TORONTO – Politics – “Better days lie ahead for our province, starting with a prosperous rural and Northern Ontario”, stated Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak speaking to the combined conference of the Rural Ontario Municipal Association and the Ontario Good Roads Association.
Tim Hudak Speech to Ontario Good Roads Association
I think this year’s conference theme is very timely: “Adding Up The New Fiscal Reality”. It speaks to the crossroads we find ourselves at and the difficult choices all of us need to make.
If we make those difficult, but necessary choices, embrace the new fiscal reality, we can create an Ontario the world marvels at again.
That is the vision I have for our province.
An Ontario where everyone can wake up and have a good job to go to, or at least, the opportunity of finding one soon – especially in rural and northern Ontario where so many people have given up trying to find work.
An Ontario with a health care system that’s there for people when they need it – not inaccessible behind layers of bureaucracy – where you’ve got to fight like hell to get something 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.
A Province with the best roads, bridges and transit systems
An Ontario where we build, grow, harvest, forge and mine things – selling products in demand the world over. Where our Ontario farmers – world leaders in innovation – combine with fertile farmland and the confidence to invest making us the bread basket of North America.
That’s the Ontario I want to build. The Ontario we all want to build. And my PC Caucus colleagues and I have spent every day for a year now, proposing bold ideas for how to do it – by reining in overspending, and getting our economic fundamentals right to grow our economy in small towns as well as large.
But before we start prescribing solutions, I’d like to take a look at how we came to this “new fiscal reality”. It wasn’t by accident. It was through a series of deliberate choices that weakened Ontario.
A deliberate choice to sacrifice Ontario’s traditional advantage of low energy rates, for unaffordable subsidies to wind and solar power. A deliberate choice to turn government into our only growth industry – adding 300,000 jobs to the government payroll at the same time we lost 300,000 manufacturing jobs in your home towns. A deliberate choice to divide Ontario along rural and urban lines. And a deliberate choice to spool out red tape at a cost to our economy of $11 billion a year.
A series of deliberate choices that made Ontario first in debt, and last in jobs.
So here is my deliberate choice: I will strengthen Ontario.
People are longing for change. The province they live in can no longer provide the future they hoped for. The answers to our problems aren’t hard to figure out. They’re just hard to do. But if we dare to try, there will be benefits for all.
It starts with only as much government as we can afford. To protect the things we care about we must reduce the size, cost, and role of government. Anyone who tells you they can eliminate a $12 billion deficit without reducing spending is either naïve – or thinks you are.
We will actually reduce government spending. It needs to be done.
I won’t measure success by the number of public sector employees, the amount of money spent or the number of government programs. That’s the old way of thinking. I’m ready to take a bold new approach. Every close call, every tough decision, every argument gets resolved on the basis of what it does to grow our economy and create jobs.
I’ll approach government the same way Ontarians approach their businesses. We will set clear goals, measure outcomes and then reward the individuals who help us achieve those outcomes. We will create a leaner public service that delivers more value for less money.
My plan focuses on the core services that matter most. Government is in a lot of businesses it has no business being in in the 21st century. So we’ll look at getting out.
We keep a massive bureaucracy to dictate the size, shape and shelving of alcohol bottles – while rationing life-saving medicines on the Ontario formulary. We have government employees serving drinks at the blackjack table – but we’re unable to provide over a million people with a doctor, the majority of them in rural and Northern Ontario.
It’s got to change.
But it’s not enough to simply say we can cut our way to prosperity. It’s necessary, but we need to grow the economy too. So as Premier, jobs will be job number one, and two and three.
I make no mistake about who will pull us of this ditch. If businesses in your communities do well, then Ontario does well.
We have a comprehensive plan to make Ontario attractive for investment and job creation.
We need to lower taxes on businesses so that they can invest and create jobs in Ontario. Now, some will say that “tax cuts” mean the government will have less money to spend.
They’re wrong. They ignore a proven reality: With tax relief comes economic growth. More people working again means more revenue coming into the treasury.
And we must make the best use of the tax revenue coming in. Case in point: the gas tax. Right now, you pay the same gas tax whether you live in West Toronto or West Lincoln. But you only get money back if you’ve got a subway or a bus. Last week my colleague John Yakabuski from Renfrew- Nipissing-Pembroke tabled a bill to fix this problem. His bill would see all Ontario communities get a share of the gas tax and put it toward whatever their local transportation infrastructure needs are – not what Queen’s Park says they should be.
We must also lift the heavy hand of government and clear the roadblocks for businesses across our province to succeed. We’ll start by reducing Ontario’s 300,000 regulations by at least a third.
Government shouldn’t make rules just because it can or just to keep bureaucrats busy.
What does that mean for your communities? Here are some examples: We will repeal the Far North Act that seeks to freeze Northern Ontario in time as if it were a museum. The future prosperity I see for Northern Ontario will be built on development and job creation in the North for the North.
We’ll also address issues with the Endangered Species Act. In 2003 there were 19 species listed, today there are 121. We have all heard stories of the Bobolink preventing farmers from harvesting their hay, of the Grey Rat Snake preventing business development in Eastern Ontario, of the Wood Turtle preventing the forestry sector in the North. The problem is that these rules aren’t working for anyone.
They aren’t serving to actually protect endangered species, and they aren’t allowing our agriculture and business sector to grow. We will ensure the ESA adheres to the principles of verifiable science – not political science.
Ontario also has restrictive rules that make our workforce less competitive and cost us jobs. In a global market, where capital is mobile, employers and employees need the ability to be flexible. Demand is constantly shifting and the ability of businesses to turn on a dime in response to a new opportunity or a tough competitor is crucial. A workforce bound by outdated labour laws such as ours stands in the way of that.
We can’t attract innovative and cutting edge companies or grow our own if we’re using the tools of the last century. You would never imagine using a rotary phone or a typewriter in your business anymore, so why do we put up with labour laws that from the same era? So we’ll put an end to provincial closed tendering laws that force you to use the same union for all your work driving up costs for local governments and taxpayers.
We’ll also fix a broken arbitration system that imposes big city wages and benefits agreements on small town assessment bases.
And we’ll empower workers to make the choices that are right for them. Unions have a role, when people choose to join them freely. Deny that right – deny that choice – it hurts people and it hurts Ontario. If we trust someone enough to let them vote for their mayor, their premier, why do we think they aren’t sophisticated enough to vote whether to join a union or not?
We also need to take a sensible approach to energy in our province. Energy used to be an economic strength for Ontario. For decades we could offer businesses and families affordable and reliable energy rates. Now our rates are among the highest in North America – and they keep climbing.
We need to restore energy as an economic fundamental, instead of doubling down on failed expensive industrial wind farm experiments. That’s why we will restore local decision making because municipal councils have the right to decide what’s best for their communities.
Businesses need to make the tough decisions and they will choose to locate in jurisdictions where business costs are lower, approvals happen faster and the government treats them with respect, not suspicion.
The future prosperity I will build will be based on a freer market and smaller government, not on the failed ideology of the past decade. We have a new fiscal reality and I am prepared to take a new approach.
Anyone who’s been faced with a crisis or emergency will tell you that being cautious and incremental will not save you. This crisis requires bold, confident and meaningful action in the direction you know is right. If we have the will, leadership and courage of our convictions, we can set ourselves on a new path.
J’ai beaucuoup d’espoir pour ce province et tout notre citoyens.
I have a tremendous hope for this province and all its people.
I see an Ontario of great destiny. A province that is going to rise again.
And my Ontario includes rural and northern Ontario. It includes small towns, prosperous farmers and a resurgence of manufacturing.
So here’s my message today:
To the business owner in Essex struggling to hang on, hang on a little longer.
To those who have packed up and moved away from Peterborough County, come back home.
To the moms and dads in Kenora who are working two jobs each, struggling to make ends meet, hope is on the way.
Ontario’s comeback is about to start.
We’ve done it before. We’ve risen up, dusted ourselves off and ushered in a new era of prosperity.
I intend to make sure we do it again.
I will not run from tough decisions.
I will protect the things we care about.
I will pursue bold ideas and an agenda to inspire.
I will do what needs to be done.
So to the provinces that have taken our skilled workers and entrepreneurs;
To the states that have taken Northern, Eastern and Southwestern Ontario’s factories and biggest
To the countries that have taken our investors and hold our debt; Hear me when I say: We are on our way back. On reviens.
Ontario will lead again.
Thank you. Merci tous.
Leader, Ontario Progressive Conservative Party