Andrea Horwath's Speech to Provincial Council May 28, 2016

Thank-you very much, Mary-Rita.

Bonjour mes amis! Hello New Democrats!

It’s great to see you all again!

We have a busy weekend ahead of us.

Important meetings here at Council. 

And, tomorrow, the J.S. Woodsworth Awards to honour leaders in our communities who are standing up for human rights and for greater equity in this province.

I want to thank the Ethno-Racial Equity Committee and everyone who’s been part of organizing that event tomorrow. And I hope to see many of you there.

 

Because the values of the people we’ll be honouring…

… The values of everyone who is a part of the struggle against racism and discrimination…

… Are the values at the very heart of what this party stands for.

In one way or another, it’s those values that have drawn all of us into the NDP.

From shop stewards and leaders in locals…

To community organizers…

To activists working for the rights of women, or challenging homophobia, transphobia, and ableism…

This is the work that’s led so many of us into this party. Because standing up for people is what this party is all about! 

We are New Democrats. And we happen to believe that governments should actually work for people!

We believe that governments should make life better for working families!

We believe in a more just, more caring, and much more sustainable future. Where no one is left behind.

And that’s exactly why we’re working so hard to elect an NDP government in 2018!

We want to make life better. That’s what we’re all about. And that’s what our MPPs were elected to do. 

Can I get our MPPs to stand? Let’s see who’s here bright and early! 

When you look around this province, you see why our work is so important.

Today, in Ontario, we’ve got a problem.

Families are working hard, but they’re falling further behind.

We see moms and dads who’ve been forced to pick up another job to cover the bills…

… And young people who cannot get the opportunities they need.

At the very same time, our children’s schools and our local hospitals are facing cuts year after year.

Our public services are being chipped away.

And people, quite frankly, are being left to fend for themselves, by their own government. 

Instead of protecting the public services that people need, the Premier is focused on protecting the Liberal Party.

Instead of stopping the cuts to our hospitals and schools, the Premier keeps the combined corporate tax rate lower than the state of Alabama’s!

Instead of raising wages for the lowest-paid workers, the Premier is selling off Hydro One and padding the profits of investors on Bay Street!

On Tuesday, Hydro One is holding its shareholders’ meeting at the MaRS building. 

And we’ll be there!

I’ll be there with members of the Keep Hydro Public coalition. And we’re going to, say, loud and clear, Hydro One Belongs to Us!

The people of Ontario should be the owners of Hydro One!

And we’re going to keep up the fight to stop any further sell-off of our hydro!

But here’s the bottom line.

Today, in Ontario, we have a Premier who’s making the wrong choices.

Her decisions are making life harder, for hard-working families.

And that’s not how it’s supposed to work!

We can do so much better, in this province.

We have everything it takes to lift people up. To build a better life. And to build a better future for all of us.

Earlier this month, the BBC, over in the UK, declared this city – Toronto – to be the most diverse city in the world.

Not London, not New York, not Rio. But this city, right here.

This is a province that welcomes the world. And holds the promise of a better life for so many people.

The promise of Ontario is not about who can squeeze the most out of the government for their own friends.

The promise of this province is about what We can achieve, together, with such dynamic, vibrant, and incredibly diverse communities.

What can we do for each other?

What can we do together?

What kind of future can we build?

Those are the questions that we are called to answer.

And today I want to talk about what a better future will look like…

For workers. 

For patients. 

For families.

And I want to talk about how we’re going to get there. 

Let’s start with the economy.

We all know that the nature of work has changed over the past few decades. That’s true.

New technology has made it possible to do some jobs from anywhere in the world. And for some people, frankly, it works. 

They have new opportunities to create, innovate, and share ideas with people around the world.

That’s exciting.

But the underbelly of the new economy is that far more people are losing the security, the rights, and the benefits that workers have fought long and hard to achieve.

Low-paying, part-time work is steadily replacing good jobs…

… The kind of jobs that come with a decent paycheque, decent benefits, a pension, and a union to stand up for the rights of workers. That’s what a good job means!

Right here in the GTA, half of all workers do not have a full-time job with benefits.

And since 2003… the same year the Liberals came to office… the percentage of workers earning minimum wage has more than doubled.

One in ten workers is earning a minimum wage that keeps their families living in poverty.

That’s the truth.

And the question today is not whether that’s a problem. We know it is.

The question is not whether the government can help. We know it can.

The question is whether anyone has the political will to step up and stand up for hard-working Ontarians and the most vulnerable among us.

And let me tell you…

The answer from New Democrats is, Yes! We. Are. Ready!

We are ready to lead!

We are ready to raise the floor for every worker!

And we are ready to raise the minimum wage to 15 dollars an hour!

Just think what it will mean for people.

It’s the difference between a child going to school hungry every morning… or having breakfast on the table.

It’s the difference between a young worker living in their parents’ basement… or being able to move out and start their life.

It’s the difference between a family getting an eviction notice… or being able to keep a roof over their head.

It’s the difference between a single mom having to go to the food bank… or being able to buy good fresh food like every mother in this province should be able to do!

A 15 dollar minimum wage… Will. Change. Lives. For the better.

We just need a government that will get the job done!

And that’s just the start. It doesn’t stop there. It doesn’t stop with a better wage.

Every worker needs decent benefits. 

Every worker needs the right to take a sick day.

Every worker needs fair scheduling – so people can actually plan their lives.

Every worker needs the ability to take a day off!

Every worker needs the right to speak out against violence on the job – and not lose their job! People need to be safe at work!

Every worker needs the right to join a union and to get a first contract free from intimidation and harassment! 

These are rights that unions have fought for!

These are rights that should belong to every worker! No matter what you do. No matter whether you have a union or not. 

These are rights that aren’t an option. They are a necessity! 

And it’s time for a government that will stand up for the rights that workers deserve!

That’s what we need to rebuild the middle class. And to make sure the economy works, for the people who do the work.

We can build a better future.

And let’s think about what that will mean when it comes to health care.

No matter who you are, where you live, or how much money you make, everyone should have health care you can count on.

Votre santé doit toujours être une priorité absolue.

But, today, in Ontario it’s back to the future. People waiting on stretchers and being treated in hospital hallways because there aren’t any available beds.

And at the very same time, hundreds of hospital workers are being laid-off.

Beds are actually being closed.

Services are being cut and contracted-out to private clinics.

And we know where this leads because we’ve seen it all before in the Harris years.

Patients end up paying the price. 

In London, a few weeks ago, I met Jeff, an active guy in his early 60s. A guy who loves sports and works full-time.

He’s been waiting for a hip replacement for two years.

Now, he’s being told to wait another 15 months.

When I met him, he had a big smile on his face. But he had a cane in his hand.

After two years of waiting, this man can hardly walk. Forget about playing sports.

This is what cuts to health care look like.

Health care is the silent crisis of the Wynne government.

And, frankly, it’s time for us to do something about it.

It’s time to put what’s best for patients, like Jeff, back at the heart of our health care system. 

And that’s exactly what we’re going to do.

This month, we’ve made two important announcements on health care.

The first was this.

For four straight years, the Liberals have frozen hospital base funding. And this year, it’s increasing by just one percent.

That’s a recipe for another year of deep cuts.

On ne peut pas améliorer la santé en amputant les budgets des hôpitaux.

At the very least, at the bare minimum, base hospital funding should be keeping up with inflation and population growth. Each and every year.

And here’s why I say – and this is important – it’s just the bare minimum.

Hospital costs are rising very fast.

And to stop the cuts and actually restore services, many hospitals will require even higher funding levels. That’s absolutely the case.

So let me be clear…

New Democrats are committed to doing whatever it takes to stop the cuts to our hospitals.

We are not going to stand by and watch as the Liberals keep on cutting!

We are not going to watch as they pick away at universal health care!

We are going to stand up - For our hospitals! And for everyone who needs health care in Ontario!

It’s time to put people first – for a change!

Now, here’s the second piece.

The Liberals have laid off thousands of nurses and frontline health care workers over the past few years.

And every time a hospital worker gets a layoff notice, what the Liberals are saying is that that worker’s job is not important.

I could not disagree more!

So, to mark Nursing Week at the beginning of May, New Democrats called for a moratorium on any further cuts to nurses in this province – RPNs, RNs, Nurse Practitioners.

It was an important announcement to mark Nursing Week.

But, sisters and brothers, that’s not where we’re going to stop!

If you work in a hospital… 

No matter what you do, I know you do vitally important work.

And your job should not be on the line!

That’s why we are standing up and saying, Stop the cuts to our hospitals! And stop the layoffs of our health care workers!

Il faut mettre fin aux coupures à nos hôpitaux.

Il faut y mettre fin maintenant.

This is the difference between the Liberals and us.

We stand on the side of patients and their families!

We stand up for the people of Ontario!

And we will always stand up for universal public health care! 

This is the difference.

In so many ways, you see the difference between where the Liberals are taking this province…

… and our vision of a better future, where no one is left behind.

Not just on health care. But across the board.

And does anyone really believe that Patrick Brown and the Conservatives are the people to fix our health care system? 

Does anyone really believe that the Conservatives will make workplaces fairer, wages higher and protect the rights of workers to join a union?

Does anyone really believe that the Conservatives will stop the privatization of Hydro One, public services or our health care system?

Of course not!

New Democrats have a vision for a better future…

A future where young moms and dads do not wait for public child care. It’s there when they need it! 

A future where communities aren’t forced to close their schools. Where every child has the right classroom supports. And where no child grows up in poverty.

A future where the needs of the North are actually met! And big cities like Toronto and London, and smaller communities too, get the transit they need! 

Where the quality of our public services always comes ahead of bigger profits and lower taxes for the wealthiest corporations!

A future where every First Nations community has clean drinking water and access to health care!

That’s what we believe in!

A future where we fight systemic discrimination, not with words alone, but with real action! Because that’s what it takes!

A future where we do more to protect our fresh air and clean water, and take action on the greatest global challenge of our age – the fight against climate change. Because it’s time to cut emissions, not just talk about it!

This is the future we’re working for.

And over the next two years, we need to work even harder to make it happen!

We are fighting to win in 2018!

Our vision of a better future is riding on it. 

And our work starts right now.

There’s a by-election coming up in Scarborough-Rouge River.

And on Thursday night, we nominated a candidate you know well.

Our former party President and the current school trustee for north Scarborough, Neethan Shan, will be our phenomenal candidate.

But, let me say, this won’t be easy.

It was a close three-way race last time. And it will likely be a close three-way race this time…

The only difference is that, when the votes are counted, we will elect a brand new NDP member to the Ontario Legislature!

But to make it happen, we’ve got to hit the ground running.

We’ve got to show up. And do the work.

We’ve done it before! And we can do it again!

There’s a place called Kitchener-Waterloo, which thanks to your hard work, has an MPP named Catherine Fife!

And there’s a place called London West, with an MPP by the name of Peggy Sattler!

You know where I’m going with this!

We’ve done it in Windsor-Tecumseh with Percy Hatfield! And Niagara Falls with Wayne Gates!

And let’s go back further!

We’ve done it in Parkdale-High Park! With Cheri DiNovo!

And, yes, in 2004, we won a by-election in Hamilton – and that’s how I got my start!

We’ve done it before! So let’s do it again!

And, every step of the way, let’s remember what we’re fighting for.

Let’s never lose sight of our vision for a better future.

Let’s hit the doorsteps in Scarborough…

… Let’s send Kathleen Wynne a message that she cannot ignore the people of Ontario!...

… And together, let’s elect the next New Democrat MPP and grow our team right here in Toronto!

Block-by-block, door-by-door, step-by-step. 

That’s how change has always happened. That’s what organizing always takes!

In Scarborough. And in every community across Ontario.

We need to reach out.

We need to reach out to our friends, our neighbours, our co-workers…

 … To people who share our values, even if they’ve never voted for us before…

… To people who believe in the promise that this province holds.

Let’s invite them to join us. Let’s bring them into the fold. And together let’s deliver the change this province is waiting for!

Merci beaucoup. Meegwetch. Thank-you very much!