LONDON – Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak addressed the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) Annual Conference.
Congratulations to you and the Association of Municipalities of Ontario on another outstanding convention and thank you to our hosts from the City of London and Middlesex County.
More than any other level of government, you play a role in the daily life of Ontario families.
As some of you know, I got an early introduction to local government. My mom was a town councilor in Fort Erie, so I got to understand how hard you work and how seriously you take the job.
I know that serving your local communities means serving your neighbours.
It means getting phone calls late at night. On weekends. Over the holidays.
It means being asked about local issues at the grocery store. At the soccer game. At church.
In addition to the example my Mom set, I’ve worked closely with local governments for the past 16 years as an MPP from Niagara.
Since becoming Leader of the Ontario PC Party, I’ve had an even better opportunity to meet with mayors and councillors from across the province, to visit your communities, and to learn about your issues.
I’m proud that literally dozens of our party’s candidates in the coming election have municipal experience.
PC candidates like Mayors Vic Fedeli from North Bay and Joe Chapman from Northeastern Manitoulin and the Islands; Al Spacek, Mayor of Kapuskasing; councilor Nancy Branscombe; and former councilor Cheryl Miller from right here in London, have all seen first-hand the destructive impact the McGuinty Liberals have had on their community and the families they served.
For most of our history, Ontario has been the engine of confederation. The shining star. The leader.
Ontario families once had a straightforward path to get ahead: work hard, play by the rules, support your community, and be assured the future was bright for everyone around your dinner table. There was no better place to live than Ontario.
Sadly, we know it isn’t like that anymore. During the last eight years, life has become unaffordable for too many families. Surprise new taxes have taken repeated bites out of the family budget.
Expensive energy experiments have sent hydro bills skyrocketing. The provincial government has become too big, too bureaucratic, and too meddlesome in municipal affairs.
We need to bring change to Ontario – and this is how we will do it. This is changebook – our party’s commitment to Ontario families should we form government on October 6th.
It’s been built from conversations with families at coffee shops and hockey arenas; on the phone; through email, Twitter, Facebook, and our unprecedented Have Your Say Ontario survey.
And it comes from conversations we’ve had with community leaders like you. In fact, you might recognize many of your suggestions in there.
Changebook stands on three pillars:
Change to put more money in the pockets of Ontario families. We’ll start by removing the HST off home hydro bills and home heating, and take the Debt Retirement Charge off hydro bills as well.
Change to clean up government and to stop the waste and scandals. We’re going to demand personal accountability from politicians and civil servants, we’ll show you where your money goes, and make it easier and faster to deal with government.
And change to guarantee the services you need. We’re going to invest in health care and education and reduce the fraud and bureaucracy that diverts hundreds of millions of dollars from the frontlines every year.
One of the key sections under this pillar touches on building stronger communities – not just by ensuring a stronger economy and private-sector job creation, but also by bringing needed change to the way the provincial government works with municipalities.
Three Ways an Ontario PC Government will Deliver Change An Ontario PC government I lead will be guided by the principles of transparency, consistency, and less interference in local decision making.
You deserve a partner that gives you clear rules and honest answers.
Local governments have a difficult job to do, balancing demographics, demand for services, and tax bases. Given the challenges of recent years, you’ve had to make tough choices.
Of course, managing your budgets is even more difficult when many of your costs are outside of your direct control.
Take public sector wage increases, for example.
For nearly eight years Dalton McGuinty handed out unsustainable collective agreements that set the benchmark for arbitration with your public sector unions.
Even while Ontario is saddled with record deficits and a struggling economy, arbitrators are still awarding unions excessive contracts that far exceed what municipalities can afford.
Yesterday, Dalton McGuinty stood here and told you that is okay. That even in the face of these excessive contracts that hamstring municipalities and burden taxpayers, that in his view, the arbitration system works well.
I have a different view. Ontario needs change.
I believe in paying public servants what is fair. But I also believe in taxing Ontario families no more than what is fair and they can afford.
The arbitration system is badly broken. It’s unsustainable. It needs to be fixed.
And an Ontario PC Government will get the job done.
I will ensure public sector agreements reflect the ability of families to pay the bills.
I will bring more transparency and accountability to the arbitration system, requiring arbitrators to justify their decisions to you and your constituents.
And I will provide you with clear and tight timeframes that you can count on. Long, drawn out negotiations are not fair to the workers, they’re not fair to municipalities, and they’re not fair to Ontario families.
Dalton McGuinty is beholden to the union bosses and special interests that helped get him elected. He refuses to stand up for you or for families in your community.
I can. I will.
In addition to public sector pay, there’s no better example of the McGuinty Liberals’ lack of transparency than the unelected, anonymous bureaucracies known as LHINs.
To date, $300 million health care dollars have been diverted from the frontlines to pay for LHIN salaries and administration.
Unlike you, LHIN bureaucrats have never earned the trust of voters in an election, and so they never have to answer to families and seniors for the decisions they make.
They don’t spend a single minute of their day with patients. They’ve never performed a single surgery. They’ve never run an MRI machine.
As Premier, I will close the doors on the LHINs and put every penny into patient care for Ontario families.
The second change our government will deliver for municipalities is consistency.
I know from speaking to so many of you that a reliable partner at Queen’s Park is absolutely crucial for you to set your own budgets and properly plan for the future.
Sadly, for the past eight years, time and time again, we’ve seen backtracks, flip flops and U-turns from the McGuinty Liberals.
Infrastructure projects that get announced, re-announced and re-re-announced but never built.
This kind of uncertainty will come to an end under an Ontario PC government. We will be a partner you can trust. Unlike Dalton McGuinty, we will not try to be all things to all people or make promises we know we won’t keep.
When we make a commitment to you, you can count on a Tim Hudak government to follow through to the letter.
One such commitment is to change the inconsistent way the province allocates the gas tax to municipalities.
I live in the township of West Lincoln, and like many small communities, we pay the same provincial gas tax as everyone else, but we don’t get a dime of it back because we don’t have a transit system.
In fact, for all that families pay at the pumps, four out of five Ontario municipalities don’t see a cent of gas tax revenue.
This is wrong. And a Tim Hudak government will change it.
We will fix the broken provincial gas tax program and give every municipality access to provincial gas tax funds.
We will ensure that no municipality receives less funding, but more importantly that no municipality gets left out or left behind.
I will end Dalton McGuinty’s practice of making value judgments and let you spend more on your transportation priorities. Is it a road? Is it a bridge? Is it a bus? You decide.
It’s fair. It’s the right thing to do. And a Tim Hudak government will get it done.
That leads to our third change – ending the constant interference in local decision making.
For eight years, the McGuinty Liberals have chipped away at your authority to decide what’s best for your communities.
From overriding your Official Plans – to freezing prime land because puddles sometimes form there when it rains – to forcing massive industrial wind farms where they’re not wanted – local councils have been robbed of a say over what happens in their communities.
Even in the face of strenuous local objections, and more than 70 municipalities passing resolutions, Dalton McGuinty continues to plough ahead with giant industrial wind farms without any consultation with local councils or residents.
I was pleased to stand with the mayors from two of those municipalities – Mayor Joyner of West Lincoln and Mayor Jeffs of Wainfleet – for an event last March in opposition of the wind farm being forced on families in Haldimand and Niagara.
To me, it makes no sense that you have the power to say where a local hot dog stand or 7-Eleven goes but not industrial wind turbines – the height of 40-storey buildings – that are built over hundreds of acres of prime agricultural land.
It’s unfair. It’s undemocratic. And under a Tim Hudak government it will end.
Our government will restore the local decision making powers that were stripped away by the McGuinty Liberals and the Green Energy Act.
For our friends in the north, we will give back control over your own economic destiny.
When Dalton McGuinty cancelled consultations and rushed the Far North Act through the legislature, he actively killed potential northern jobs and banned development in much of the north, roping it off like some museum exhibit to be looked at, but not touched.
It’s time you had a partner that recognized there is more than just wilderness in the far north.
Families live there and work there, too.
We will repeal the Far North Act and focus on jobs and investment instead.
And, finally, we will end the constant provincial micromanagement and delays in local official plans.
Dalton McGuinty trusts bureaucrats at Queen’s Park you’ve never met to make decisions for your communities. I will end the Liberal interference and respect the decisions of local officials and the families you represent.
Friends, once again, I want to thank all of you here today. For your dedication. And your service to your community and your neighbours.
I believe the secret to good government comes from respecting your partners, keeping your word, sticking to a budget, and staying true to your principles… transparency, consistency and respect for local-decision making power.
That’s the kind of partner I will be. That’s the kind of change I am offering to you today. And that’s the kind of government I will lead.
I want to be a Premier who sees his role as a partner with municipalities, not a nanny over them.
I want Ontario once again to be the economic engine that drives this great country.
I want to fight for those hard working families and business owners who are playing by the rules, who are paying all of their bills, but are falling further and further behind.
Working together, we can deliver the change they deserve.