TORONTO – Politics – “There is a difference between being a Premier of Toronto and a Premier for Toronto”, stated Tim Hudak. “A Premier for Toronto would restore our city’s promise – and Ontario’s too – to fulfill our destiny as the leader of Confederation.”
Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak gave a speech to the Toronto Region Board of Trade this week.
Tim Hudak – A Vision for Jobs and Our Economy
Being elected MPP eighteen years ago afforded me many new opportunities, including the opportunity to spend a lot of time in this great city. There are so many things that are so very right about Toronto. The four instruments of change – culture, academics, politics, and economics – are consolidated here.
We’re a hub for academia and innovation – host to teaching hospitals, bio-tech companies and three of Ontario’s universities.
We house Canada’s banks, national corporate headquarters and stock exchange.
We have one of the largest major media markets in the western world with four major daily newspapers…A good or a bad thing, depending on which day you ask me. And we border some of the great North American markets – natural trading partners with millions of consumers and a demand for our goods, services and technology.
Yet for all these great strengths, our city and our province are falling farther behind.
Too many jobs and businesses are leaving our province and fewer people are choosing to call Ontario, and Toronto, home.
Toronto’s unemployment rate remaining stubbornly high stuck above the provincial and national average for a long time. It’s a constant reminder to us something is wrong.
Government is spending too much money – much more than we are taking in through revenue.
Our education system suffers from an intolerable tension between the expensive demands of union bosses and the progress of our children.
Our health care system under performs for the level of money we spend on it and is quite unprepared for the looming demand of an aging population.
So, here we stand at the proverbial crossroads where we are met by that simplest of choices: do we allow the status quo to persist, dragging us deeper into debt and more lost jobs?
Or…do we change our course to restore Toronto to prosperity and, with it, the province to fulfill our destiny as the leader in confederation?
Like many of you, I have become increasingly frustrated with our Government allowing – and in some ways enabling – Toronto to slowly and painfully recede from its rightful place as a leader in North America.
Taking stock of what this great city, and the province, has become has led me to one important conclusion: It’s time to change direction. So let’s get going.
A Vision for Government
It starts with a government that adheres to the same simple truth the families and businesses that live here do every day: spend within our means.
Easier said than done. Right now, we’re spending $1.8 million more per hour, every hour, than we take in in revenue.
In a competitive global economy this behaviour – this overspending – matters.
Last year I traveled to another financial capital, New York. I met with Moody’s, Barclay’s, RBC and J.P. Morgan.
I asked them a straightforward question: when you’re talking to a Premier, Governor, Mayor – what are three things they can do to ensure they are an attractive market for potential investors.
They gave me a straightforward answer.
Number one – balance your books and pay down your debt; number two – balance your books and pay down your debt…
Number three was lowering business taxes.
The lesson here is simple: A well run province attracts well run businesses and the jobs that come with them.
A Vision for Jobs
Of all we can do for Toronto and for each other, one task stands above them all: create meaningful, stable work for all who wish it.
I see too many people in our city facing tough times, looking for work.
When we talk about government being compassionate, I believe the best way we do so is by ensuring the opportunity of a good job.
Regular employment affords a person confidence and freedom that no other social program or policy could possibly deliver.
A reliable source of income is the solid ground on which most of our lives are built.
A reliable source of income makes us believe in better tomorrows and encourages us to invest our time and money in their pursuit.
A reliable source of income creates a feeling of self-sufficiency and emboldens us to overcome whatever challenges lie in the road ahead.
So let’s get going on a new strategy for job creation – not one that looks to add more government jobs as we have in the past, but one that embraces the very entrepreneurial spirit we seek to nurture here in Ontario and attract from beyond our borders.
We need to respect, celebrate, and reward the entrepreneurs and business people who drive job creation throughout Toronto’s economy.
When it comes to creative talent, Toronto is blessed with deep bench strength. One in four Canadian arts and culture industry jobs are here in Toronto.
And thirty-five per cent of Canada’s total film and television production happens right here – generating more than $1 billion to our Toronto economy annually.
But over the years we have overburdened some of Toronto’s crucial economic and cultural industries to the point where businesses are starting to look to other
As much as many of them love and value our cultural assets, artists and the beauty of our city, too many of them are having to make tough business decisions. To go where business costs are lower, approvals happen faster and government treats them with respect, not suspicion.
We need to want their business more than any other province or state in North America.
We need to view every mom & pop small business, every cultural enterprise, every start-up, every tourism opportunity and every corporate head office as business that must be won, and agonize over those we lose.
We must go after business, pitch them, overwhelm them with our enthusiasm. Make them forget about Vancouver, Chicago, Boston, Calgary, New York, Los Angeles or whatever other city, state or province is on their list.
Let’s keep building on Toronto’s great strengths, like being the hub of Canada’s financial sector.
Ontario should use our weight and influence in Confederation to leverage Toronto’s natural advantage as a world leader in the financial industry, with some of the most sound banks in the world.
We must champion more free trade – open up new markets for our financial sector – and let no obstacle stand in the way of a single national securities regulator that is housed here.
Let’s show the business world just how great a home we’re building here in Toronto.
Toronto has always stood out and earned its place in the world because it has punched above its weight, being a hub for innovation, health sciences, finance and use of technology.
It is what has traditionally made us the number one choice for New Canadians – including my family.
Back in 1928 my grandfather came to Toronto for the promise of opportunity. He decided to open up a restaurant on King Street. It turns out, 1928 wasn’t such a good year to start a new business…The nature of immigration has changed since my grandparents came to Ontario. In the early 20th century, choices were limited.
Now, in a globally competitive economy where all capital, including human capital, is mobile, we are competing for immigration. Potential immigrants will choose a city and a province that are leaders that can provide the best opportunities in medicine, science and business.
Immigration is the lifeblood of Toronto – the key to innovation, increased trade and economic growth. Half of our city’s population was born outside of Canada. It’s a testament to what we’ve built so far, how we attract people from all over the world. But that’s slipping.
Toronto’s immigration rate is 25 per cent less today than it was 10 years ago. The jobs aren’t here the way they once were, the promise isn’t here as it once was. Toronto can no longer provide the future they hope for.
So what do we do about that? We create an environment for business success.
We break down artificial barriers to credentialing and make full use of existing programs and offer and accelerated path to citizenship for talented individuals in our universities.
But none of this matters, none of what I said means anything if we are unable to do one simple thing: get people and goods in our city moving.
So let’s get going on tackling the gridlock that is holding Toronto back.
A Vision for Transportation
Toronto is a great city because of its liveability. We take pride in a city that has beautiful parks and trails, safe streets, culture and entertainment. But our city’s liveability is suffering at the hands of severe traffic congestion.
For far too long, Toronto has been creaking under an infrastructure that was designed in the 1950s for a city of much more modest size and density than it is today.
As Toronto grows the problem of gridlock will continue to grow along with it at a cost of $6 billion annually in lost productivity.
I get nervous when I see politicians grabbing for new money to throw at disjointed plans that perpetuate a badly fractured system. It will require a greater level of innovation, imagination, and leadership than ever.
We have too many backseat drivers in our system right now. Everyone’s in charge and therefore no one is. So it’s time the province seize the wheel.
The first step is to upload subways and LRT merging them with GO to fuse the fractured spine of our rail system.
The second step is to bring regional highways – Don Valley, Gardner, 400 series – into that system; putting them all under the direction of Metrolinx for a truly regional approach.
That’s just the beginning, we need to build from there. This means building subways.
Whenever I’ve taken the Yonge line to work from Lawrence Station, I’m always struck by how effective and efficient subways are. Subway lines act as an economic spine, spurring growth along the length of them.
We are committed to building subways in Toronto and expanding regional highways in the GTHA. There’s no doubt this will cost a lot of money.
But before we can go ask taxpayers for one more dollar, we need to demonstrate we have fixed the current system and are just as responsible with their money as they are.
The first step in financing these projects is to root out the waste and strive to find efficiencies and savings in every facet of government. We’ve put some ideas out on how to do this already.
Next we need to look to the private sector to partner in construction, financing and delivery.
I’m not going to make promises I can’t keep. Extending a subway into Richmond Hill, East to West treating Scarborough as a full citizen of Toronto, extending the 427 North…that’s going to take a clear, dedicated, predictable source of funding.
And I look forward to your advice on how best to do that. We need to take this on.
We need to build a transportation network in Toronto that makes us a leader, not feeling like we’re struggling to keep up.
Call to Action
I’ll leave off as I started.
In Toronto we find ourselves at a crossroads, faced with a very important decision: Do we make the difficult and overdue calls to surge ahead, or do we keep on this path and slip farther behind?
I choose not to stay where we are. My Toronto would never be satisfied with mediocrity, steady decline or the status quo.
I have a vision for a Toronto the world marvels at. And I recognize that there is a difference between being a Premier of Toronto and a Premier for Toronto.
Let’s require our government to focus on the necessities and get the big things right.
Let’s invite previously unimagined solutions to our transportation problems.
Let’s make the best possible home for ourselves, our children, our neighbourhoods and for those yet to come.
Let’s stop waiting for better and let’s make better happen.
Let’s be the generation that makes Toronto a leader again.
Let’s get going.