Ontario’s Economy is Getting Stronger – Here’s How
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13 April, 2022 Ontario’s Economy is Getting Stronger – Here’s How
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13 Apr 2022
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April 2022
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April 13, 2022

The Empire Club of Canada Presents

Ontario’s Economy is Getting Stronger – Here’s How

Chairman: Kelly Jackson, President, The Empire Club of Canada; Vice-President, External Affairs & Professional Learning, Humber College

Head Table Guests
Elgin Farewell, CEO, Teranet
Anthony Primenaro, Director of Government Relations, LiUNA
Bliss Baker, Chairman, Cumberland Strategies
Leslie Woo, CEO, CivicAction
Julia Zhang, CEO, JD Development Group
Sal Rabbani, 1st Vice-President, Board of Directors, Empire Club of Canada; Managing Partner, BDC Advisory Services, Business Development Bank of Canada
Kent Emerson, Past President, Board of Directors, Empire Club of Canada; Principal, Valorem Insights 
Natasha Smith, Board Director, Empire Club of Canada; Partner, Miller Thomson LLP

Distinguished Guest Speakers
The Hon. Peter Bethlenfalvy, Minister of Finance, Province of Ontario
The Hon. Brian V. Tobin, P.C., O.C, Vice-Chair, BMO Financial Group
Blaine Woodcock, Partner, Consulting, Governtment of Ontario, Leader, Deloitte

Introduction
It is a great honour for me to be here at the Empire Club of Canada today, which is arguably the most famous and historically relevant speaker’s podium to have ever existed in Canada. It has offered its podium to such international luminaries as Winston Churchill, Ronald Reagan, Audrey Hepburn, the Dalai Lama, Indira Gandhi, and closer to home, from Pierre Trudeau to Justin Trudeau. Literally generations of our great nation's leaders, alongside with those of the world's top international diplomats, heads of state, and business and thought leaders.

It is a real honour and distinct privilege to be invited to speak to the Empire Club of Canada, which has been welcoming international diplomats, leaders in business, and in science, and in politics. When they stand at that podium, they speak not only to the entire country, but they can speak to the entire world.

Welcome Address by Kelly Jackson, President, The Empire Club of Canada
Good afternoon. Welcome to the 118th season of the Empire Club of Canada. This week marks our first in-person events in more than two years, and I couldn't be more delighted than to be here with all of you. My name is Kelly Jackson. I’m the President of the Board of Directors of the Empire Club of Canada, and Vice-President External Affairs and professional learning at Humber College. To start today, I want to thank everybody for your flexibility, a hallmark of life during COVID-19, and understanding the need to reschedule this event from last week to today. I'd like to extend a special thank you to all of you who have supported our events over the past two years, we have successfully held more than 70 virtual events since the beginning of the pandemic, connecting thousands of people across Canada, and internationally, with the critical influencers of our time, and engaging them in the conversations that matter. This past year has been a year of tremendous growth for the Club. We've implemented state-of-the-art technology to help us deliver best in class events, whether in person or online, we refreshed our brand, and we launched a new website, with access to our extensive library of keynote speeches, and virtual panel discussions. We honoured former AFN Chief Perry Bellegarde as our 2021 Nation Builder of the Year, and we've worked to advance Reconciliation through dedicated conversations, and support for a scholarship fund at the First Nations University of Canada.

Like all businesses and organizations, it's an obvious understatement to say that our operations have been impacted by the uncertainty and the changing nature of the pandemic. So, to have achieved these accomplishments during this time, makes me incredibly proud of the Empire Club staff team, and our dedicated volunteer board of directors, many of whom are in the room today. I would like to ask you to take a moment with me, to thank them for their contributions

We also have a number of volunteers with us today students from the Ted Rogers School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at Ryerson University. Thank you very much for your help in making today's event a success. Always got to thank the students.

To formally start us off this afternoon. I want to acknowledge that we are gathered here on the Traditional and Treaty Lands of the Mississaugas of the Credit, and the homelands of the Anishinaabe, Haudenosaunee and the Wyandot Peoples. In acknowledging Traditional Territories, I do so from a place of understanding the privilege my ancestors and I have had in this country, since they first arrived here in the 1830’s. As farmers in Southwestern Ontario, I imagine they felt a very deep connection to the land, and yet likely did not recognize how that connection was built on the displacement of others. Delivering a land acknowledgement for me, it's always an important opportunity to reflect on our connections. and the responsibility that we share when it comes to caring for the land. And to recognize that in order to do that, we must always respect each other, and acknowledge our histories. We encourage everybody here today, and tuning in online, to learn more about the Traditional Territories on which you work and live.

I also would like to recognize Revv52, who performed a rendition of “O Canada” that those in the room had a chance to hear earlier. We are honoured that they agreed to share their talents with us. We look forward to showcasing more Canadian artists at our upcoming events, so if you know of a group, or a singer, a set of musicians that would like to share their video rendition of “O Canada” with our audiences, please be in touch.

The Empire Club of Canada is a non-profit organization. So, now I want to take a moment to genuinely thank our sponsors, who generously support the Club, and make these events possible, and complimentary, for our online viewers to attend. Thank you to our lead event sponsors, BMO Capital Markets, and Deloitte. Thank you to today's supporting sponsors, Fidelity, LiUNA, Ontario Real Estate Association, Primerica, and Waste Connections of Canada. Thank you as well to our season sponsors, Bruce Power, Canadian Bankers Association, LiUNA, and Waste Connections of Canada.

One last housekeeping note for those who are joining us online. If you require technical assistance at any point during the live stream, please feel free to start a conversation with our team, using the chat button that you will see on the right-hand side of your screen. To those watching on-demand later, and to those tuning in on the podcast, a big welcome to you as well. It is now my pleasure to invite the Honourable Brian Tobin, Vice-Chair, BMO Financial Group to deliver some opening remarks, and to introduce our guest speaker. Mr. Tobin, welcome.

The Hon. Brian Tobin, Vice-Chair, BMO Financial Group
Thank you very much, Kelly. I'm Brian Tobin, Vice-Chair of BMO Financial Group, and I'm delighted to be here. Especially delighted to be here, knowing that we're about to see the start an election campaign, and Peter, I get to sit back and watch from a distance, which is a rare thing for me. On behalf of all of my colleagues at BMO, we're proud to be sponsoring today's Empire Club event, with the Minister of Finance, and attending, of course, with all of you. It's amazing that we're all here in person, given the experience we've had over the last two years. I want to say to you, Kelly and to your organization, to pull together this large group, in this room, after the respite we've had away from coming together, is absolutely extraordinary. So, congratulations to you, and to all of your team.

We all know the pandemic has taken a toll on our community and economy in countless ways. But we've collectively learned, we've adapted, we've worked together, we've progressed, and I would argue we've emerged stronger and more resilient. And Ontario's future is no doubt bright. We’ve safely reached a full reopening, that is a real and substantial achievement; the province is attracting more and more skilled workers, quite frankly from all around the world; the Province is busy revitalizing infrastructure, modernizing capital markets; and recently the Province, together with the Federal Government, announced a landmark childcare deal that'll have positive impact in the future for this province. As a bank, we're proud to play a role in Ontario's economy, and building a sustainable, inclusive future. For us, supporting employment. supporting innovation, economic growth opportunities, is a priority. Collectively, and globally, I think we're at a turning point. And as leaders in our respective areas, we have to co-operate, we have to innovate, and we have to work hard, to secure a robust recovery for Canada, and specifically for Ontario.

Now, to discuss how Ontario's economy is getting stronger, I have the pleasure of presenting Ontario's Minister of Finance. Let me say, as somebody who served in the federal cabinet for a number of years, and also formed a cabinet as Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, I know that Peter has the most difficult, and most challenging job in government. And that is, he has to have the capacity, when many are bringing, in their minds, well-deserved ideas that require-good strong financial support to government. Somebody—because it's always easy to say yes—somebody has to have the capacity to say no. That takes integrity, that takes perseverance, that takes character, and in my observation—please don't quote me in your election material—I think you have all three. And you know, Peter just told me he spent the better part of 15 or 20 years fishing the Grey River in Newfoundland, on the south coast. You know, the man perseveres when he flies into Deer Lake to the rain, drizzle and fog, and then drives five hours to fish the Grey River for salmon in Newfoundland. This is a character declaration in itself. Peter comes from the private sector, very successful career there from the financial markets, came to politics after that career in 2018, served as Treasury Board Minister—that is a Dr. No role, too—now as Minister of Finance, charged with safeguarding Ontario's long-term fiscal sustainability, providing the fiscal firepower needed to protect the health and well-being of this province after COVID-19, and at the same time, has to take on the role of recharging this economy, while reining in inflation. That's a double-barreled challenge, and not always easy to accomplish. Of course, today, we've seen a rate hike that's the biggest in 20 years, a signal that more, by way of rate hikes, is coming. All of that provides for opportunity, but also challenge. I think the man in the job in Ontario, in finance portfolio, that we have today and will speak to us, he is up to that challenge. And I'm pleased to ask Peter to come forward and give us his thoughts. Peter.

The Hon. Peter Bethlenfalvy, Minister of Finance, Province of Ontario
No worries, Brian, I wasn't writing down any of that for my campaign. Well, good afternoon, everyone, it's terrific to be here. And, I do want to thank the Honourable Brian Tobin for that great introduction, and the Empire Club for hosting us today. Again, it just wonderful to see so many smiling faces in person—and I’ve got to tell you, it's much better than speaking to 350 individual squares, or circles on a computer screen. This is much better.

For those of you who don't know, the Ministry of Finance is situated in the Frost Building, near Queen's Park. And in the frost building, there is an enormous map of Ontario; it's the kind of map you can really stop and study for a long period of time. If you've seen that kind of map I'm talking about, you know it's impressively detailed. It strikes you how, in Southern Ontario, the cities and towns are clustered together around the Great Lakes; cities and towns immortalized by artists from Gordon Lightfoot, to The Tragically Hip. These destinations were built around manufacturing, around agriculture, industries that brought jobs and prosperity to their communities. If you follow along that map, you can see the numbered names of local highways crossing one another, and overlapping with the many rail lines, transportation lines, that help carry that prosperity to every corner of the province. And when you look at the North, you notice how all the rivers flow into James Bay. That's thousands of waterways, connecting lakes, and passing through our world-famous national and provincial parks. And the colours on the map change to mark elevation, so you get a sense of Ontario's awe-inspiring landscapes. You know, these are rising peaks captured so perfectly by the Group of Seven. And this map can really provide you with a sense of how abundant we are in natural resources like timber, fresh water, and minerals like nickel, and cobalt. And it gives you an appreciation for the ambition of everyone who came before us; the Indigenous Peoples who were the first to call this province home, the newcomers, the immigrants. You realize the grit it must have taken, to build those bridges, highways and railroads. That determination it took to build the mines and factories, that transformed this province into the economic engine of Confederation. The vision of those who saw the potential in this province, a plan to achieve that vision, and the drive to get it done.

It's an important lesson for us all. Prosperity just doesn't fall out of the sky, even in a province as rich in opportunity as Ontario. You have to work hard to achieve it, and unfortunately, it's a lesson that too many previous governments failed to learn. They took our prosperity for granted and assumed the foundation that was laid by previous generations would always be there. They assumed we didn't need to stay competitive, that business as usual was enough. Companies took notice, and took their business elsewhere. We were governed by the politics of no—notwithstanding Brian saying no at Treasury Board—we were governed by the politics of no, and as a result, Ontario lost momentum. And ladies and gentlemen, that is why I got involved in public service. I looked around, I saw how things were going, and wondered, what is the plan for Ontario? How did we go from being the kind of place where my parents, Hungarian immigrants escaping war, and socialist oppression, could find opportunity, security and prosperity, to the kind of place where industry was packing up and leaving? The kind of place where communities that flourished in a strong economy, were being hollowed out. The kind of place where workers, families, and seniors were falling further and further behind. I can tell you, I, like the Premier, and many of my colleagues at Queen's Park today, we saw that the previous government had no plan, no vision. Their spending, their policies, their whole philosophy was about the short term. When our highways and public transit systems became overcrowded, costing our economy billions and robbing commuters of hours spent with love ones, nothing was done. When 300,000 good-paying manufacturing jobs left the province, devastating families and communities, nothing was done. When the high demand for skilled workers wasn't being met by our overcomplicated bureaucratic training system, nothing was done. And when our healthcare system struggled to keep up due to chronic underinvestment, nothing was done.

That is why our government has chosen an ambitious path, the aspirational path, and ladies and gentlemen, we have a plan. It's a plan that recognizes from critical minerals to capital markets, from the boardroom table to the kitchen table, our economy is connected. It's a plan to build Ontario, by getting shovels in the ground for highways, for hospitals, and for high-speed internet. It's a plan that will see the next generation of electric and hybrid vehicles made in Ontario, by Ontario workers, and sold across North America. It's a plan to make Ontario the best place in the world to do business. C’est plan qui vis à renforcer l’Ontario; on mettant un profit notre potential academique; on créant des emplois; et on assurant la croissance de la prosperité a longe terme. Et voici commence. It’s a plan for a stronger Ontario, unleashing our economic potential, and securing jobs, growing and prospering for the long-term. And ladies and gentlemen, let me tell you, this is how we're going to do it. Here's how. Our plan will address the three challenges, productivity, labour, and investment—or putting it another way, building, working and growing.

Let's start with the first, building Ontario. For years, Ontario's productivity has lagged behind other jurisdictions. We're well below the Canadian average, we're well below the G7 and the OECD average. And there are many factors that contribute to this, but one of the most glaring is the neglect of critical infrastructure. Infrastructure that creates jobs, attracts investments, boosts our economic productivity, and provides the foundation for new opportunities. Building transit, building highways and building high-speed internet, we are connecting Ontario. Through projects like the 413, which will help get drivers out of gridlock—for those of you been in Brampton and beyond—and save them up to 30 minutes each way, giving drivers up to 5 hours back per week, and supporting up to 3500 new jobs each year. And the Bradford Bypass, which will connect highway 400 with highway 404, in Simcoe County and York Region, saving drivers up to 35 minutes per trip. And Caroline Mulroney, the Minister of Transportation, and Premier Ford, have recently grown a broken ground on the historic Ontario Line, the crown jewel of the largest subway expansion in the province’s history

We're expanding the GO Transit, and we're expanding and connecting the province, by investing $4 billion so that every community in Ontario has access to high-speed internet by 2025—yeah, there was one clap there. These are historic projects. You know, Brian mentioned, and was mentioned before, the historic childcare deal. These are historic projects that will boost our productivity, create jobs, and lay new pathways to prosperity in every corner of Ontario.

Now, the second challenge we need to address is our labour force. And Monte McNaughton, our Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development, is on the job. Through record investments in skills, training, and by taking steps to increase our workforce, we are addressing this challenge head-on. Our government is working for workers. We're introducing programs that deliver real solutions that benefit working people, like the Soldiers in Tech program, which provides web development training to veterans looking to re-enter the workforce, or our investment in construction training for the Treaty Three First Nations communities so they can work well-paying jobs twinning highway 17 near Kenora. With every dollar of support, we are determined to open the door for better opportunities for Ontario workers and create better jobs. Our plan also includes bringing in workers, and giving them training for in-demand jobs, by partnering with the local non-profits that already help newcomers find work. For instance, helping new immigrants land jobs as truck drivers, as we announced last April, or like we announced in October, training new immigrants for careers as carpenters, as electricians, as plumbers, as mechanics, as welders, chefs, and other in demand trades.

Finally, we need investment to build a stronger Ontario. For too long, Ontario's reputation as an investment destination has suffered. Costs were high, too high, and unnecessary red tape strangled capital and innovation. But no government in the history of this province has done more to cut red tape, and lower costs for businesses. Since taking office, we have reduced the cost of business in Ontario, by a staggering $7 billion a year. We have delivered more than 400 measures to reduce burdens, without compromising health, safety, or the environment. And we've also looked to the future, “to where the puck is going, not where it has been,” to quote a very famous Canadian. Where will economic growth come from in the future? How will we address long-standing issues with research and development, and innovation? How can we harness our strength in manufacturing to make Ontario a powerhouse in electric vehicle production?

In March we announced Intellectual Property Ontario, a new agency to be a go-to resource for researchers and companies, to grow Ontario made innovations and compete in the global market. And because our economy is a connected, by making Ontario a more attractive place for businesses, we will bring the kind of investment that means more jobs, more competitive wages, and a higher standard of living for all Ontarians. Ladies and gentlemen, our plan is working. The New York Times recently published an article, flagging Toronto as a quietly booming hub for tech research—well, we know it's not been quiet here in Toronto, and here in Ontario. About a week later, Meta Platforms announced their plan to build a new engineering hub right here in Ontario, and create up to 2500 high paying high-tech jobs. In the same week in March, both Walmart and Honda Canada demonstrated their confidence in Ontario's business landscape, with billions of dollars of investment. Walmart chose Ontario to be one of two new global tech hubs, because of our growing tech presence. Meanwhile, Honda Canada is spending more than a billion dollars to upgrade its plant in Alliston to make hybrid electric vehicles. And by 2030, it’s expected that one in every three cars sold globally will be electric. Factor in that Canada is the only country in the Western Hemisphere with all the raw materials for a lithium-ion battery. My friends, that tells you that Canada is well, and Ontario is well on the way to success.

And you can see why one of the core elements of our government's vision for Ontario's economy will be driven by the next generation of electric and hybrid vehicles. You know, it's a vision that begins in the North, where last month the Premier was joined by Greg Rickford, our terrific Minister of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry, to release our Critical Mineral Strategy, a five-year roadmap to harness the tremendous mineral wealth of the of Ontario and the North, and secure Ontario's position as a global leader of responsibly and ethically sourced critical minerals. We have a plan to get the road to the Ring of Fire built, bringing critical minerals south to our manufacturing heartland, and generate prosperity for communities in the North, including First Nations—and I'll say, especially First Nations. At this time of geopolitical uncertainty, it's critical that we invest strategically for important raw materials right here at home. So, it's time for the federal government to join us in this historic project, and get the road to the Ring of Fire built, or as Mr. Rickford likes to call it, “the corridor to prosperity.” Critical minerals in the North, combined with our province’s historic strengths in auto manufacturing, will help make Ontario a world leader in hybrid and electric vehicle production. And to secure those critical investments, we need to strengthen our supply chain and make sure we have the right inputs. That's why we have joined forces with ArcelorMittal Dofasco, to transform Ontario into a world-leading producer of clean steel—green steel, as I like to call it—an investment that will help meet the global demand for low-carbon auto production, and bring us that much closer to a future when you think of electric cars, you think of Ontario. From Honda Canada's investment in Allison, to Windsor, where Vic Fedeli, our Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, announced that Stellantis is partnering with LG Energy Solution, to build the province’s first large-scale electric vehicle manufacturing plant, electric vehicle battery manufacturing plant, creating an estimated 2500 jobs, and the largest investment in Canadian history. To Oshawa, where General Motors is retooling its Oshawa, and CAMI Ingersoll manufacturing plants to produce the light-duty Chevy, and its next generation of electric vehicles. With this investment, GM will be adding a third shift to Oshawa, creating more than 2600 new jobs. It was just four years ago, ladies and gentlemen, that Oshawa was losing manufacturing jobs. Now, the auto sector is flourishing again in Oshawa. That is what we're talking about when we say Ontario is getting stronger. That is what we mean when we say that we are that we are a government that will get it done.

By almost any metric, Ontario has fared well during the pandemic compared to other jurisdictions. We have made historic and unprecedented investments, which have helped the province respond effectively and decisively during a time of true global instability. And we have a plan to attract, hire, and retain hundreds of new healthcare workers, to ensure a stockpile of PPA made right here in Ontario, so we never again have to rely on anyone else for critical supplies. And to build and update hospitals across the province, in North York, in Windsor in Brampton, in Ottawa, in Innisfil, and in Mississauga, just to name a few. We are building a stronger, more resilient healthcare system. You've heard me say before, you know we can't have a healthy economy without healthy people. Growing our economy means more opportunities, more jobs, more success everywhere, from Bay Street to Main Street. My friends, right now, we are building, we are growing, we're getting stronger. Ladies and gentlemen, something is happening. Ontario's Renaissance is here. Something is happening here in Ontario. So, when our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren look at their own maps of Ontario, they will be amazed by how much we built in the 2020’s. I will outline the next steps of our plan and our budget later this month; it will be a budget that invests in the future, because after years of mismanagement by the previous government, and more than two years of a pandemic, now is the time to invest. We will be prudent and accountable. We will deliver an economic plan that invests responsibly, but we’ll also be ambitious. Nous répondrons l’ambitions de la population de l’Ontario, nous nous battrons pour que ce réalise les rêves de la population de l’Ontario. We will match the ambition of the people of Ontario, we will fight for the dreams of the people Ontario, and we will continue to bet on the people of Ontario. I will bet on their optimism, their ingenuity, their drive. With them, we will get it done. Thank you very much.

QUESTION & ANSWER

Kelly Jackson
Thank you so much, Minister. The Minister, as you can imagine, has a pretty busy schedule, and we are delighted that he is able to stay with us a little bit longer. And I have the opportunity to ask him a few questions. So, thank you so much for being here today, and talking to us about how Ontario's economy is being strengthened. Wondering if you can talk, you know, obviously you let us know that we'll hear more about the plan later this month in the budget, but definitely throughout your speech, you talked about critical investments in infrastructure. And I'm just wondering if you want to elaborate a little bit on sort of, you know, why now, and what's really the economic rationale behind some of these historic investments?

The Hon. Peter Bethlenfalvy
Well, thanks for that question, Kelly. And I also want to give a shout out to my colleague, Christina Mitas, who's our MPP in Scarborough Centre—hi, Christina, you've done a great job over four years—and you want to talk about making Ontario stronger, I think she had three children during her term in office. So, congratulations, Christina; and thank you for your hard work,and your public service. And again, I want to thank Brian Tobin. You know, he talked about his years of public service, and so he knows the trials and tribulations serving the public—but there's no greater honour and privilege, than serving the people of your country, and your fellow citizens. So, thank you, Brian.

Critical infrastructure, you know, we are, as I mentioned, we have lagged productivity, and some people think productivity means job losses. We have more jobs than we have workers. So, how do we become more productive? And one of the key ways you do that, is building infrastructure. Build the highways, build the public transit system, build small modular reactors in Darlington, Oshawa, build the clean grid, electricity grid, build hospitals, so we can take care of people, build long-term care, build highways, so we can move people and goods to market—you can't take the subway everywhere in Ontario—we need to build critical infrastructure. And I mentioned broadband. You know, when I looked at broadband and realized that 700,000 households and businesses don't have internet in this province of 15 million people, we had to do something about that. And we worked with our federal partners, but—and they've been great partners, by the way—but their goal was to do it by 2030. So, I said, you know what, we're going to do it by 2025. I'm setting the target, and I'm not going to sit here four years from now and say, you know, it was a stretch goal. I don't care. We are gonna get it done by 2025, we're gonna get every household and business connected with high-speed internet in this province, because that's critical infrastructure. How do you connect with your loved ones? How do you, in places where healthcare is remote, connect with healthcare? How do you connect online, when the pandemic has forced us to be sometimes not in school? How do we do that without the critical infrastructure? So, these are investments that are real investments. Do you know, that the debt of the province of Ontario, two thirds of it since Confederation, has been there to fund deficits, and only one third for real assets. And these investments in infrastructure, in real assets, roads, and bridges, and tunnels, and subways. These are long lived assets, and we're going to fund those assets. Still—notwithstanding the Bank of Canada raising rates 50 basis points today—this is still a good environment to make those investments today. Putting shovels in the ground for today, so we can have prosperity tomorrow.

Kelly Jackson
Thank you. One of the things that, obviously as somebody who works at a college, very much on the frontlines everyday, of these conversations, about how do we scale the workforce? How do we work with employers and make sure we're meeting their demands? Definitely, in your remarks, you spoke about the need for more workforce development, whether it's internationally-trained immigrants and connecting them to the right opportunities, or whether it's rescaling and upskilling mid-career workers. So, just wondering if you—you know, I'm imagining this is coming up a lot at the cabinet table, given how the economy looks—and when you look at the number of jobs that are available, as you mentioned, many more jobs available right now than we can actually match to people?

The Hon. Peter Bethlenfalvy
Well, it's a great question. I'm going to tell you a couple stories. You know, one of the first things I did when I became elected, and fortunate enough to be in cabinet, I met with a number of the union leaders. And one thing we talked about, was that there are more jobs in the future, and now, than there are workers, and how can we work together? We're actually very aligned. We have the same goals, good, sustainable, good-paying jobs with benefits, for the long-term. So, that was step number one. Number two was recognize that, you know, we were building a lot of infrastructure; you need skilled labour. And by the way, and I think Don Lovisa is here from Durham College, out in my region in Durham, you know, the work that they're doing at Durham College, and Linda Franklin, from the Colleges Association, you know, focusing on skilled trades, we in Ontario, four and-a-half percent of our jobs are currently in skilled trades. We are below the Canadian average, not by a little bit but by a lot. We have, Don likes to say the crane operators, you know, the average age is in the ‘50s, you know, if you look around, there's a lot of cranes. But the technology to train people exists, we need to encourage people in the skilled trades, so that's why we've been focused on so many things like the Second Career Program, the Skills Development Fund, worker development plans. Last year in the budget, I invested $600 billion in the fall economic statement, I put more than a quarter billion in again, and will continue to move forward, because we need those skilled workers of tomorrow. It's not just manufacturing jobs. I've talked about how, you know electric vehicle and hybrid production is our vision; 400,000 vehicles by the year 2030 is our goal, with the critical minerals coming from the North, and the battery now, manufacturing in Windsor, that historic $5 billion investment by Stellantis and LG that I mentioned, plus the absolute manufacturing these jobs.

We don't have enough skilled labour; we need to invest. It means that you start investing in kindergarten to grade 12; that's why we've upgraded the curriculum to include STEM, to make a real focus on science, and technology, and engineering, and math, and including coding, including financial literacy. These are the skills that the children will need for the jobs of tomorrow. I think that's why Facebook is coming to Ontario, that's why Walmart is picking Ontario as a tech hub, that's why the Honda's, the GM's, the Ford’s; Ford's investment in Oakville for five new electric vehicle lines is historic. We’d lost plant investment after plant investment, but we have the workers, we have the education system, and now we have the ambition to grow those jobs.

And I'll say one more thing. I was up in Timmins back in the summer, and I met with a company there, and they do big truck manufacturing or fixing and repairing of trucks that are out in the oil sands, and they need welders. And you know what? We don't have enough welders in this province. So, you know where they got the welders from? They had three places. One, is we're training Indigenous people, because these are good jobs, and we need to give the skills, the opportunity; number two, women, women are underrepresented in the skilled trades, and they're absolutely a tremendous opportunity for women; and the third, immigration. And do you know what this plant, their number one place for getting welders was from? The Ukraine. Think about that for a second; and now the Ukraine. Tens of thousands of refugees coming to this country, and our government announced last week that we're going to put $300 million, welcoming any Ukrainian refugee into this country, into this province, providing childcare, providing mental health supports, skills training, healthcare—because it's not only the right thing to do, it's good economic policy. If you think about my parents, they didn't want anything other than a good job, a good-paying job, an opportunity to raise their family, and to do it safely and securely. And for far too many people, they don't feel safe in this province. They don't feel that their job security is there; they don't feel that, for too long, that the opportunities weren’t there. And that's, that's the vision that I am describing. And that's what we really want to achieve for the province of Ontario.

Kelly Jackson
Thank you. And I swear we didn't plan this, but I can say that your government is investing at Humber, to expand the welding lab; as we speak right now, that project is ongoing, so. I think, yeah, there’s—you know, and I'm sure if we looked across the room, and talked across a lot of sectors, there's so many smaller examples. And when we add those all up, it's really creating that vision you're talking about.

The Hon. Peter Bethlenfalvy
Well, you know, we have a lot more to do, but it's encouraging when, last month, 34,000 new jobs were created in Ontario, leading the country again. Mainly full-time jobs—in the month of February was 194,000 jobs—mainly full time jobs, to attract that investment. You know, capital can go wherever; we're not an island here in Ontario. We need to have a vision, we need to have a plan, and we have to tell the people of Ontario how to get it done. And as I said, infrastructure, I think, is critical to that. Investing in the hard-working people of Ontario, by providing even an early stage of education, skills, retraining is really critical. At Three Mechanics in Durham, we are converting the fleet of buses there completely to electric, and they were, all three mechanics, who transitioned to electric vehicles and the technology that goes with it, and they told me it's the best job they ever had. But government can play a role in that rescaling, and that retraining, and playing that gap between the jobs of yesterday and the jobs of tomorrow.

Kelly Jackson
Thank you. I think we have time for probably one more question. So, I'm gonna guess we're not going to get an actual date for the provincial budget out of you today...just in case?

The Hon. Peter Bethlenfalvy
Breaking news: no, you’re not.

Kelly Jackson
But we're all aware that there has recently been the federal budget, right, come out last week. And so, I guess just to ask you a two-part question, you know, when you looked at the budget, what did you see that you thought, wow, that's really encouraging? And when you looked at the budget, what did you see that you thought, wow, something's missing?

The Hon. Peter Bethlenfalvy
Great question—any, any federal people here, Brian? So, first off, I really commend the federal government for working with us at the province. You know, through the pandemic, I think all of you in this room, regardless of political stripe, wanted us to work together. And we did, because when you're at war—you know, I think of it as WWII, and my parents, and you know, you think if I was sitting in that seat at Queen's Park, wouldn't you just pull up every resource to beat that enemy? You would cross party lines, you would work together, you would do everything to beat a common enemy. Well, we had a common enemy, but it was invisible. So, I applaud the government, the federal government, for working with Doug Ford, for working with our government; we're working across party lines, including the municipalities, including John Tory, and all the municipal leaders, because this was a war against an invisible enemy. I can tell you what else I liked, was their announcement of investing in critical minerals, and investing in infrastructure including—and I've called on them and asked them to, and they've been responsive—to the Ring of Fire, because that is prosperity for all people in the North, and it connects the North to Midwest Ontario, to the South, to all parts of Ontario. So, I was very encouraged by that.

One area where I continue to be critical, and this is really fundamental—and Brian, you'd have some sense of this, as many of you in this room would be—the provinces are responsible for the delivery of healthcare. Our fastest growing expenditures are in healthcare. Now, this province did not build a lot of new beds in the last 20 years, did not build long-term care beds, did not invest in mental health and addiction. And so, based on the historic split of Canada Health Transfer and Medicare 50/50, between the federal government and the provincial government, we now shoulder almost 80 cents on the dollar. And we have an ageing population, so that's not going, and we at the province are the delivery of the of the healthcare system. And, we also have a greater awareness and need for mental health and addiction, the opioid crisis. So, we have to work together. So, we're asking the federal government, across the country, all premiers and territorial leaders are asking for the federal government to step up, and fund 35 cents on the dollar, up from about 20 cents on the dollar; and we think that's a very reasonable ask. Now, we in Ontario are making those investments anyway. We're not going to wait for the federal government, because I believe strongly that it's the right thing to do, but it's also good economic policy, and as I said, you can't have a healthy economy, without healthy people. They go together, and it's the right thing to do, and that's the reason I got into politics. So I would just ask the federal government to come to the table, and fix our healthcare system, so that it’s fiscally sustainable, that it provides certainty for the people of Ontario—we're all getting older—and it provides the quality and the outcomes that we're looking for. And I believe, you know, we roll up our sleeves, if there's a will, and the federal government steps up, and the provinces are ready, we'll get it done.

Kelly Jackson
Thank you so much for your time today, and for your ability to share with us, not just the vision, but give us some hints about the plan to come. And I think we'll all be waiting to see later this month more details. Thank you.

The Hon. Peter Bethlenfalvy
You can count on that. Thank you very much, everyone.

Kelly Jackson
I’d now like to take the opportunity to invite Blaine Woodcock, Partner in Consulting the Government of Ontario, leader at Deloitte, to deliver some appreciation remarks. Blaine, welcome.

Note of Appreciation by Blaine Woodcock, Consulting Partner for the Government of Ontario and Deloitte
Thanks, Kelly. Minister Bethlenfalvy, thank you so much for your remarks. As Kelly said, my name is Blaine Woodcock, I lead Deloitte Strategy Analytics and M&A practice in Canada. I'm honoured to thank the Minister on behalf of Deloitte, as one of the lead sponsors for today's event. Seeing us gathered here today, after two years of virtual events, is a testament to the importance of this topic, and the way forward for Ontarians. At Deloitte, our government and public services practice is focused on improving the well-being of Canadians and preparing the country for a more competitive future. Our recent publication, Government Trends 2022, looks at how governments around the world are building resilience, connecting for greater value, and creating a government for all people. Hearing your remarks today, Minister, you clearly touched on each of these themes. Minister, I want to thank you for being a champion for Ontario prosperity. And thank you for your continued commitment to the digital and data transformation of the Government of Ontario. Thank you for joining us today. Have a great afternoon.

Concluding Remarks by Kelly Jackson
Thank you, Blaine. And thank you to Deloitte, and all of our sponsors for the support. Thank you again Minister Bethlenfalvy, and everybody who joined us today. As a club of record, all Empire Club of Canada events are available to watch or listen to on-demand on our website. The recording of this event will be available shortly, and everybody who has registered for the event will receive an email with the link for it. Our next event is a virtual one; it will take place on Wednesday, April 20th. Tune in as we hear from Interac CEO Mark O'Connell on the opportunities and challenges ahead when he looks at Canada’s digital economy. More details and registration are available at empireclubofcanada.com. Thank you again everybody for being here today. For those on site please feel free to stay in network the room will be open for quite a while. Thank you. Stay safe and take care.

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