers, men and women who are literate, motivated and adaptable, Canadian companies will face an insurmountable disadvantage compared to our competitors. And Ontario faces the risk of losing forever its opportunity to be competitive. Education, we believe, can change that. But, to be completely successful, education must be prepared to change as well. We must shape a school system that does not just teach students but also helps them to learn even beyond their school years. This requires learning that comes in a classroom setting and learning that comes from experience as well.
Hence, the great move into co-operative education that we have experienced in this province which is unbelievably successful. In order to learn all that they can and all that they must, our young people will have to get the chance to learn in the community as well as in the workplace, and I believe that we are going to need co-operation at all levels. This isn't just a responsibility for the government or the educational system, it's going to involve industry and labour and service agencies and all of our educational institutions as well as teachers and parents.
Now more than ever, given the brave new world of liberalized trade and the enormous changes that are overtaking our society, education must be viewed more and more as the great equalizer, and educated men and women must be recognized as the greatest resource that we have.
And so I say, in conclusion, that I believe that through our education systems and our commitment to our young people in the future, we can bestow on our society our greatest hopes for the future. Not only our best hope for strengthening our ability to compete and prosper, but also our brightest hope for providing all of our kids with a fair and equal chance in life.
The appreciation of the meeting was expressed by AA. van Straubenzee, President of the Empire Club of Canada.