Tim Hudak – Ontario can rise again

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Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak
Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak has announced he is going to step down at leader

QUEEN’S PARK – Tim Hudak, the Ontario Progressive Conservative leader spoke in the Ontario Legislature in response to the Speech from the Throne.  

Ontario can rise again, but Tuesday’s Speech from the Throne signals no change in direction to confront the worst jobs and debt crisis in our lifetimes, PC Leader Tim Hudak said today. “Tuesday was a moment of truth for Ontario. It was a chance for the McGuinty-Wynne Liberals to show a glimmer of recognition that their own deliberate choices have weakened our province – when we should be destined for greatness.”

Tim Hudak -Official Opposition Response

Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak
Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak

I want to begin by thanking his Honour for reading yesterday’s Speech from the Throne.

Speaker, I intend to share my time today by splitting it with my Finance Critic, the Honourable Member from Thornhill.

I’d like to first extend my most sincere congratulations to Premier Wynne for being sworn in as the twenty-fifth Premier of Ontario. It is an incredible honour. And to all of the newly sworn in ministers: I fondly remember being first sworn in as minister in 1999. I was excited and humbled and saw many of those emotions on the faces of the new ministers last week. Congratulations.

Speaker, Ontarians know we can do better. And we must be bold in our pursuit of a better Ontario.

We are facing the biggest jobs and debt crisis of our lifetime. Anyone who has ever been faced with a crisis or emergency will tell you that being cautious, being incremental will not save you. The only way forward is to move swiftly and decisively in the direction you know is right.

It’s going to take a comprehensive and integrated plan to put us on the right path.

I’m proud to say my PC Caucus and I have put forward such a plan – a positive vision for an Ontario that is a leader in Canada once again. It’s a plan for a government that spends within it means, that offers more value for less money, that focuses on the core priorities and gets the big things right.

A government that respects the people who elected it, and the people who pay the bills.

This is the vision I have for a government that leads a province the world marvels at. An Ontario where everyone can wake up in the morning with a job to go to – or at least, a good prospect of finding one soon. Where we proudly design, build, invent, harvest, forge and mine things the world demands from a global exporting powerhouse.

The best health care system. Quality care where and when you need it – not having to fight like hell to get anything done for a loved one.

An education system that properly prepares our children to succeed in an increasingly competitive world – by raising the bar in math, science, literacy and skilled trades.

That’s the Ontario we all want to build

For more than a year now, my colleagues and I have spent every day proposing bold ideas for how to do it. We’ve put forward a series of detailed white papers – our Paths to Prosperity – on ways to strengthen Ontario. These cover every dimension of the urgent action we need to turn our economy around, and refocus on the things that matter most:

Speaker, the Premier had many resources at her disposal to put forward a comprehensive, immediate and serious plan to reduce government spending and strengthen the economy: The 11 PC White Papers, the 2012 Report from the Drummond Commission, led by respected economist Don Drummond, and several pieces of legislation from the PC Caucus – including an across-the-board public sector wage freeze.

We’ve waited 16 months since the last election, and three weeks since the Premier’s election as Leader of her party. The 600,000 men and women who woke up this morning with no job to go to cannot afford to wait one more day.

Yesterday’s Speech from the Throne was a moment of truth for Ontario. Ontarians were counting on us to come through for them. Regrettably, the Premier and this government have chosen to entrench the McGuinty agenda – the same failed policies that led us to this jobs and debt crisis.

The jobs crisis:

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business tells us that public sector earn 27 per cent more in wages, pensions and benefits, than their private sector counterparts. Over the past decade, Ontario lost 300,000 good jobs in the manufacturing sector, while at the same time this government added 300,000 to the government payroll. Last month alone, 48,000 private sector jobs were lost – the worst showing since the Recession – and 9,000 were added to the government payroll.

Fewer people working outside the government, paying for more people working inside the government, with higher wages, benefits and pensions.Yet, we did not see any initiatives in yesterday’s Speech from the Throne to reduce the size of government or institute a wage freeze.

The debt crisis:

Our debt has doubled in the last nine years – and is on track to tripling. We owe one third the size of our entire economy. Economists Jason Clemens and Niel Veldhuis compared Ontario to struggling jurisdictions like California and Greece. They pointed out that Ontario is in a worse position than California on every measure of indebtedness.

This is all fuelled, like gas thrown on a fire, by spending at triple the rate of inflation.

Yet, not a single initiative to reduce spending in the Speech from the Throne. In fact, there were multiple commitments for new spending.

No one can run a household that way. No one can run a business that way. And we can’t continue to run our province that way.

We are spending more and getting less, on the things most important to us: In education, $8.5 billion more since 2003 – for 250,000 fewer children in our schools, and test results that have either flat-lined or declined in critical areas like math and sciences.

More, for less.

In health care: We spend 40 cents on every government dollar on health care. This government wasted nearly $2 billion of that on e-health. And we still have no electronic health records.

And people are waiting up to 2 years for mental health services.

More, for less.

In energy: As much as $1.3 billion – and possibly more – on the politically-motivated cancellation of two gas plants. And not a kilowatt of new power.

We continue to spend more for less.

As a result, Ontario is first in debt, and last in jobs. We need to turn that on its head.

We’ve done it before, we’ve picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves off and ushered in a new era of prosperity. But it won’t be easy. Every close call, every decision the government makes, every argument needs to be resolved on the basis of what it does to grow our economy and maintain jobs.

Deliberate choices. The right choices.

So far, we haven’t seen this Premier or this government make the right choices. The first act of this Premier was to increase the size of cabinet by 25 per cent – a deliberate choice, adding $3 million in additional costs to taxpayers.

A deliberate choice to hand the keys and the chequebook over to the union bosses at the expense of parents and students.

A deliberate choice to continue the expensive feed-in-tariff program at the expense of local decision making.

A deliberate choice not to implement Don Drummond’s 362 recommendations.

A deliberate choice not to reverse the damaging, anti-jobs policies of Premier McGuinty.

If we do not start to change the way we spend, to resist the temptation to overspend and pay for it with borrowed money, we will very soon get to a point where we cannot even attempt to pay for the things we care about.

This is the irony of those who oppose our bold ideas.

They talk about the need for compassion. But their approach has robbed us of the ability to be compassionate in the first place.

So we need a new approach. It starts with only as much government as we can afford.

Anyone who tells us they can eliminate a $12 billion deficit without reducing spending is either naïve – or they think the people of Ontario are. We must actually reduce government spending. It needs to be done.

We can’t measure government’s success by the number of employees, the amount of money spent or the number of programs delivered. We must approach government the same way Ontarians approach their businesses: If bureaucrats are not needed, redundant or not doing their jobs, then they shouldn’t be on our payroll.

We must focus on the core services that matter most – create a leaner public service that delivers more value for less money. Government is in too many businesses we have no business being in. So we should look at getting out. We cannot keep a massive bureaucracy to dictate the size and shapes of alcohol bottles – while rationing life-saving medicines on the Ontario formulary. We cannot have government employees serving drinks at the blackjack table – while over a million Ontarians are without a family doctor.

We must also focus on growing the economy. Jobs should be job one for the Premier.

If businesses and entrepreneurs do well, Ontario will do well. We need to lower taxes on businesses so that they can invest and create jobs in our province. More people working again means more revenue coming into the treasury, more businesses investing in new equipment, innovation and people.

We must lift the heavy hand of government and reduce the 300,000 government regulations that stand between businesses and success.

We must treat energy as an economic fundamental, not double down on failed industrial wind farm experiments.

Businesses need to make tough decisions and will choose to locate in jurisdictions where business cost are lower, approvals happen faster, and the government treats them with respect, not suspicion.

Looking back on yesterday’s Speech from the Throne, there was no relief for Ontario businesses struggling to keep afloat. It provided no hope of finding a job for the 400,000 Ontarians on welfare, for the 600,000 unemployed. There wasn’t a single initiative to reduce spending so that we can protect the things we care about.

There is no doubt that the Premier has taken an easier approach, but it is not the right approach.

Now, the politically easy thing for us to do would be to let this Throne Speech pass.

But I have a responsibility to demand a plan that brings about the change in direction we need.

Supporting this Throne Speech would be the political equivalent of looking the other way when someone’s in trouble.

Pretending not to notice.

Well, we in the Ontario PC Party won’t look the other way. We will lead the debate, and propose a better course – a vision of Ontario as we all want it to be:

Confident. prosperous. a leader again. A magnet once again for people from around the world who seek a safe harbour, and a chance to reach their potential. An Ontario that leads the world again in quality of life, public services, private sector innovation and entrepreneurialism.

So I’m putting my faith in the idea that Ontarians are ready for an honest message: that it’s going to be hard. We face some difficult decisions to balance our books and become attractive for investment and job creation once more. But if we make them, there will be benefits for us all.

We will not run from the difficult decisions.

We will protect the things we care about.

We will pursue bold ideas that will return Ontario to prosperity.

We will do what needs to be done.

Only with the will, the leadership and the courage of our convictions can we set Ontario on a new path.

Our province is at a crossroads: right direction, or wrong direction. Change, or status quo. Prosperity, or further decline.

It is time to choose our path. And my choice is clear.

I will stand with Ontarians and choose a bold path to a better Ontario.

Thank you.

Tim Hudak

Leader Ontario Progressive Conservative Party