Ontario Liberal leader and Premier Dalton McGuinty met with The Globe and Mail editorial board on Thursday, Sept. 29, in advance of the Oct. 6 provincial election. Here is an edited transcript of that conversation:
Q: Can you start with an overview of your plan for Ontario’s economy?
We can no longer rely on traditional drivers of growth in Ontario: the low dollar; strong US trading partner and strong EU trading bloc to drive growth. We have been doing a number of things to help our province grow. We are educating our population: 64 per cent of Ontarians achieved post-secondary education. This is the highest rate among 34 OECD countries. It’s twice as high as in the UK.
Ontario families have been heroic in efforts to move children thru post-secondary education. There has been a 26 per cent rate of growth in post-secondary since 2003 (double the rest of the country).
We have also worked hard to create more competitive tax environment. The recession has hit the manufacturing sector hard. We have had to respond. So we introduced tax reforms, the most dramatic of their kind. The cost of new business investment reduced by half. We adopted the HST, which was not easy but was essential. We have caught up to 140 other jurisdictions. We are reducing tax for families; $355 income tax cut on average for families.
We are investing in infrastructure. We are re-building 80 per cent of our electricity system over the next 20 years.
We have an extensive capital plan: $35-billion over the next 3 years we will invest. On an annual basis, that is four times as much as previous PC government every year, on schools, roads, hospitals, all-day GO train throughout the GTA and Hamilton.
We are also investing in innovation: clean energy. We have created some 20,000 jobs; and our plan is to create 50,000 by the year’s end. We want to become number one in North American for clean energy technologies (we are number one already in producing cars).
Globally last year, more money was invested in renewable technologies than in fossil fuels.
We are bringing responsible management government finances and the deficit is 43 per cent below what it was in the depths of the recession. We have a solid, serious responsible plan to get us rest of our way
The PC plan is twice as expensive as ours is. They have refused to have it independently verified by an economist.
Q: A question on the economy: the situation is worse than you anticipated 4 weeks ago or six months ago. What should a new government do immediately to address a worsening economic environment?
We have to acknowledge the reality. Job creation has stalled in the U.S. We have witnessed volatility in the markets. That is not that unusual. But we are concerned about the EU and the inability to come to grips with fiscal challenges among member countries.
It’s not a loss of confidence in financial institutions that is driver of global economic challenge; but a loss of confidence in the ability of governments to manage fiscal challenges.
In Canada, we have done well. In Ontario, we have done even better. Since January, we have created more jobs here than the rest of the country combined. After California, we are world’s most favourite place to invest in North America. We have the most reliable banks in North America, and they are headquartered here in Ontario.
It is darker out there, yes.
Q: Is the forecast more conservative, limited, than it would have been 6 months ago?
A: We have to take a look at private sector forecasts. We come in below those. And we plan to over-achieve our deficit reduction targets.
A good predictor of what we would do is what we have done. We have managed the recession well. We have been prudent, pragmatic, worked in concert with the federal government to provide stimulus and to create jobs. We came to the support of auto sector. We have provided second-career training: 47,000 Ontarians who had lost jobs. We have built $1.7-billion of prudence into every year of our four-year plan. It’s a serious plan because these are serious times.
Q: One of question in leadership debate that didn’t get an adequate answer from any of you is: what would you do to cut in spending?