McMaster Innovation Park
Premier Wynne sells budget plan to Hamilton audience at MIP
Kathleen Wynne wants to change the way people think about growing Ontario's economy.
The premier said in an interview that getting the province's economy back on track is about more than tax cuts for corporations, it's also about people, health care, education and many other fields.
Wynne spoke to an audience at the McMaster Innovation Park on Tuesday, part of a tour to sell her government's accomplishments and the heavy infrastructure investments included in its most recent budget.
"I think that for a long time we have allowed ourselves as a society to talk about the economy as though it is the financial documents and indicators, the numbers on the page," she said in an interview. "The economy is the environment we live in. It is obviously affected by people's health, by their ability to get to work, by their education and mental health. We have to tend to all of those things. We have to make sure that we understand that the connectivity."
Included in the budget package is a $160-billion, 12-year infrastructure program designed to build the roads, bridges, schools and other facilities needed to drive economic growth.
It's a different way of looking at that growth.
"Maybe my being first woman in the job has brought a different perspective. I've never seen the world in compartments. I've always seen the world as being a set of interconnected realities," she said. "When I see my own children getting into the workforce, I always think, 'Are they going to be healthy, will they have access to child care?' I've never seen those parts of the economy divided from each other. I hope that going forward we can think of the economy in that way because we will have better outcomes for everyone."
That's in sharp contrast to the "naïve" belief of the former Stephen Harper federal government that soaring world prices for Canada's natural resources would drive growth. That thinking, she said, left Ontario "in a fragile, post-recession recovery" when her government took over.
"We were at one of those fork-in-the-road moments we all know about," she said. "We need to be able to say we did everything we could for the economy. We owe that to the future."
On the human side of the economic equation, the government has included initiatives such as pension reform to ensure people can retire with security; tuition reform to ensure every child in the province has a chance at post-secondary education; infrastructure projects to ensure goods and people can move quickly and efficiently; and environmental efforts such as closing the province's coal-fired generating stations.
"It's not going to happen on its own," she said. "An economic plan for meaningful growth has to include everyone and that's what we've done."
On the issue of U.S. Steel Canada and fears for the future of its pensioners, she said the province remains part of the negotiations about the company's future.
"My concern is for the workers who need to be supported. We have been part of the negotiations and I can't pre-empt the outcome on that, but we will continue to work with our partners to find a resolution on this," she said. "It's a really challenging problem for people who have been part of that steel family.
"We need to let the negotiations play out."
Article courtesy of Steve Arnold