The 2014 Liberal Plan for “One Ontario” will include a number of initiatives to attract skilled immigrants to the province, provide more culturally appropriate health care, invest in bridge training programs that help integrate new Canadians into the workforce and help more local companies win business outside Canada.
Outlining her party’s plan at a media briefing over the weekend in the build-up to the June 12 provincial elections, Premier Kathleen Wynne said “One Ontario” is at the core of her value system. “We are going to stand up for diversity because we believe in One Ontario. New Canadians deserve the same opportunities and the same protections as those who were born here,” Wynne said. “The Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects our rights no matter who we are or what we believe. That is an important principle in Ontario and across Canada, and it is what makes us stronger.”
She said the Liberal government has taken several measures to ensure Ontario’s diversity continues to be its strength, including:
- Passing the Accepting Schools Act, which promotes a positive school climate that is inclusive and accepting, regardless of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, marital status, family status or disability.
- The Provincial Nominee Program that helps Ontario employers attract and retain the skilled workers they need for today’s knowledge-based economy.
- Covering refugee health care when the federal government walked away from its responsibilities.
- Passing a motion in the legislature re-affirming Ontario’s commitment to respect diversity. The motion opposes any bills that would restrict people’s freedom of expression and religion in public places.
Global trade strategy
Elaborating on the Liberal economic plan that will be of interest to immigrants, Wynne said if re-elected her government will expand its Going Global Trade Strategy by investing $5 million a year over the next two years in the Global Growth Fund, which will help more Ontario companies win business outside of Canada.
With so many people from around the world choosing to call Ontario home, there is tremendous opportunity for Ontario-based businesses to expand the reach of their exports, she said. “By partnering with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, local chambers, and chambers representing Ontario’s diverse ethnic communities, businesses will be able to tap into Ontario’s diverse population to access international markets and showcase their goods and services to international buyers.”
Taking a swipe at her opponents, Wynne said the Andrea Horwath-led NDP (New Democratic Party), by choosing not to support her government’s Budget for the year put the expansion of the global trade strategy and newcomer programs at risk.
The Premier said the approach of the Tim Hudak-led Progressive Conservatives in supporting the newest Canadians would be to fire 100,000 public sector workers that would result in a cut to programs and services that they rely on, such as settlement programs and bridge training programs.
The Premier said the approach of the Tim Hudak-led Progressive Conservatives in supporting our newest Canadians would be to fire 100,000 public sector workers that would result in a cut to programs and services that they rely on, such as settlement programs and bridge training programs.
On the issue of bills that have ‘died on the Order Paper,’ (i.e., did not become law) as a result of the current election, the Premier said if re-elected her government will re-introduce them, including the Ontario Immigration Act “to ensure we attract skilled immigrants to fill labour market needs.”
‘Referendum on the economy’
A re-elected Liberal government will continue to invest in the talent and skills of Ontarians through initiatives like the 30 per cent Off Tuition grant, she said. The tuition grant will help up to 260,000 low- and middle-income university students save up to $1,780 per school year. Students attending college can save up to $820 per school year, as part of the grant. In fact, when adjusted for inflation, students who receive the full grant amount will be paying less in net tuition than students 10 years ago, Wynne said. Hudak’s PCs have promised to cancel the tuition grant immediately, increasing the cost of a university degree by at least $7,120 per student, she pointed out.
Listing out the achievements of the Liberal government, she said Ontario has been recognized as the top place in North America for foreign direct investment and had created 459,000 net new jobs since June 2009.
Face off with Hudak and Horwath
Wynne said Ontario raises $11 billion more in federal revenue than is invested back into the province. Stating that this year Ontario will receive $641 million less in major transfers from the federal government, she said while the Harper Conservatives continue to invest in regional economic opportunities elsewhere in Canada, they have refused to invest in the development of the Ring of Fire in Northern Ontario that would create jobs and make Ontario one of the major world producers of chromite.
On the Ontario PC’s accusing her government of secretly approving $317-million to bail out a real estate development for a downtown Toronto research centre, Wynne said the deal was confidential because it isn’t finalized and would actually save taxpayers money in the long run.
She said the MaRS transaction is good for the government, as it will allow the consolidation of several offices in one place. The government helped the organization get the project started with a loan and a grant. But when it became apparent MaRS couldn’t make the completed tower viable, the government agreed to buy it instead. Wynne said she has not discussed the details of the deal, saying it is not yet final.
She charged that the leaked cabinet documents is being used by the PC’s to deflect attention from Hudak’s Million Job Plan that has been derided by eminent economists from across Canada as “an absolute disaster that needs to be redrafted.”
Apart from the MaRS transaction, Wynne will be defending a slew of other questionable dealings by the Liberal government when she faces off with Hudak and Horwath at 6:30 p.m. local time on Tuesday (June 3) for the only televised debate ahead of the election. It could be a turning point.