THUNDER BAY – Leader’s Ledger – Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak addressed the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce today. Here is what he said.
I want to thank Harold Wilson, Chamber President, for that kind introduction, and all of you for having me here today. It’s great to be back in Thunder Bay and a pleasure to once again have the opportunity to address the Chamber of Commerce.
Before I start I’d like to recognize two members of the incredible team of PC candidates representing Northern Ontario in the October 6th election.
First, our candidate for Thunder Bay-Atikokan, Fred Gilbert. Fred is a familiar face to many Thunder Bay families and students, having served as President and Vice-Chancellor of Lakehead University until his retirement last year. Under Fred’s leadership, Lakehead grew in stature with the additions of a medical school, stateof-
the-art science and engineering equipment and the construction of the Advanced Technology and Academic Centre.
Next is our candidate for Thunder Bay-Superior North, Anthony LeBlanc. Formerly the Vice-President of Global Sales at RIM, and now the CEO of Ice Edge Holdings – the company created to acquire the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes – Anthony has the business knowledge necessary to attract investment and bring more jobs to the North.
You know, the quality of the men and women a party attracts as candidates is a great barometer of momentum. I’m proud to be leading a party that is attracting remarkable people from across this great province, like Fred and Anthony, who are willing to stand up for hardworking families and deliver the change they deserve.
Contrast that with our principal opponents, the McGuinty Liberals who have grown increasingly tired and out of touch with families, as they continue taking Ontario down the wrong path.
Ladies and gentlemen, Ontario families need change. I’ve heard it from families everywhere I’ve been. But the people calling for change the loudest are from the North, and with good reason.
Under Dalton McGuinty, jobs have been lost in every corner of the province – but only in Northern Ontario have layoffs and closures turned forestry communities into virtual ghost towns.
Under Dalton McGuinty, family energy bills and home heating costs are skyrocketing, but here in the North – where winters are colder and longer – those costs are even more unaffordable, with the HST slapped on top of the rising costs of his expensive energy experiments.
Under Dalton McGuinty, the total tax burden has climbed higher than the rest of Canada.
Under Dalton McGuinty, Ontario has become a have-not province.
We need change. This past spring, our party released our plan to deliver that change.
It’s called changebook.
It was built from conversations we’ve had with families in every corner of the province – including thousands across Northern Ontario.
We heard from you in person at coffee shops, arenas and community centres; on the phone; through email, Twitter and Facebook; in exchanges resulting from our discussion paper Rebuilding Our North; and through our unprecedented province-wide Have Your Say Ontario survey.
You have told us your family budget was being stretched to the limit, we have listened and we will take action.
We will remove the HST from hydro bills and home heating costs. We will remove the Debt Retirement Charge from hydro bills. This will save the typical Ontario family $275 a year on their home energy bills.
The NDP will tell you they’re offering HST relief too. What they don’t want to tell you is you won’t get the full benefit until sometime in 2016. We believe families need relief now. Only we are offering immediate relief on home energy bills.
And unlike the NDP and the Liberals, who don’t believe crime is a priority, changebook calls for the restoration of the fundamental principle: one law for all. Unlike our opponents, we will get tough on the criminals who try to take advantage of us.
We will put lawbreakers to work to repay society: picking up litter, raking leaves.
I’d especially like to see prisoners using mop and pail to clean up the graffiti that defaces our cities – and that threatens law-abiding citizens with the message… ‘Gangs rule here, and there’s nothing the authorities can do.’ If you entrust me with the government of Ontario, those who fight the law will find – the law won.
There are many policies in changebook that will be of particular interest to Northern families. I encourage you to learn more at changebook.ca.
But in my experience as a former Minister of Northern Development and Mines, and in my travels as Ontario PC Leader, I know that Northern families also face unique challenges that require unique solutions.
Charting a new course to northern jobs and growth must not originate from Queen’s Park, but instead must rely on the input of northern Ontario families and businesses themselves. That is why we launched “Rebuilding Our North” this past year.
Dalton McGuinty just doesn’t understand that the North’s success can’t be driven from the special interests’ offices in Toronto. He hasn’t listened to thousands of Northerners over the last two years, the way our PC Critic for Northern Development Randy Hillier and I have. Our Northern candidates are listening.
All of this has culminated in a plan and vision we can be proud of: changebook North.
This is our commitment to Northern Ontario, after being ignored for eight long years.
If Ontario is the engine of Confederation, then Northern Ontario is the fuel – the lumber, the minerals and the minds that power us forward. But for too long, the needs of the North have been ignored.
Dalton McGuinty had a choice – to open the door to jobs in the north or cater to Southern Ontario special interests. He chose the latter, and in doing so actively passed laws that prevent the north from growing.
The Southern Ontario special interests, with their fantasy view of what Northern living really is, have far too much say over decisions that affect actual Northern families.
We say it’s time for a different approach. It’s time you had a government that stands up to the special interests.
Dalton McGuinty won’t do it. Dalton McGuinty can’t do it. I can. I will.
Changebook North shows what we’ve learned by listening. We learned that to be successful, any policy to create jobs and ensure a strong future for the North has three questions at its core: Does it originate in the North? Does it protect the Northern way of life? Does it keep wealth in the North?
Only if the answer was “yes” to all three would we include it in changebook North.
The results form the three pillars of our northern policy.
Change to create more jobs in the North.
Change to make the most of the North’s natural advantages.
And change to build stronger communities.
I’d like to discuss each of these in turn.
I’ll start with changebook North’s main focus – creating jobs.
A decade ago, Ontario was considered the best place to mine in the whole world. After eight years of skyrocketing energy costs, higher taxes and red tape – Ontario has plummeted to 19th on the world stage. 7th in Canada alone.
Forestry has faired no better under Dalton McGuinty’s watch. More than 60 mills closed across Ontario – most of them here in Northern Ontario – and 45,000 northern jobs have been lost.
We want to make Ontario Number 1 in mining and forestry in Canada again, and changebook North is the way to get there.
Ontario is sitting on a gigantic opportunity – tens of billions of dollars worth of jobs and prosperity – with the Ring of Fire. We will not let this historic opportunity pass us by.
We will make the Minister of Northern Development and Mines the government’s point-person for moving the Ring of Fire forward. It’s far too important to leave to a single middle manager in the bureaucracy like Dalton McGuinty has done.
We will remove barriers to investment by cutting red tape, getting energy costs under control, ensuring fair and strong land tenure, and developing partnerships to bring the investments in infrastructure that a strong natural resources sector requires.
Recognizing that the key to a strong Northern economy is a diverse and skilled workforce, we will encourage partnerships between government, the private sector, and post-secondary institutions to allow knowledge-based sectors to flourish.
And we will repeal the Liberal law that effectively kills potential jobs in Northern Ontario.
When Dalton McGuinty cancelled consultations and rushed the Far North Act through the legislature, he actively banned development in much of the North, roping it off like some museum exhibit to be looked at, but not touched.
We’ve already seen a special interest group attacking our plan. The Toronto Star headline today read: “Critics fear Tories’ northern plan could hurt caribou”.
A Tim Hudak government will not cave into these special interests.
We will repeal the Far North Act and restore the opportunity for investment and job creation in the communities that need it.
It’s time you had a partner that recognized that there are more than just caribou in the north.
Families live here, work here and play here too.
Changebook North’s second pillar will do just that – make the most of the North’s natural advantages.
Let me give you an example. Over two million people use Ontario trails each year, contributing over $2.5 billion annually to our economy and supporting healthy living, tourism, and creating tens of thousands of jobs throughout the province.
Dalton McGuinty has made it harder and harder for people to enjoy Ontario’s trails. We will open our trails for public use.
We will introduce the Ontario: Yours To Discover Act. This law will free up Ontario’s public trails and access roads for all sorts of outdoor activities.
We will allow local governments to develop Crown Land to create jobs and benefit Northerners.
Government should support Northern Ontario’s traditional way of life, rather than interfere with it.
The Ministry of Natural Resources has lost touch with its core mandate. It has become another example of Queen’s Park creating red tape and bureaucracy that only irritates and interferes with the people it’s supposed to serve.
A Tim Hudak government will work to return the MNR to its core mandate of management, protection and promotion of our natural heritage.
Northern families and communities don’t need some Queen’s Park bureaucrat telling them how they should act. A Tim Hudak government will ‘let out the line’ and give cities and towns more control over local decisions.
Which brings me to changebook North’s third pillar. We will work with you to build stronger communities.
Dalton McGuinty listened to the special interests and created blanket laws for the entire province based on their experiences in Southern Ontario.
Clearly, the situation in the vast, open North is different than that of Toronto. We will not require Northern Ontario to be under the thumb of planning rules so clearly designed for Southern Ontario’s urban sprawl.
We will allow local governments to develop Crown Land to create jobs and benefit Northerners.
Dalton McGuinty’s approach to sharing gas tax revenue is robbing the North of money that should stay here.
I live in the township of West Lincoln, and like many small communities, we pay the same gas tax as everyone else, but we don’t receive a dime in provincial gas tax because we don’t have a transit system.
Only one out of six Northern municipalities receives any gas tax revenue at all under Dalton McGuinty. This is not right. And a Tim Hudak government will change it.
I will fix the broken provincial gas tax program and give northern municipalities access to funds for roads and bridges as well.
It means that more money and more local decision-making power will stay in the North.
It means that more Northern communities will be able to spend on their transportation priorities.
It’s fair. It’s the right thing to do. And a Tim Hudak government will get it done.
Ladies and gentlemen, I want to be Premier to bring change Northern families and communities need and deserve.
Change that brings more jobs to Northern communities.
Change that protects our province’s natural heritage and let’s you enjoy it, too.
Change that treats Northern communities with respect, and not an afterthought to Southern Ontario special interests.
Friends, changebook North is our plan. On October 6th, the choice is clear.
More misplaced priorities, more caving in to special interests, and more dithering on economic opportunities in the North.
Or in exactly 84 days, you can join with families across our province’s vast North to make a better choice.
A choice for job creation.
A choice for a Tim Hudak PC government.
A choice for change.
Leader, Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario