I think I have to start by explaining why we’re doing this in late May this year instead of February or March like we have in years past.
Bill’s too nice to bring this up but when I was asked when I wanted to address the Chamber this year, I said that I’d do it in late May.
Because I wanted to wait until Christine Elliott became Leader of the PC Party.
So, there’s an old joke about this farmer that counted his chickens before they hatched……
Let me tell you that this has been one of the longest years I can remember. On May 9th of last year, I climbed out of my car on Morris Drive in Belleville having just read on Twitter that Tim Hudak had announced he was planning to fire 100,000 public sector workers if elected Premier
On May 9th, of this year the PC Party elected a new leader.
As we watched the results come in last June, I stood in the kitchen at the Belleville Club with a few people debating whether this is still Bill Davis’ Ontario.
That night, there was no agreement. I had people arguing that it was. That Ontarians hadn’t fundamentally changed their values in the 30 years since the end of the Big Blue Machine.
I had people arguing that their values had changed; that the province that elected Bill Davis four times couldn’t be the same province that elected Kathleen Wynne.
When I got back to Queen’s Park the Monday after the election, I got an email from Steve Paikin who was asking the same question that I was.
Paikin’s conclusion was that this was still Bill Davis’ Ontario.
What’s my conclusion, after a year of touring the province with Christine Elliott and making phone calls into every corner of it?
This is still the Ontario of Bill Davis.
Ontarians don’t want more or less government. They want a government that is more accountable and less scandal-plagued.
They want a government that is more driven by solutions and less driven by ideology. They don’t, by and large, believe government is either always the problem or always the solution.
What they do want is government that does the important things right.
They want efficient and high quality healthcare when they go to a hospital.
They want a first class education for their kids.
They want to know that when they flip a switch, the lights are going to come on. They also want to know that when they open their electricity bills at the end of the month that they aren’t going to have to choose between paying the hydro bill and paying the mortgage.
Right now, too many of them have to. And it’s only getting worse.
The last couple years, I’ve come here and talked about numbers. I’ve talked about hydro bills, jobs affected by the industrial exception and the state of our debt and deficit.
But I haven’t had a more important number than 54.
This year, healthcare spending actually increased by 54 million dollars less than the federal transfer for healthcare increased.
From that, we can reach one of only two conclusions. Either 54 million dollars of the transfer intended for healthcare ended up going somewhere else. Or, all dollars from the federal transfer went to healthcare and the amount of money that went from general provincial revenue actually declined from last year.
The reason that 54 is the most important number is because it is the first time – the first time in this province’s history – that money meant for healthcare didn’t go there.
And that matters because of where it went. It went into a black hole of deficit.
So far, this government has fired over 400 nurses province-wide.
It has placed restrictions against recently graduated doctors joining Family Health Teams.
Six local municipalities in this riding and three in the riding next door are defined by the province as having a “high physician need”.
Now, I’m going to spend a couple minutes fighting a ghost.
Because every time a Tory talks about healthcare someone invariably hisses the name ‘Mike Harris’ at them
Currently, the federal government transfers make up 25 percent of the healthcare budget. When Mike Harris was receiving transfer fees from Paul Martin, does anyone know what percentage of the healthcare budget was supplied by federal transfers?
So, we’re receiving twice as much money from the government, as a percentage of the total healthcare budget, as we were twenty years ago.
But we’re now firing nurses, reining in Family Health Teams and we’ve seen what has gone on in Trenton and in Picton over the last few years.
No person in this room should leave this room thinking that deficits don’t matter because at this very moment deficits are destroying your healthcare system.
The biggest threat to nurses in this province, to family health teams in this province and to patients in this province isn’t balancing the budget. It’s the fact that for ten years Ontario spent a lot of money on a lot of things it didn’t need and now it has no money to spend on the things it does need.
That’s not to say there aren’t places in healthcare where we’re spending money poorly. Doctor Adam Stewart highlighted a few areas when he spoke to the Intel last week.
But I have never heard a Doctor or a Patient say they could do with fewer nurses.
The other major problem that we’re having is that you’re afraid to open your hydro bill.
We can debate for endless hours why hydro rates are up but here are a few facts.
Because so much manufacturing has moved out of Ontario, we’re actually using less power at peak than we used to use in 2006.
That having been said, this government has pushed to add thousands of megawatts of wind and solar power to a system that’s already using less power.
According to the Independent System Operator, our electricity grid can now produce 29,000 Megawatts at peak. Our record peak in this province is only 27,000 Megawatts and we haven’t hit it in almost a decade.
Now, I’m in a room full of business people. What usually happens to prices when you have a lot more supply of a product than you have demand for it?
Prices go down. How many of you think you’d still be in business if you increased the price of the product by more than a hundred percent?
But that’s exactly what the government has done since it introduced the Green Energy Act.
The price of electricity has soared largely because of add-ons like delivery charges and Global Adjustment. It is not rising because we’re either using more or producing less.
The government’s solution to this is apparently to sell 60 percent of what remains of Hydro One.
With hydro rates at all-time highs, the government’s answer is to sell the one tool it has to possibly control hydro rates.
The government will tell you that it is selling Hydro One shares to fund infrastructure projects. The problem is, the Premier said that she only said she needed 3 billion in asset sales to fund her infrastructure plan last year.
This year, she needs four billion more in asset sales.
It’s no coincidence that spending is going up by two billion next year while the deficit is also projected to go down by about two billion.
Your healthcare is paying to balance the deficit. Your hydro system is paying to balance the deficit.
I return to my original argument. This is still Bill Davis’ Ontario. That has nothing to do with the government. It has to do with what you expect from us.
Right now, Queen’s Park is failing you. It’s my job to change that.
It’s my job to make sure that you’re getting the healthcare system you deserve. It’s my job to make sure that you’re able to afford to turn the lights on…….though I encourage you to turn them off when you leave the room – I'm always reminding my kids about that.
Those are the lessons that I’ve taken from the last year.
And that’s why this is still Bill Davis’ Ontario.