Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath's speech to Provincial Council — November 5, 2016

Bonjour mes amis!

Good morning New Democrats! It’s so good to see you all!

Thank-you for being here.

Je vous remercie de votre présence aujourd’hui.

There is no one more devoted to our values or more committed to our vision of social democracy than the people who are here, bright and early, on a Saturday morning!

The work we do at Provincial Council makes it possible for all of us – and our members and supporters – to do the most important things: like knocking on doors, organizing campaigns, and electing strong New Democrats!

And I have to say, right now, our members and activists in west Niagara and Ottawa are hard at work.

We have two by-election campaigns underway. Two by-election campaigns that come just as the Premier’s former Deputy Chief of Staff is facing two charges of alleged bribery for the Sudbury by-election scandal. For those of you who haven’t been following you will be shocked to learn that the OPP now believe Mr. Glenn Thibeault was offered something in exchange for running for the Liberals.

The vote in these two upcoming by-elections is less than two weeks away. Everyone working on those campaigns and working hard to win every vote for our great candidates, Mike Thomas and Claude Bisson, deserve a great big round of applause from all of us this morning.

Today, I want to give you an update on the work that our Caucus is doing. And I want to talk about the kind of change that we need to see, in Ontario today.

But let me start with where we’re at. 

This Monday, November 7th, marks exactly 19 months until Election Day.

In just a year-and-a-half, we’ll be in the middle of our campaign. We’ll be going full throttle!

In just a year-and-a-half, we’ll be taking on Liberals and Conservatives in 122 ridings across the province.

In just a year-and-a-half, we will have a real opportunity to change millions of people’s lives for the better.

And we have to meet that challenge. Because people are counting on us.

You know, it goes without saying that, we live in an incredible province. A place that so many people, from so many corners of the world have chosen to call home.

And we know what makes Ontario strong.

We know what makes this place vibrant.

We know what gives this province so much potential.

When the people who live here are able to work hard, see the rewards of that work, and find the opportunities that they need, our province grows stronger.

When young people can get the education and the skills they need and put their talents to great use, Ontario grows stronger.

When everyone who does a fair day’s work actually gets a fair day’s pay, Ontario grows stronger!

When ordinary people are able to lift their families up and actually join the middle class, our province grows even stronger!

And when workers can join together, speak up together, and bargain together for a better deal, it’s not just those workers and their families who are better off — We are all better off!

It is the people of Ontario who make this province strong. Vibrant. And incredibly diverse.

And it’s up to us to do everything we can to help make life better. To take down the barriers that stand in people’s way. And to make sure that the next generation of Ontarians can build a great future, right here at home. A future where no one is left behind!

And that’s exactly why it’s so troubling to see what’s happening today.

The truth is, for a lot of people, it’s getting harder to live here and build a good life.

Costs keep going up. Hydro. Auto insurance. Rent, especially here in Toronto.

But, at the same time, wages are flat for a lot of workers.

A lot of people are struggling.

Even more people are worried that their kids won’t be able to afford to live here.

And it’s true. It’s especially hard for young people today.

Youth unemployment is stuck in the double digits.

People who do have jobs, are often piecing together part-time work. Without proper pay. Without decent benefits. Without the real opportunities they need.

A lot of young families are in the same boat. Struggling to pay off student debt. And struggling to find the affordable, licensed, public child care that their children need.

And at the very same time, we see our public services like our local hospitals and our children’s schools facing the deepest cuts since the Conservatives were in office, and in some cases deeper.

We are at a tipping point.

For so many of our neighbours, our friends, our coworkers, for so many of the people that New Democrats work for, we have reached a tipping point in Ontario.

And if we don’t make some bold changes soon, we won’t be able to give our kids the future that we know is possible.

Il nous faut des changements audacieux.

Il nous faut des changements progressistes.

Il nous faut aider les gens.

A few weeks ago, I met Hannah. She’s a single mom living in Hamilton.

And like every mom in this province, she wants the best for her children.

She makes so many sacrifices. That’s what every parent does.

Three-and-a-half years ago, when Hannah and her sons moved into their basement apartment, she was paying $60 a month for hydro. She could manage that.

But, now, her latest hydro bill is $324!

And here’s the worst part.

To pay that hydro bill every month, Hannah is being forced to take the money that she used to set aside for her sons’ education. And she uses that money to pay for hydro.

No mother in Ontario should have to do that.

No parent should have to shortchange their own children’s future just to pay the bills.

I wish Hannah’s story was unique. But it’s not.

I’m hearing it every week.

People are struggling.

Seniors in rural communities are being disconnected. Energy poverty is a real thing that’s happening today, behind closed doors, behind drawn curtains, in places we don’t always see it.

And people are at a loss.

Because the current Premier should be doing everything she can to help.

She should be working night and day to lower hydro bills. For families. For seniors. For manufacturers and small businesses, too.

But what’s the Premier up to? What’s Premier Wynne’s priority?

She’s selling off Hydro One!

She’s privatizing our public hydro!

And she’s making the problems even worse!

Nobody voted for that!

Nobody voted to sell-off Hydro One and send hydro bills through the roof!

Nobody voted to sell off our public assets or cut our public services!

Nobody voted for that!

People have been let down. Because Premier Wynne is not the Leader she said she’d be.

And I hear the disappointment in people’s voices, especially here in downtown Toronto – and in Kenora, Cambridge, London, Ottawa, right across Ontario.

But let me say this: Patrick Brown sure isn’t the answer!

Patrick Brown doesn’t offer the hope and security that Ontarians need.

Does anyone really believe Patrick Brown will stop the sell-off of Hydro One?

Of course not! It was the Conservatives who started privatizing our power system!

Does anyone really believe Patrick Brown will protect public health care? Or stop the Liberal cuts to our hospitals?

Does anyone really believe Patrick Brown will fix our schools?

Does anyone really believe Patrick Brown will do anything to help low-wage workers? Or address the explosion of precarious work?

Does anyone really believe Patrick Brown will ever stand with working people and make it easier to join a union?

Not a chance!

Patrick Brown sat with Stephen Harper in Ottawa for 10 long years. He sat there while the Conservatives made it harder for workers to join together and bargain together and stand up for workers’ rights.

And if he gets the chance, we know what Patrick Brown will do here in Ontario.

He will cut and privatize our public services. Because that’s what Conservatives always do!

At the end of the day, either way, with Kathleen Wynne or Patrick Brown — with the Liberals or the Conservatives — the people at the top get ahead! And everyone else pays the price.

It’s time for change.

It’s time for big, bold and progressive change.

It’s time to do things differently.

It’s time to make a real difference in people’s lives. And take action on the biggest challenges we face. From the growing costs of everyday life, to growing income inequality.

These are the challenges we face.

From the fight to protect our environment and our fresh water, and do so much more to tackle climate change. To the crisis in affordable housing in our communities and the need for a stronger public health care system that doesn’t let people fall through the cracks.

These are challenges we must solve!

From the needs of First Nations communities, which have been ignored for so many generations, and the systemic racism and discrimination that hurts too many people in our province, to the urgent need to give every family more security today and far more opportunities tomorrow.

These are the challenges in Ontario today. And New Democrats are ready to Take. Them. On!

Nous allons travailler pour les gens!

We are going to lift wages! And improve the quality of work!

We are going to stand up to injustice. And inequality. And discrimination!

And we are going to fight to make decisions that actually help people today – and help the next generation!

New Democrats are different.

We believe that government can work for people. And what a change that’ll be!

Let me talk about the realities of work today – and what we’re going to do to help.

Yes, the nature of work is changing.

But I don’t accept that the stability, the security, and the rewards that come with working have to disappear.

It certainly doesn’t mean we give up the rights that workers and unions have struggled to win!

Here in Ontario, we don’t have to accept that people should be working hard, but living below the poverty line.

We don’t have to accept that people should be working full-time hours, but still can’t afford a safe place to live.

We don’t have to accept that anyone working two or three part-time jobs, to make ends meet, still can’t put breakfast on the table for their kids.

We can do better in Ontario.

And that’s why New Democrats are fighting so hard for real solutions that will make a difference in people’s lives.

Real solutions that will give people hope. And prove that there’s reason, again, to be optimistic about our future.

That’s why we’re working with activists and with labour. We’re organizing in our communities and we’re ratcheting up the pressure on the Liberals.

We are determined to raise the minimum wage to 15 dollars an hour!

I say to Chris Buckley and the OFL: The “Make It Fair” Campaign has a great friend and ally in the Ontario NDP!

And if Premier Wynne won’t do it, if she won’t raise the minimum wage to 15 dollars an hour, then in nineteen months Ontarians will be able to elect a new government that will!

We will deliver a pay raise to hundreds of thousands of the lowest-paid workers.

In our fast food restaurants.

In our hotels.

In our retail outlets.

We can give those workers hope for a better future.

We can give those hard-working women and men the raise that they deserve!

But we can’t stop there.

We need to do more when it comes to improving the quality of work, not just pay.

We can’t accept that predatory temp agencies can take advantage of vulnerable workers with impunity.

We can’t accept that so many new jobs should leave people without benefits and without security.

We can’t accept that for millions of workers and their kids, filling a prescription or going to the dentist to fix a toothache, means reaching for their credit card – and going deep into debt.

It’s no coincidence that, as the quality of work has deteriorated, and as we’ve seen an explosion of low-paying, part-time jobs, we’ve also seen the rate of unionization drop, particularly in the private sector.

That’s no surprise. And that’s something we can change!

If we want to build a stronger middle class — And we do!

If we want to lift families up and give them security again — And we do!

Then we have to make it possible for every worker to join a union and get a first contract!

Unions are the best ticket into the middle class.

So, today, we need to make it easier for young workers, struggling workers, part-time workers, contract workers, workers across the board, to join a union and see the benefits of joining the middle class!

That’s why New Democrats are fighting hard to win card-check certification and first-contract arbitration for every worker in Ontario!

That’s the right thing to do!

That’s what change looks like!

And that’s what New Democrats are going to deliver!

Frankly, we need that same kind of positive change when it comes to the fight that’s closest to our heart: The fight against injustice, inequality, and discrimination, no matter what form they take.

Taking on precarious work is part of that same fight, too.

But the fact is, too many people in Ontario today still face barriers that stand in their way. Just because of who they are. Or what they look like. Or what faith they practice.

And that’s not who we are, as Ontarians.

Il n'y a pas de place pour le racisme.

Il n'y a pas de place pour la discrimination.

Il n'y a pas de place pour l'inégalité en Ontario.

Over the past year, New Democrats have been doing important work – with leaders and activists – to stop arbitrary police street checks and carding.

We’ve worked hard – with members of the community – to re-open Ontario’s Anti-Racism Directorate. And we need to see real results from that office’s work.

And this fall, I’m incredibly proud of the work we’re doing to reach out to members of the Muslim community. And let them know that New Democrats stand with them against Islamophobia.

We put forward a Bill this fall to officially recognize October as Islamic Heritage Month – and to celebrate the incredible contributions that Muslim Ontarians are making to our province.

I want to thank everyone in the room who’s been part of reaching out to your local Muslim communities, to mosques, and organizations in your ridings.

We have to keep doing that work:

Reaching out to people who need us on their side.
Reaching out and sharing our values of social justice.
Reaching out and standing up together, against discrimination.
Reaching out and standing up together, for a future where people have opportunity – no matter what.

That’s who we are as New Democrats.

And those values need to be at the heart of the next government of Ontario.

All of our work comes down to this.

We can do so much better in Ontario.

We can take better care of each other.

We can make better choices for our future.

We can give families more security. And give our young people the opportunities they need.

That’s what we’re fighting for.

We are driven to make sure that the next generation has a real future, right here in Ontario.

And we’re just getting started!

Yes, we will continue to hold the Liberals to account.

But our job over the next nineteen months will focus on the bold change we will bring. Because we need to inspire hope and restore optimism in the future of this great province.

As we work this fall for an Ontario Water Strategy to protect our fresh water… remember that’s just the start! That’s just the start of what we’re going to do to protect our fresh water, our clean air, our land – and fight climate change with real action that works!

As we work this fall on lifting the interest off student loans and giving relief to young people across Ontario… remember that’s just the start! That’s just the start of what we’re going to do to tackle the debt crisis that young people face.

As we work to stop the cuts inside our hospitals, that’s just the start of what we’re going to do to build a universal public health care system for the next generation! A public health care system that includes home care and prescription drugs!

As we work to improve oversight in long-term care and restore minimum standards of care for every resident, remember that’s just the start of what we’ll do to help seniors live with the comfort and dignity they deserve!

As we work to stop the sell-off of Hydro One, that’s just the very start of what we’ll do to build an energy system that puts people first!

We have what it takes in Ontario to build a better future.

Where rural and Northern communities have the services that people need.

Where every First Nation community has clean drinking water!

And where people can find safe and affordable housing, even right here in downtown Toronto!

A future where every job brings stability and security.

Where every worker can join a union and lift their family up

And where every young person can see a future for themselves right here in Ontario!

We are working for families today and for generations to come.

We are working for our vision of a better future … a future of hope and optimism.

And, New Democrats, we have just nineteen months to make it happen!

But I promise you this … our Caucus is ready, I am ready and with your help we will make it happen.

Thank-you very much. Merci beaucoup!