My Canada - Today and Tomorrow
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 24 Mar 2005, p. 296-306
McGuinty, The Hon. Dalton, Speaker
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A look back at Ontario's history within Confederation. A clear-eyed view of where things stand today. A vision of our shared future. Ontario as the economic engine of Canada. Ontario as the heart of Canada. Canada's compassion fueled by Ontario's wealth. Ways in which Canada and Ontario are one and the same. Ontario and Canada growing together: three reasons why, with a discussion of each: health care; immigration; the need to develop our greatest asset - our people. The speaker's insistence that Ontairo be treated fairly. Concluding remarks.
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24 Mar 2005
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Full Text
The Hon. Dalton McGuinty
Premier, Province of Ontario
Chairman: William Whittaker
1st Vice-President and President-Elect,
The Empire Club of Canada
Head Table Guests

George L. Cooke, President and CEO, The Dominion of Canada General Insurance Company and Past President, The Empire Club of Canada; Michael K. Bosompra, Honour Role Student, North Toronto Collegiate Institute; Mimi Lowi-Young, Vice-President, Central Canada and Executive Director, Ontario Division, The Canadian National Institute for the Blind; Len Crispino, President and CEO, Ontario Chamber of Commerce; Paul Davidson, Executive Director, WUSC (World University Services of Canada); The Rt. Reverend Colin J. Johnson, Bishop of The Anglican Diocese of Toronto and Honorary Chaplain, The Empire Club of Canada; The Hon. Perrin Beatty, President and CEO, Canadian Manufacturers Exporters and Former Federal Minister, Government of Canada; John A. Campion, Partner, Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP and Past President, The Empire Club of Canada; Brigid Murphy, Board Chair, The George Hull Centre for Children and Families; Mark Rochon, President and CEO, Toronto Rehabilitation Institute; Carolyn Tuohy, PhD, Vice-President, Government and Institutional Relations, University of Toronto; and Michael Sabia, President and CEO, BCE Inc. and Bell Canada.

Introduction by Michael J. Sabia

Good afternoon everyone!

First of all, a word of thanks to the Empire Club for bringing each of Canada's First Ministers to this podium.

It is an important forum that offers a wide range of views. A national perspective. A literal tour d'horizon, stretching from B.C. to Nunavut to Newfoundland and Labrador. An unprecedented view of our country from those who shape its course. From those who are spurred by the challenges of public service. Spurred by the opportunity to lead. Leaders like Premier Dalton McGuinty who joins us today.

Now many of you will know that the premier represents the provincial riding of Ottawa South--a riding once held by his father of the same name, Dalton. But it doesn't stop there. The premier's brother, David, is the Liberal member for the same riding federally.

It reminds me a bit of those great dynasties in Victorian England, where families would pass ridings down from generation to generation. For the McGuintys, "all in the family" wasn't a TV show; it was the family motto.

And consistent with that motto, after the premier's father passed away, the family got together to decide what was to be done--who should run provincially. Dalton, the patriarch namesake, was not the oldest, so his claim was not the strongest. But he did demonstrate real political acumen in marshalling the argument that had no rebuttal and that carried the day. "We have," he told his family, "a garage full of signs with my name on them."

And so, in 1990, it was the current edition of Dalton McGuinty who ran and won in Ottawa South. But his timing was a few steps short of perfect. The Liberals went from 95 seats to 36. And the NDP formed the government--led by our fellow head table guest, Bob Rae.

But within six years, Mr. McGuinty was elected leader of his party and, in 2003, became the 24th premier of Ontario.

Today, I understand that the premier will address Ontario's role in the life of our country. It's a good subject.

Throughout our history, that role has been unique. And Ontario premiers have always had a special responsibility. To promote not only a provincial agenda but to provide national leadership. To see Ontario not only as an engine of economic growth, but as a force for national unity and an agent of national purpose.

Ontario premiers have always understood that a country is more than the sum of its parts, but that it is only as strong as all of its parts.

Today, that challenge is very real in the face of new and growing pressures. A federalism that is evolving. Trade patterns that are changing. A world that is shrinking. A population that is aging. And pressures on our education system increase. It must be among the best in the world--if we are to compete and win.

In such times, an Ontario that is only getting by makes it much harder for the country to get ahead.

Premier McGuinty and his government have set out an ambitious agenda to improve the skills, the health, and the prosperity of Ontarians. A plan that recognizes that opportunity can never be fully shared until it is fully accessible.

A final word. The premier comes from a family of 10 children. While you can draw your own analogies, I think it is safe to say that this is someone who really understands what it is and what it takes to get one's "fair share."

Ladies and gentlemen, it is a pleasure for me to introduce to you the Premier of Ontario, the Honourable Dalton McGuinty.

Dalton McGuinty

Thank you very much Michael for your very kind and generous introduction.

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much for this opportunity. I cannot begin to tell you how privileged I feel on behalf of Ontarians, 12.4 million strong, to be here today and to speak as one in a series of Canadian premiers about the position we feel that we occupy in this wonderful federation. And the fact that you are here in such good numbers and that you have removed yourselves from your immediate and I'm sure very pressing responsibilities and that you're sitting there patiently waiting on my every word confirms something for me beyond a shadow of a doubt. You have never heard me speak before, have you?

I want to begin by congratulating the Empire Club on its initiative--bringing together all of our premiers. It seems to me that the more Canadians understand each other the stronger this great country of ours will be. And that brings me to what I want to talk about today--Ontario's role in building a stronger Canada.

I'm going to do three things. First I'm going to take a look back at Ontario's history within Confederation. I'm going to offer what I believe is a clear-eyed view of where things stand today. And finally, I'm going to present a vision of our shared future.

Let me start though by telling you that I am a proud Canadian and a proud Ontarian. I see Ontario and Canada as inseparable. My province is more than a part of my country. It is the heart of my country. It always has been. The Province of Ontario was created in 1867 at the time of Confederation. Before then it was known as Canada West and before 1841 as Upper Canada. Through the national policy, the Depression and two world wars, Ontario's industrial base grew, as did its role as Canada's economic engine. With the introduction of equalization, medicare and the social safety net, Ontario also solidified its place as the heart of Canada.

Many things have changed in our country and our world. Because of free trade, today Ontario exports are more likely to run north-south, than east-west. Because we live in a global economy we tend to compete with jurisdictions a world away, as well as the province next door. Because this is the new knowledge-based economy, our capacity to grow is measured more by the strength of our work force than by the size of our factories.

But two fundamentals have not changed. This is still the economic engine of Canada. Ontario accounts for 39 per cent of the country's population, 40 per cent of Canadian employment and 42 per cent of the nation's GDP. And this is still the heart of Canada.

Canada's compassion is fueled in large measure by Ontario's wealth. Your tax dollars help pay for training in Sydney mines in St. John's, surgeries in Montreal and Regina, and post-secondary education in Whitehorse and we're proud to do it. When a child desperately needs care for that rarest of illnesses, there's a good chance that child will come to Ontario, either to Sick Kid's here in Toronto or the Children's Hospital in Ottawa.

When there was a threat to Canada's unity, busloads of proud, passionate flag-waving Canadians assembled right here in Ontario and we delivered a clear message to our friends in Quebec. Ontarians have a strong sense of their responsibility as Canadians to Canada. When there's a need, our job is to help fill it. When there's a dispute, our job is to help broker a solution. When there's a call for leadership, we feel bound to provide it.

Now I know that all Canadians from coast to coast to coast care about their country and their countrymen. We Ontarians by no means have a monopoly on patriotism, but I do believe that it is fair to say that Ontario has been and Ontario remains the heart of Canada, just as it is fair to say that Canada is the soul of Ontario. No group identifies more closely with Canada than do Ontarians. We are so proud of this country we sometimes forget to celebrate our province. We are so sure of our Canadian identity that we sometimes struggle to define what it means to be Ontarian other than the fact that we are, well, Canadian.

Canada and Ontario. Ontario and Canada. We are one in so many ways. I stand before you as a living, breathing example of this duality. I grew up in Ottawa, Ontario's second-largest urban centre and Canada's capital. My mum was a francophone in Northern Ontario, my dad an anglophone of Irish descent from the Ottawa Valley. Dad would take us to Parliament Hill on Canada Day. He won a seat in the provincial legislature come election day. My brother David sits in the House of Commons and I am privileged to serve Ontarians as their premier.

My kids would no more choose between their province and their country than they would choose between the love they feel for their mother and the love they have for their father. Nor would I ask them to do so because they are Ontarians. That's who we are. That has remained true over the decades, whether we are descendants of the Empire, immigrants from the Commonwealth, or citizens of the world who have chosen to call Ontario home. I'm privileged as Ontario's premier to serve as head of the Council of the Federation. That's a place where provincial and territorial leaders come together to talk about issues that matter to all of us as Canadians. We Ontarians are proud to play a leading role in national dialogues as we are proud Canadians.

Now that is not to diminish the fact that there are strong centripetal forces that pull at our attachment to Canada. The high tariffs on east-west trade in manufactured goods and raw resources are gone. While we still value our trade with Quebec we do far more trade today with Michigan. In 2001, for example, Ontario's trade with Michigan was worth $92 billion. That year it was an estimated $37 billion with Quebec. Over the years Ontario governments of all political stripes have faced a series of fiscal shocks from the federal government--from cuts to freezes to caps on transfers--and the reaction to those shocks has helped create a growing divide in federal-provincial relations. Now the combination of these forces have led some to conclude that Ontario and Canada are growing apart and that Ontarians don't want Canada to be number one as much as we want to look out for number one.

Well let me say categorically that I do not agree with this view. Despite the forces that would pull us apart I still believe in the even stronger forces that will keep us together. I believe that Ontario and Canada can and must grow together, not only because Ontario is commissioned by its special history to play a leading role in Canada, but because we are compelled by our future to do so. The longer that I'm premier the more I am convinced that this is true. Let me give you just three reasons why.

The first is health care. Medicare. This is a Canadian idea, a national program and one of our defining characteristics and it is absolutely central to Ontario's prosperity because it is also one of our greatest competitive advantages. It costs far less to produce a car north of the border than it does in the U.S. because of medicare. I recently met with Rick Wagoner, the CEO of GM, and we didn't talk as much about cars or even trade as we talked about health care. The number-one issue facing employers south of the border is the soaring cost of private health-care insurance. It is no coincidence that Ontario has been so successful in attracting auto-sector investment and I'm proud that our government in co-operation with the federal government has played a positive role. Through Ontario's strategic use of our automotive investment fund, we have leveraged a $1-billion investment from Ford and an additional $2.5 billion from GM. I know that our medicare advantage also tipped the competition for those investment dollars in Ontario's favour. To preserve medicare and to help it evolve so it offers both quality and affordability over the long term, we need a strong Canada led by a strong central government.

The second reason why I believe Ontario's future is tied to Canada's future is immigration. I recently attended the World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland and one of the leading topics of discussion was immigration. Today immigration is recognized as being something much more than a moral imperative. It is a powerful economic strategy. With populations aging, skill shortages growing and birth rates declining, it is essential to recruit and retain highly educated and highly skilled immigrants. In fact jurisdictions the world over are engaged in a race to attract the best and the brightest. And in this race we here in Ontario are in the lead. We have that lead because of the opportunities Ontario offers and because of the ethos Canada represents. The best and the brightest are looking for more than just good jobs. They are also looking for a safe secure home, a place where they can live in peace and prosperity, where they are free to be themselves without persecution, where respect for differences is the order of the day and where everyone not just a privileged few gets a chance to succeed. They want a place, for example, where you are free to do stem cell research and where the colour of your skin and your sexual orientation just don't matter. Ontario is in the lead in that race, a race to attract the best and the brightest, not because we are distancing ourselves from Canada in the eyes of the world, but precisely because we are the heart of Canada in the eyes of the world.

The third reason that we are compelled by the future to lead Canada is the need to develop our greatest asset--our people. In a world where automation is replacing roadwork, where communications technology greases the wheels of global outsourcing, and where there will always be another place where people will settle for lower pay and lower standards, there's only one sure way to build a thriving sustainable economy. We need to build the best-educated most highly skilled work force. We need to attract the best teachers and the leading academics from around the world. And again they choose Canada as much as they choose Ontario.

But there is something else that has been happening here for a long time now. Ontario has been seen as the land of opportunity not just for new Canadians but for Canadians born in other provinces. Take a look around you. I doubt there are many tables in this room today that do not contain a Canadian or two born and raised in another part of Canada; Canadians who chose Ontario as the place to fulfill their dreams. It makes me immensely proud to lead a province that is such a magnet for talent from all over Canada and around the globe. We're going to build the work force not by isolating ourselves from Canada but by capitalizing on all that Canada has to offer the world as well as all that Ontario has to offer Canada.

I could give you more reasons why Ontario and Canada can and must go together--energy, the environment, culture and transportation, to name just a few. But here's the bottom line. Canada's reputation is our reputation. Our strength is Canada's strength. And it is in this particular context that I've been talking about the $23-billion gap. That's the gap between what Ontarians give the federal government in taxes and what they get back. To put another way, $23 billion is the amount Ontarians give to the federal government for distribution in the rest of the country. I'm talking about the gap, not because Ontario wants to weaken its ties to Canada, but because Ontario must be strong enough to serve Canada. Just as we are proud to be Canada's economic engine, we're also very proud to be its heart. We want to contribute to social programs across the country, but to share wealth you must first generate wealth. The gap has grown so much over the last 10 years, from $2 billion to $23 billion, it now compromises our ability to invest in Ontario's future prosperity. That's the prosperity that our country depends on.

I talked a moment ago about medicare. We want Ontario to lead the nation in health-care reform. That's why our tentative agreement with our doctors will encourage new innovative ways of practising medicine including a greater focus on prevention. But it is tough to fund reforms as well as maintain services when Ontario ranks ninth out of 10 provinces when it comes to federal funding of health care. That's nine out of 10.

I talked of the importance of immigration. Over the past three years Ontario has attracted 57 per cent of the country's immigrants but just 34 per cent of federal funding for their settlement. I ask you: "Is that fair? Is that smart?" We know that we need to quickly integrate these immigrants into our economy for the good of Ontario and Canada.

I spoke of the critical importance of building the best-educated and most highly skilled work force. Well Ontario, Canada's economic engine, now ranks tenth out of 10 provinces when it comes to university funding. It doesn't make sense, not when we are sending $23 billion to the federal government to support higher levels of funding in all the other provinces. How can we continue to lead the country when it comes to generating wealth when we lag behind the nation when it comes to investing in our future prosperity? In his very solid report on post-secondary education, Bob Rae said that we need to invest another $1.3 billion in our universities just to bring our funding up to the national average. Well we intend to bring some life into that report in this spring's budget, but the $23-billion gap is restricting our ability to do what we know needs to be done for the good of Ontario and for the good of Canada.

I'm talking about these things because they are essential to Ontario's future and Canada's future depends on Ontario's. We need to narrow the gap so we can make the investments that we know we need to make so we can generate the wealth our people deserve and our country depends on.

Now I know that some of my friends in the federal government are a little taken aback by my insistence that Ontario be treated fairly. Some believe that it is somewhat unseemly for an Ontario premier to even raise this kind of issue as if Ontario's role in Confederation is only to supply fairness, and never ever to seek it. Well, as you can tell, that is not a perspective I share. My responsibility, as the person privileged to serve Ontarians as their premier, is to advance any cause, make any claim, and demand any concession that helps strengthen my province and my country.

Now let me be very, very explicit. I will never sacrifice my country but I will always stand up for my province, because my province is the heart of my country and I want that heart to be strong enough to face the challenges and vibrant enough to see the opportunities of the 21st century. I want that heart to be strong enough to lead Canada, a Canada that is stronger, more prosperous and more united than ever before. I want a Canada that can take on the world and win. I want a Canada that continues to be the envy of the world. So, my friends, I'm inviting you to join me in this campaign for fairness, to serve our country by strengthening its heart. Remember this. To lead--that is Ontario's role. That is our history and that is our shared destiny.

Thank you very much.

The appreciation of the meeting was expressed by George L. Cooke, President and CEO, The Dominion of Canada General Insurance Company and Past President, The Empire Club of Canada.

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My Canada - Today and Tomorrow

A look back at Ontario's history within Confederation. A clear-eyed view of where things stand today. A vision of our shared future. Ontario as the economic engine of Canada. Ontario as the heart of Canada. Canada's compassion fueled by Ontario's wealth. Ways in which Canada and Ontario are one and the same. Ontario and Canada growing together: three reasons why, with a discussion of each: health care; immigration; the need to develop our greatest asset - our people. The speaker's insistence that Ontairo be treated fairly. Concluding remarks.