The regular meeting of the National Ethnic Press and Media Council of Canada was held May 14, this time at Queen’s Park. Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty came downstairs to speak to the gathering of ethnic media.
The provincial election is this year, as the Liberals have declared all elections to be at a set time every four years.
"We are now in the twenty-first century where there is so much change, time moves very quickly. I would ask you to remember how far we have come together," said McGuinty.
"Back in 2003, public education was a combat zone in Ontario. We lost 28,000,000 schooling days because of strikes. In the last three and a half years, do you know how many teachers strikes we have had? None, not one. Not only that, class sizes have gone down, test scores have gone up; graduation rates have never been higher. We are investing more money on education in the first three and a half years, new money, than the Harris government did in eight years."
The Premier added "when it comes to higher education the Harris government refused essentials investments in the young generation. We have today 86,000 more young people in our colleges and universities than there were three and a half years ago and 6,000 more young people in our apprenticeship programs.
"Something that we have to be proud about is that 120,000 more people are getting grants, that they don't have to pay back. Grants were banned 12 years ago.
"The Progressive Conservatives closed hospitals, fired nurses by the thousands and refused wait times. We are hiring 8,000 nurses; half a million more people now have doctors. We have put more new money into health care in three and a half years than the Harris government did in eight years.”
On environmental issues the Premier said to remember Walkerton, where seven people died. “The [Harris] government fired water and meat inspectors. Our new clean water act is the toughest in North America. We have hired new water and meat inspectors. We've protected a 1.8 million acre Greenbelt. That’s bigger than Prince Edward Island. We've cut our coal use by one third. Now it is [responsible for] only 16% of electricity generation.”
"We've put billions of dollars into public transit.
"We've become the North American leader in energy conservation. When I got this job there [were] 10 wind turbines, now there are 680 with more in the works.
"We are planning the single largest solar farm in North America which is going to be built in Sarnia. It will produce 40 megawatts. The biggest in the United States is only 15 (megawatts).
"The previous government hid a $5.5 billion deficit, they weakened important public service, they let our electricity supply run dangerously low and they let our infrastructure grow dangerously old. We've balanced the budget already twice. We have a law on the books, first of its kind in North America, where the provincial auditor must disclose the true state of public finances before the elections so no one can hide a deficit again in Ontario."
"There are 320,000 new full time jobs in Ontario. Unemployment is its lowest in 5 years. Our partnership with the auto sector has $7 billion of new investment, 7,000 direct jobs and thousands more indirect jobs.
"What about the vulnerable? Back in 2003 the previous government cut social assistance, froze the minimum wage and scapegoated the poor. They said the poor were different. We've always understood, in my government, that but for fate we would be the poor and they would be us. So we've always felt a strong sense of responsibility. We've increased social assistance three times. We've increased minimum wage, I think, four times and it’s going up again to $10.25 an hour. We've created something new for Ontario, the Ontario Child Benefit. That’s going to help 1.3 million children who are growing up in poverty in Ontario.
"What about immigration? Well, it seems to me that since 140,000 new Canadians come to Ontario every year, the first thing we had to do was to create a new Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration. The next thing was to go to Ottawa and fight for a fair deal. The Province of Québec was getting $3,800 for every new immigrant and Ontario was getting $800. Unfair. So I negotiated a new deal, the first of its kind with Prime Minister (Paul) Martin. Now we're getting the same amount of money in Ontario as they are getting in Québec. That's $920 million for Ontario immigration services to help new arrivals.
"The last thing I'll mention for the new immigrants is the new internship program. It's important for us to lead by example so we're saying to new Canadians you can work for us in one of our ministries or government agencies for six months so you get work experience here in Ontario to make you more attractive to employers."
"Again we've come a long way."
Now, in all fairness, we will endeavour to get Leader of the Official Opposition, Progressive Conservative John Tory's side of the argument, and run it within the next few weeks.
Dalton McGuinty addresses the ethnic media