TORONTO – Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak addressed the 2014 ROMA-OGRA Combined Conference, taking place at the Fairmont Royal York, Toronto, Ontario.
Here are the remarks Hudak delivered to the conference:
This is a big year. For the elected officials in this room — the mayors, reeves, and councillors — it’s the year you get your performance judged by the electorate in municipal elections across the province.
For me, it could mean much the same — depending on whether the NDP decides to put a stop to the huge damage already done to our province by ending its support of the current government.
Yet today I come here telling you there is hope. I come here today telling you that Ontario can and will be better because I come here today with a plan.
Today’s government does not have a jobs plan. That is now patently obvious. And the Third Party, well, it loves making promises that are both unaffordable and unrealistic, and backing a government with a long-expired shelf life
Last Tuesday, I tabled my Million Jobs Act, which will be debated this Thursday. It’s the start of what I know will turn this province around and make it strut with pride once again.
Here are the five key things my Bill will do:
- It will produce more jobs and increase take-home pay through lower taxes and less debt. Well-run businesses invest in well-run provinces;
- It will ensure affordable energy that will create jobs, not eliminate them;
- It will train more skilled workers to meet the huge demand in trades, and help young people find good jobs;
- It will increase trade with our neighbours. It will put Made in Ontario products on more shelves;
- And it will end the bureaucratic run-around that inhibits job creation, eats up your time, drives up your costs and inhibits your ability to attract jobs.
This can be done, and it will be done. Ontario is in a mess.
In January, Statistics Canada updated it jobs numbers. In December alone, Ontario lost another 39,000 jobs, the most of any province in Canada.
Meanwhile the government sector, the one where taxpayers pay the tab, increased by 13,000 employees.
Think Heinz. Think Kelloggs. Think of losses in your own communities.
This must change. You in this room know this better than anyone. The province sees itself as your overlord and it is overloading you with too many burdens.
An Ontario PC government will lighten that load, not with bags of money but by getting the government off your backs so you can deliver quality services to your constituents and attract some jobs.
Let me begin by dealing with one way to lighten that load, which also deals with the top issue most of you are wrestling with today.
And let me begin by stating the obvious: That Ontario’s provincial police force is filled with great men and women who daily put their lives on the line to serve and protect us.
This is no easy task.
But, as a collective, the cost of their service is the No. 1 concern for most of the municipalities represented here today, not the quality of it.
Under former Premier Dalton McGuinty, and with the current premier in a key cabinet role — there was an election-year contract signed with the OPP that gave them two years of zero increases, followed by a catch-up in 2014 intentionally designed to make them the highest-paid force in the province.
On January 1, that catch-up kicked in.
For municipalities like Guelph-Eramosa, it means a sudden one-million-dollar increase in their OPP costs, with many municipal leaders telling me yesterday of double-digit increases being required on their property taxes.
This, of course, sets precedents for arbitrators who still refuse to look at a community’s ability to pay, leading to public-service contracts for firefighters and EMS personnel to follow suit, and community leaders like you having to squeeze more tax dollars from your ratepayers.
Come municipal election day on October 27, you’ll be judged on how you responded when, in reality, the government had your hands tied.
In April of last year, the Ontario PCs tabled our Capacity to Pay Act.
Something had to be done. Because of their monopoly power, government unions are prone to making significant demands up front, knowing that going to arbitration usually gets them the number that was their initial goal.
This burdens not only your ratepayers, but it burdens your plans to help your communities grow and succeed.
Our Capacity to Pay Act will require arbitrators to respect your ability to pay without simply assuming your ratepayers have bottomless pockets.
The House rejected our legislation, of course. And despite a supposed wage freeze, government salaries spiralled once again, leaving municipalities like yours trying to find more ways to make ends meet.
The government’s new billing model now being considered for provincial policing will not solve the problem. All it will do is tax some municipalities more and some less, and pitting winners and losers against each other.
But it will do nothing to resolve your ability to pay your ever-increasing policing bill, and nothing to fix the real problem.
Once we are in power, our Capacity to Pay Act will become law.
We will look at local income and local growth, and stop forcing Mississauga solutions on small towns like Mississippi Mills.
And that’s a promise.
That said, I want to give high-fives to caucus colleague Randy Pettapiece for pushing the government to reform “joint and several liability” which, at last count, has 157 of your municipalities passing resolutions in support of his initiative, plus the Association of Municipalities of Ontario.
This will be debated in the House on Thursday, along with my Million Jobs Plan. Our position is clear. We, like you, are on the side of taxpayers, and no one else.
By the way, is Bancroft Mayor Bernice Jenkins here today? Mayor Jenkins?
Well, Mayor Jenkins can tell you that red tape now has her filing over 270 financial reports a year to the government or not receive provincial funding.
That’s almost one financial report a week, and Mayor Jenkins’ small town has a population of 3,500, less than 2,000 households.
As part of my Million Jobs Act, and as a big piece of my party’s overall economic plan, an Ontario PC government will lighten that load by reducing red tape by a third within the first three years of taking office.
When it comes to roads, whether it is building good roads or making bad roads good, there is red tape at every turn to stall projects.
Remember the two-year delay in trying to build a bridge across the Thames River in Middlesex County due to the MNR’s relocation of 48 endangered mussels — whose welfare had to be monitored by scuba divers, for a total cost of $135,000?
If you remember that one – and there are lots of others – you will remember that we walked the walk by tabling an amendment to the Endangered Species Act that would ensure all environmental concerns are addressed before tendering.
But, once again, the House rejected that amendment. The further north you go, the worse it gets.
Once in power, we will abolish the Far North Act in which southern Ontario views and special interest fantasies about the North are applied with the predictable outcome of costing jobs and turning investors away.
Unlike the government’s reluctance to commit to the Ring of Fire, we have put forward a comprehensive plan that will bring boom to the North.
My Million Jobs Act will be the antidote and catalyst that Ontario needs to prosper. All of Ontario
Ontario can, and will, do better. But we need action now
That means looking reality in the eye and making tough but necessary decisions.
It means a balanced budget, a public-sector wage freeze, a reduction in taxes and, like I promised, a big reduction in regulatory burdens.
To provide cost-efficient and reliable energy, it means the end of any new subsidies to wind and solar power that drive up rates and punishes both manufacturers and Ontario’s families with high hydro bills.
It also means your community alone will decide whether or not it wants a wind farm, not the province.
It’s time to stop the madness of high energy costs, and I congratulate my entire caucus and our energy critic Lisa MacLeod and our rural roots caucus colleague, Lisa Thompson, for not being shy in expressing your concerns and fighting on your behalf.
Trust me, I have heard your pleas for natural gas. We all have.
I live in the small town of West Lincoln … on an unfinished road, and with no natural gas in sight. So, yes, I get it.
But I need not remind you of my caucus colleague, Bob Bailey of Sarnia- Lambton, and his Bill 97 — the Natural Gas Superhighway Act — that received unanimous support at Queen’s Park on its second reading back in September, and which was a great step forward for natural gas here in Ontario.
To me, modern infrastructure doesn’t just mean roads and subways. It also means greater access to natural gas.
The recent discoveries of huge amounts of shale gas is a game changer, and we need to re-think how we can harvest its benefits to lower costs for consumers and businesses, as well as help power our economy.
As Premier, I will ensure all bureaucratic red tape at the provincial level is removed so that this critical infrastructure has a chance at becoming a reality.
But let me underscore one important thing. Only the Ontario PCs have a plan for affordable energy. The Liberals only promise a 40-plus-percent increase in rates over the next five years.
The choices we have to make aren’t that hard to see, they’re just hard to do.
But I believe in the people of Ontario. We have the hardest working,
talented, and industrious people who sustain this province — whether they be from Smalltown Ontario like my birthplace of Fort Erie where my Mom was a town councillor for years, north to Fort Frances and beyond, or from the eastern tip past Cornwall.
They wouldn’t dream of giving up and they don’t expect their government to give up either. And I am with them.
Successful leaders are the ones who embrace the need for change, not those who pretend it doesn’t exist.
The ideas I laid out in my Million Jobs Act are not without political risk. But the future of Ontario is too important not to be bold.
Like I said, it won’t be easy, but it can be done and it will be worth it.
I did not get into politics to hedge my bets. I got into politics to put Ontario on the path to prosperity. My political opponents and the union elite will oppose us because they have things pretty good right now.
The problem facing Ontario is that hardworking middle class families and the million who are out of work don’t have it so good. The special interests will oppose our plan and our campaign because they know one thing.
When I am elected, things will change. My Million Jobs Act is just the beginning. Thank you very much.
Leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party