Thank you for the opportunity to give my second speech to the Charlottetown Rotary Club.
Fifty years ago your predecessors chose me as their teen aged representative on the Rotary Adventure in Citizenship program. I visited Ottawa, spoke to MPs and senators and learned a great deal about government.
I was required to speak to the club when the program was complete. My father, a long standing member of this club and college principal, was in the audience. He had several suggestions for improved delivery after I sat down!
I’d also like to bring greetings from the Rotary Club in Wellington, Ontario where I live. Wellington is a village of about 2,000 people where Rotary is a vibrant force. I’m pleased to present President Sider with a Wellington banner.
I’d like to start my presentation with a warning.
The warning is that I’m going to speak very frankly about difficult issues.
I will be taking fundamental issue with the approach the federal government, P.E.I., Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec and Manitoba have been taking in relation to the many subsidies the Government of Canada provides to regions.
I will try not to use too many figures. If you wish to access the statistical information that supports my presentation, I suggest the websites of the Ontario Department of Finance, the Frontier Center for Public Policy, the Mowat Center at the University of Toronto, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies and Statistics Canada.
I support the view expressed by the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies that these subsidies are “the help that hurts”.
Aside from tolerating my frankness, I’m going to ask you do four things:
First, recognize that Ontario’s economic and financial condition has deteriorated sharply over the past few decades. Ontario, over the years, has been the source of the largest part of the external funding coming to the Island.
Second, pay very little attention to anything your provincial, regional and federal leaders say about regional subsidies. Most of it is wrong.
Third, I’m going to ask you to think about the economic path P.E.I. is following and where it will take you in future.
Fourth, I’m going to ask you to entertain and even welcome fundamental change in the fiscal architecture of Canada because substantial change is the only way to assure a reasonable future for your children.
Let me start with Ontario.
Ontario lost 30% of its manufacturing jobs between 2004 and 2010.
Its public services are the least accessible in Canada.
The provincial government faces a serious budgetary crisis.
Like most manufacturing jurisdictions, Ontario has not found its footing in the new global environment dominated by China, India, Brazil and other emerging countries.
Despite valiant recent efforts to deal with educational problems, Ontario’s universities and colleges are funded at levels far below the Canadian average and far below the funding provided for comparable U.S. institutions.
Read the entire speech (8 pages)