ANDREA HORWATH'S SPEECH TO PROVINCIAL COUNCIL JANUARY 21, 2017 | TORONTO

Good morning everyone! Hello New Democrats! 

Bonjour à toutes et à tous ! 

And a belated Happy New Year to all of you!

I thought about starting with a Trump joke this morning but, you know, none of us are really in a laughing mood.

Instead, I’ll be joining the Women’s March at Queen’s Park in a few hours. Because now, more than ever, we have to stand together.

We have to stand up together and fight harder than ever for social justice, for the rights of women, and for the rights of the most marginalized and vulnerable people.

The idea that a billionaire — who has trampled workers’ rights, insulted so many people, and violated women — somehow speaks for blue-collar workers and folks who’ve been left behind is flat-out ridiculou

That kind of politics has to stop. It sure as heck has to stop at the border.

But I do hope that Donald Trump shares one small thing with the Liberal Party – I hope that, just like the Liberals, he campaigned on promises that he’s got no intention of keeping! That would be good news, in this case! 

What we’re really going to need over the next few years is for progressive parties around the world, to bring people together
to mobilize for change to win elections!

 And to prove that it is social democrats and progressives who will stand up and fight for working people! 

And we’re going to do that right here in Ontario! 

Sisters and brothers, we have an incredibly important year ahead of us.

Convention is coming up in April.

We’ll have a by-election in Sault Ste. Marie – a city that deserves a strong New Democrat MPP!

And between now and the next election, we’ll all be working flat out, reaching out, and inviting people to join us… to make change happen. 

We live in a great province. A place that’s given hope to so many generations.

Les familles veulent vivre ici. 

Les jeunes veulent étudier ici. 

And tens of thousands of new Canadians choose this city and this province as their new home, every year.

They see the potential that Ontario holds.

And that’s exactly what New Democrats see in Ontario, too.

We know that a better future is possible. Not just for the people at the top. But for ordinary people.

We see a better future, where moms and dads can actually afford child care

Where families who need affordable housing, get more than just a spot on a wait list

And where what’s best for big business, does not trump, what’s good for real people!

We see a future where the lowest-paid workers can count on a living wage! 

And where every worker who wants to join a union, can do exactly that!

Sisters and brothers, progressive change is possible, here in Ontario.

It’s what we’ve always believed.

But, rarely has the need for change been as clear to as many people as it is today. 

The fact is, we are at a tipping point in Ontario. And millions of people are searching for change.

Month after month, it’s getting harder to build a good life.

Costs keep going up.

But wages are flat for so many workers. 

People are worried.

And instead of helping, the current government is doing the exact opposite.

Instead of lowering hydro bills, the Liberals are selling off Hydro One and driving up the cost of power. 

I hear from people every single day that the cost of hydro is pushing them to the brink.

I met with Valentina in Brantford, just before the holidays.

She’s the mother of two young children.

She’s tried to conserve energy. But her hydro bills keep going up.

She’s worried about what’ll happen if her, or her husband, get sick – and they can’t pay those bills.

And when you hear that kind of anxiety in a mother’s voice, you’ve got to think:

Did anyone, honestly, vote for more stress in people’s lives? 

Did anyone vote to push people into energy poverty in this great province?

Did anyone vote to sell-off Hydro One?!

Nobody voted for that!

Yet it’s the same story on so many issues.

Instead of strengthening public health care, the Liberals are squeezing our hospitals and laying-off frontline health care workers.

Nobody voted for that!

Did anyone vote to chip away at Medicare?

Nobody voted for that!

And instead of standing up for public education, the Liberals are dividing communities and shutting down schools across the province.

In my own riding, right now, Hess Street School is an exceptional school.

More than two-thirds of the students are English-language learners. More than half the students come from low-income families.

Every day, that school is helping students build a better future!

But under the Liberals, Hess Street School will likely close its doors.

And the very same thing is playing out across the province.

There are places north of Sudbury where young children – as young as four years old – would have to ride the school bus for 3 hours, or more, every day if their local school is shut down.

Public schools are being denied the supports they need. 

Good schools are being ripped right out of the communities they serve.

And nobody voted for that!

The Liberals are out-of-touch with the people of Ontario. 

People are ready for change.

And the challenge for us is to make the next election about the kind of change… and the kind of future… that the people of Ontario really want to see!

Millions of people will be asking themselves…

Who will fight for higher wages and benefits, not a race to the bottom?

Who will stand up for ordinary people, not just a few at the top?

Who will expand universal, public health care – and never, ever cut the care that people need? 

Who will work to get the burden of debt off the backs of students and young families?

There is one answer to those questions! And it sure as heck isn’t Patrick Brown and the Conservatives!

Oh, we know what they’ll do

Patrick Brown will try to put a new face on old ideas. But the Conservatives offer nothing that hasn’t failed before.

It was the Conservatives who started cutting corporate taxes… and the Liberals kept on cutting.

It was the Conservatives who cut health care… and the Liberals kept on cutting.

It was the Conservatives who started privatizing hydro… and the Liberals are trying to finish the job!

Patrick Brown will cut and privatize what matters most to people. That’s what Conservatives always do!

Liberal… Tory… it’s the same old story! People at the top get ahead, and everyone else falls further behind.

For millions of Ontarians, the status quo is simply not an option.

But the change that Ontario needs - and the change that people want - is change that moves Ontario forward and helps families get ahead. Not a return to a failed Conservative past. 

People know we can do so much better. We can be so much more.

And as New Democrats, we have to step up and offer the change that people are waiting to see.

We need to be bold.

Nous devons être audacieux. 

Nous devons penser en grand.

Nous devons parler fort.

We need to reach out to our members, our allies, and the entire labour movement. 

And we need to reach out beyond the party, too.

We need to give people hope again.

And, in everything we do, in every commitment we make, we have to remember why it is… that New Democrats want to win.

We’re not in this to help our wealthy friends.

We’re not in this to help a small group of people turn a profit off public assets.

New Democrats are different. And we are going to make a real difference in people’s lives!

Look at what’s happening to young people today.

New grads are leaving school with a good education. But they’re facing a mountain of student loans.

How does a person start out with 20, 30, 40 thousand dollars in debt? 

And why on earth should the provincial government be adding to that load with interest fees on those loans?

Government isn’t a credit card company. Government isn’t a predatory lender. Government should not be making profits off student debt!

So let’s change that! 

Let’s get rid of the interest on student loans, for a start. Because young people should start out on a ladder of opportunity, not digging a life of debt.

And let’s do a lot more to help.

Let’s expand paid co-ops and work experience, to give students a foot in the door.

And let’s remember that education is a right, not a privilege! That value is as important in our colleges and universities, as it is to our public schools.

That’s why we want to win!

We want to give every young person a real future, no matter who they are and no matter how much their parents earn. Because the next generation is worth the fight! 

To live up to the promise of Ontario

To give people hope that the future will be better

We have to give young people a better start in life!

And we have to start rebuilding our public services, too!

We want hospitals that lead the world in new cures.

Nursing homes that provide great care because they’re no longer short-staffed.

And stronger public, not-for-profit home care, where the care that our aging parents get, is more important than the profits some company makes.

We want to reinvest in our cities

reinvest in affordable housing 

And see clean and reliable transit – that doesn’t take decades to deliver!

And to do all that, to build great public services, we need to raise new revenue. And we need to do it in the most progressive way we can!

As New Democrats, we’ve always believed in universal services and progressive taxes. 

We’ve always thought that wealthy CEOs should pay more than struggling workers.

We’ve always thought that health care should be funded through income and corporate taxes, not user fees on the ill and the elderly…

And we’ve always believed we should eliminate homelessness and poverty before giving corporate tax cuts to billion-dollar companies!

Nos priorités sont claires !

Nos priorités mettent les gens en premier !

But for two long decades, provincial governments have worked to cut revenue and impose regressive flat taxes that hurt the most vulnerable.

Ever since Mike Harris and the Conservatives started downloading costs onto the backs of our cities, Liberals and Conservatives alike have tried to tell us that user fees are the only option we’ve got left.

And the City of Toronto is grappling with the fall-out right now.

The city needs new funding for transit. The Mayor and Councillors are absolutely right about that. 

And people see the need every day.

Taking Line 2 on the Bloor-Danforth shouldn’t leave you with heat stroke in the summer, because there’s no money for air conditioning.

Bus service shouldn’t be cut back in East York.

And it should not take two hours just to get from Malvern to downtown. Yet people in Scarborough are forced to do it every single day.

Toronto needs more transit funding from the province.  

All of our communities do.

But instead of stepping up, Kathleen Wynne is content to let transit riders bear the brunt.

Remember, this is the same Liberal government that cancelled the Ontario Northlander train

This is the same Liberal government that cancelled funding for new buses in all of our communities…

And this is the same Liberal government that keeps building P3 projects just to help Liberal friends profit off our public transit!

After twenty years of bad decisions by Liberals and Conservatives -  today, the TTC is the only major transit agency in North America and Europe that has to fund its ‎transit operations alone, solely through municipal property taxes and transit fares.

In other places, like New York, the State provides 3 billion dollars every year for transit operations in New York City and other municipalities. 

But here at home, that crucial investment in day-to-day transit has been abandoned by the provincial government. 

Transit riders feel the pain.

The cost of a Metropass has doubled since Mike Harris was in office. It jumped almost 5 dollars this month.

And cash fares have also jumped by more than 60 percent since the Conservatives downloaded the costs onto riders.

That’s the real story of transit in Ontario.

And now, just as transit fares keep going up, the City is looking to introduce a new user fee on some of our roads.

I absolutely understand why some of the leading progressives in this city – people I have a lot of respect for – have supported the call for road tolls.

I get it.

And I don’t blame them one bit.

They find themselves between a rock and a hard-place. Because Toronto has been trapped in an impossible position by successive Liberal and Conservative governments who are perfectly fine with downloading costs onto residents.

We have to change that. 

We have to find progressive answers.

So, rather than forcing our cities to increase user fees – Whether that’s user fees for transit riders or drivers – Let’s get the province to step up and do its job.

Let’s do the progressive thing and reverse Liberal and Conservative cuts to transit funding!

Let’s elect an NDP government and restore provincial funding for transit operations in this great city! And across this province!

 Under our plan, the City of Toronto with get at least 330 million new dollars every year to improve TTC service.

And instead of more Liberal photo-ops and broken promises for transit that never arrives…

Riders will see immediate results that make it easier to get to work and get home again. 

Most importantly, under our plan, every dollar will come from asking the wealthiest corporations and individuals to pay their fair share for our public services.

We will be the partner that transit riders need! And the partner that the City of Toronto deserves!

Sisters and brothers, there are so many reasons why we’re working to win the next election. From hydro, to health care, to transit.

But above all else, we want Ontario to lead on the biggest challenges we face.

Ontario can be a leader for progressive change.

We have everything it takes. We just need the bold vision and the political will to make it happen. 

We can work with First Nations communities to make sure people have safe drinking water, proper housing, and decent health care. It’s about time!

We can lead in the fight against climate change… with action that’s effective, transparent, and fair… for low-income folks, Northerners, and rural Ontario.

And, sisters and brothers, we can lead in the fight to reverse the growing gaps between the people at the top – and the people who do the hard work! 

The explosion of low-paying, part-time, insecure work is fueling the growth of income inequality.

We all see it. In our own lives. And in the lives of our children.

Jobs that used to bring security…

Jobs that used to bring benefits…

Jobs that used to reward hard-work…

have been replaced with low wages, no benefits, no sick days, and no security.

Of course, the economy has changed. But that’s not a reason to give up the gains that workers have won.

That’s not a reason to give up on our belief that workers should see the benefits of their hard work!

Now, more than ever, we need a government that fights for good jobs. And that’s exactly what New Democrats are doing!

We’re fighting for a 15 dollar minimum wage!

We’re standing up with temp workers and contract workers and part-time workers who deserve a government on their side.

We’re going to deliver card-certification and first-contract arbitration! We’re going to make it easier to join a union and join the middle class!

And at a time when right-wing parties and right-wing leaders think they can get away with anything…

let’s build on the example that Hillary and Bernie set south of the border…

let’s never surrender one inch to the right-wingers…

and let’s prove that it is social democrats and it is progressives who have the bold solutions that will make life better for millions of people!

Sisters and brothers, over the next 17 months, let’s never lose sight of that.

Let’s never lose sight of the future we’re working to build.

Let’s remember, every day, why we’re knocking on doors. 

As you organize in your ridings, 

as you nominate your candidates and ramp up your local campaigns,

as you reach out to young people and progressives, 

Let’s all remember what June 7th, 2018 is really all about.

It’s about higher wages and real benefits for workers.

It’s about a better start for young people. 

It’s about standing up for the health care that families need! And the schools our children deserve!

It’s about real reconciliation with First Nations peoples. And real action to fight climate change. 

And it’s about the right for workers to stand together. And the right for working people to join the middle class and build a better future for all of our children!

This is our vision!

This is the bold change that Ontario needs.

And, together, New Democrats, let’s make it happen! 

Thank-you very much. Merci beaucoup !