Bill Mauro – Moving forward together!


Bill Mauro MPPTHUNDER BAY – It’s been eight years since I was elected as the MPP for Thunder Bay-Atikokan, and it’s been a privilege to represent this area and its people. While there’s still more to be done I believe it’s important to remember the huge challenges we faced only a short time ago.

In 2008 the world economy was in turmoil. Upwards of 40 million people around the world lost their jobs. In the United States, our largest trading partner, people were walking away from $400,000 homes, families were uprooted and large companies were collapsing. It was the greatest economic upheaval since the Great Depression–and unfortunately our region was not spared. If we didn’t face hard times ourselves as a result of the economic downturn, virtually all of us have friends or family members who have.

The opposition parties would like you to believe that these challenges only happened here. They want you to believe the collapse of major financial firms did not hurt companies’ access to credit, that the closing of major newspapers in the US did not hurt our pulp industry, and that the shutdown of the home building market did not hurt our saw mills. Unfortunately, reality has shown otherwise.

During those tough times it would have been easy for our government to just try and ride out the storm. Instead, we chose to invest in the people of Ontario.

We rebuilt our infrastructure. Bridges needed to be rebuilt, highways improved and power lines and generating facilities refurbished. Past governments ignored these items for decades—our government chose to fix them and to put people back to work. That meant thousands of people are working instead of suffering from a lack of a job.

We invested in new services and in two areas that are the cornerstones of our province: Health and Education. We brought incredible support to our region. Now 700 people each year no longer have to travel to have angioplasty surgery. I was proud to have delivered on that promise. These decisions have saved lives.

We helped bring a revolutionary piece of medical equipment to Thunder Bay, a High Intensity Focused Ultrasound that’s being used to eliminate certain cancers without the need for surgery. There are only two of these machines in Canada—and our city has one. That’s an incredible success story for our area. Ontario also has the shortest surgical wait times in the country and locally our cancer survival rates continue to improve because of our investments in health care.

We’ve reduced class sizes, begun the implementation of full day kindergarten and greatly expanded post secondary education spaces. We’ve added over 200,000 new apprentice positions to help train our future work force. Instead of cutting education funding like past governments had done, we increased it. Ontario’s schools are now ranked number 1 in the English-speaking world. We did all this while recognizing the unique needs of the North—coming up with a different funding formula to provide sufficient resources for our area. As a result, per pupil funding for students in our region has gone up by more than 50% . We’re making incredible progress.

We have new buildings in Thunder Bay, including the Margaret Smith Centre and the construction of our new courthouse, where up to 200 workers will be on site on a building people have been asking for decades.

The list of success is long–but there is I’m incredibly proud of –that’s Bombardier. In 2003 this facility was at risk of closing and the approximately 250 employees could have been out of a job. For eight years the previous government publicly stated that they were not going to invest in mass transit. Our government did the opposite: we made mass transit a top priority—and Bombardier was my priority. This facility is now a cornerstone of the Thunder Bay economy. Close to 1200 men and woman work there, producing world-class vehicles.

I can’t understand how any government could unilaterally say that mass transit was not important for Ontario—but the Conservatives did. The NDP claim they care about jobs in the North, but they consistently voted against the transit funding and they publicly opposed the subway expansion that has provided good paying jobs at our local plant. Only now, after the company has grown tremendously do we see the NDP support arrive. It seems politics was more important to them than securing jobs for our workers.

Now we have a chance to bring even more jobs to the Bombardier plant. The Ontario Liberals have committed to the expansion of GO Transit rail service in Toronto and that would require 500 additional cars from our Bombardier plant. This $1 Billion investment has incredible potential for our facility—it could mean hundreds of jobs and an even more secure future for the plant. That issue alone is incredibly important to the people of this riding.

From my first days as your MPP, I began pushing for more support for Bombardier. Ensuring those contracts came to Thunder Bay required a lot of work. There are hundreds of considerations for the government, but for me it was simple: those jobs and those contracts needed to come here—and they have in incredible ways. I did not do it alone. There are too many people to thank for their support, advice and wisdom. This incredible success belongs to all of us.

We’re diversifying our economy while looking for even more ways to support, enhance and grow our traditional industries. There’s more work to do, but we’re heading in the right direction. Global Sticks and the new co-generation project at Abitibi-Bowater are just two examples of new forestry investment leading to forestry jobs.

But what about the future, what is it that I hope to achieve over the next four years that will benefit our region. I believe our party has a plan that’s far more specific in terms of what we’ll do, but on a personal level I’ve made several items a priority. Here are two of them:

Building on our success with our angioplasty program, I’m committed to bringing full cardiac surgery to Thunder Bay. Not only will it enhance our growing reputation in the medical field—it will save lives. It’s just good health care policy for the North.

I do not support the proposed location of the wind farm project. I never did. It’s my intention to table a Private Member’s Bill that will protect the Norwester escarpment permanently and keep that mountain range as it is. I believe it is important to our region to move forward with green energy initiatives but this can be done in ways that do not destroy a great regional treasure. The other candidates have not announced a similar commitment to protect the escarpment. Why?

As the Chair of our Northern Caucus, I pushed for even more assistance for large industry. We have committed to a permanent industrial hydro rate that will help us attract new jobs and investment to our region. Companies like Cliff’s Resources are looking for this type of leadership in determining where their investment will go as they continue their efforts to develop the Ring of Fire. Unfortunately that other parties have not made this issue part of their commitment to our region. Again, why not?

I will continue to work for the people of this riding and for our entire region. We have made great strides together, moving towards a better future. I’m proud of our record and I’m even more proud when our record is compared to that of the past two governments. I appreciate the opportunity this campaign brings to demonstrate those differences to the people of Thunder Bay Atikokan.

I began my working career in construction during some lean years in this region. I often had to travel to find employment and I know the challenge of returning to school for retraining. That’s why I’m so committed to building a strong regional economy where people can prosper and support their families. It has been and will continue to be my priority.

Before I conclude I believe it is important to clearly state the one major difference between the opposition parties and the Ontario Liberal Party during our time in government:

  • Instead of firing nurses, we hired 11,000 nurses in the province;
  • Instead of cutting doctor training positions, we hired more doctors, close to 3000 in Ontario;
  • Instead of cutting the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund, we have almost doubled it and we continue to use that funding to help create jobs in our area;
  • Instead of cutting funding for education, we increased it—and while the other parties are promising you small savings, they’ve failed to tell you what will be cut in order to pay for their plans. They’re asking you to vote for them and they’ll tell you later how it will be paid for.

No government can be all things to all people all the time. That’s to be expected. But on the tough decisions that had to be made, when the people of Ontario needed us to lead and invest in them instead of making the easy choices, I believe we made the right choices. Putting people back to work and investing in our future was the right choice for Ontario—and the right choice for our region.

We have much to be proud and much more to do. I thank you for the honour of being your MPP and I’m once again asking for your support so that we can continue the positive work we have been doing. Moving forward together. That’s our future and one I look forward to in the coming years if you honour me with your support.

Bill Mauro

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