Speech to Provincial Council June 13, 2015

Good morning!  Thank-you very much.

And thank-you for the work you’ve been doing. In your ridings and for our Party.

We all know that in the world of politics, parties are built, grow stronger and more relevant as a result of years of hard work behind the scenes.

They’re built on the dedication, the commitment, the ideas and the values of our members and our activists the people who give up their weekends to be here, at meetings like this one!

And who do so much hard work for our party and for our province because we share the belief that we can build a better future.

We can build a better tomorrow, where no Ontarian is left behind.

But to get there, we need a better government.

And I truly believe, with the hard work we do over the next three years, we can deliver exactly that – A better government for the people of this province! 

It was a year ago that Kathleen Wynne promised Ontarians they could expect much more from her.  She was a different kind of Liberal.

She promised that her Liberal Party would listen to the people of Ontario.

And on Election Day, many voters gave her their trust.

They gave the Liberals one more chance to change. One more chance to put honesty and integrity back into government.

That’s not too much to expect. It’s not too much to ask for. 

It starts with the simple idea that a government should do what it says. The simple idea that a Premier should keep her word to the people of this province.

And by putting honesty back into government, Kathleen Wynne promised that the Liberal Party would make the right decisions.

To build our province. To grow our economy. And to protect our schools, our hospitals, and what matters most to families.

That’s what many Ontarians trusted the Liberals to deliver.

No one ever gave Kathleen Wynne a blank cheque.

And no one – not a single person – voted for empty promises.

Not a single person voted for Liberal austerity and cuts.

And not a single Ontarian voted for Kathleen Wynne to oversee the greatest transfer of public wealth to private interests in the history of our province.

But that is exactly what Kathleen Wynne is doing.

Just over a week ago, the Liberals pushed their Budget through the Legislature – an omnibus Budget that comes right out of the playbook of Stephen Harper.

And buried in that omnibus Liberal budget, is Kathleen Wynne’s plan to sell off Hydro One.

They used their majority to push it through Queen’s Park…

They’ve ignored every single independent watchdog, including the Ombudsman and the Auditor General, who’ve said that selling off Hydro One and ending public oversight is a terrible idea.

And they’ve ignored the thousands, the tens of thousands, the hundreds of thousands of Ontarians who are speaking up and making their voices heard to stop the sale of our electricity system.

But here’s the little  something that Kathleen Wynne refuses to admit. And that I won’t let her forget.

Hydro One doesn’t belong to the Liberal Party.

It doesn’t belong to Kathleen Wynne.

And it doesn’t belong to her small group of powerful friends and insiders.

Hydro One belongs to the people of Ontario!

And we will not let the Liberals forget that!

Over the past few months, I’ve been attending town hall meetings to listen to what Ontarians have to say. I’ve talked to hundreds of people in small towns and in cities right across our province.

Some people are angry. 

Others are frustrated by a Premier who says one thing but does the opposite. By a Premier who refuses to listen.

But more than that, more than anything else, people are deeply disappointed.

Because Kathleen Wynne never once said she’d sell off Hydro One.

She never once promised to put the backbone of our power system in private hands – and stick families and businesses with even bigger hydro bills at the end of every month.

And she certainly never received a mandate from the people of this province to privatize one of our most important public assets – and let her powerful friends reap the profits.

In fact, the Premier stood in the Legislature in October – months after the last election – and even then she said, quote, “We’re not selling off the assets.”

Those are her words. And Ontarians trusted her to stay true to her words.  She betrayed them.

So, I understand the disappointment I hear in the voices of people across the province.

The Liberals have turned their backs on families. They’ve forgotten who they should be working for.

But let me be clear. This fight isn’t over. The fight to keep Hydro One in public hands has only just begun!

Over the coming weeks and months, we’ll keep talking to Ontarians. We’ll keep knocking on doors. We’ll keep speaking up and demanding a referendum on the sale of Hydro One.

Because our public assets are worth the fight.

Friends, we’re doing it for every senior citizen who lies awake at night, worried sick about how they’ll pay their next hydro bill.

We’re doing it for the women who come up to me to shake my hand, with tears filling their eyes, because they won’t be able to pay their family’s rent if their hydro rates go up any more.

We’re doing it for young parents who are paying for child care and student loans, and simply cannot get ahead if their bills keep increasing.

We’re doing it for the small businesses and manufacturers, who want to keep good local jobs in our communities but can hardly afford to keep the lights on and the machines running.

Yes, it’s about keeping those hydro rates from going through the roof. But it’s also about much more than that.

We are New Democrats. And we believe that public assets should be used to serve the public interest.

We should be able to use Hydro One to make the right choices, the smart choices, like conserving energy and building our green economy.

We don’t want to lose control over our hydro system – and let it slip into private hands, where profit is the only bottom line.

We believe that the returns on our hydro should be used – as they always have been – to support the public investments we need to make. In our schools. In our hospitals. And in our roads and transit.

And, most of all, we believe that Ontarians should have the final say.

The final say must rest with the owners themselves – The people of this province.

No government, no matter how cynical they are, and no Premier, no matter how desperate she is, can take away that basic right of Ontarians to have their say on what happens to Hydro One!

That’s why we are standing up to the Liberals!

We are standing up to keep Hydro One in public hands.

And together we are standing up to hold this Premier accountable for her broken promises and her bad decisions.

That’s the Liberal record on Hydro One.

But it’s the same story when it comes to protecting what matters most, like our schools.

Kathleen Wynne promised not to cut education. She said she wouldn’t do it.

But since she said that, the Liberals have cut 250 million dollars from our schools over the past year – and they still plan to cut half a billion by 2017.

Schools are laying off special education teachers and education assistants because of those Liberal cuts. The very people who  make sure that all of our students have the chance to reach their full potential.

And that’s why the Liberals’ cuts hit at the heart of what publicly-funded education is all about.

Our schools are built on our belief that no matter who you are, no matter where your talents lie and where you need some extra support, our children and young people should have the best start in life – and in the classroom.

But the Liberals are making that promise of quality education  so much harder to deliver to the children of this province.

And on top of that…

… on top of more than a decade of underfunding

… on top of shutting down eighty-eight neighbourhood schools over the past three years and putting thousands of in-school child care spaces at risk

And perhaps worst of all, Kathleen Wynne and the Liberals have sat on the sidelines cheering on any school board in the province willing to turn back the clock on class sizes. 

They are demanding that teachers back down and agree to increased class sizes at the local and provincial bargaining tables.

And thousands of teachers across Ontario are saying no to Kathleen Wynne and her cuts and yes to Ontario students, yes to their families and yes to  quality education.

The Liberals have shown they’re all-too-willing to use back-to-work legislation to cover up their own failures.

That’s the Liberal record in our schools. It’s one of growing chaos and increasing class sizes for our kids.

And for everyone who believes we can do so much better for every parent and grandparent who believes our children deserve better…

… for every Ontarian who trusted Kathleen Wynne to keep her word and to protect our schools…

… that Liberal record is deeply disappointing. 

So I say to Kathleen Wynne, “get to the bargaining table and negotiate a fair deal that respects teachers, respects parents and gives kids their best chance to learn!”

It’s the same story when it comes to protecting our health care and putting patients first.

Today, our hospitals are facing some of the deepest cuts they’ve ever felt.

While hospital costs have been increasing well ahead of inflation, hospital budgets have been frozen for four straight years. And nursing jobs have been cut in Ottawa and Kitchener, in Sudbury and Sarnia, in London and Timmins, in Guelph and the Soo.

And families feel the consequences of those decisions in the moments when we need care the most.

It means longer wait times for ill patients.

Even more worry for their loved ones.

And even more heavy-lifting for the caregivers and health care professionals who are left to do the best job they can in a fragmented system.

Despite all the promises that Kathleen Wynne made, the Liberals are still prepared to let Ontarians pay the price for their cuts to the vital public services we all depend on.

Who would have thought last June that, less than a year later, we’d see nurses on strike to defend their ability to deliver quality home care?

Who would have thought last June that, just a year later, we’d see teachers on strike to defend capped class sizes and quality education for our children?

Who would have thought last June that social assistance recipients – the most vulnerable members of our society – would have their lives turned upside down by a government that couldn’t deliver their cheques on time?

Who would have thought last June that we’d see the Premier of this province selling off our public assets – and stubbornly refusing to let Ontarians have the final say?

Who would have thought that this would be Kathleen Wynne’s record?

It’s disappointing to a lot of people.

And it’s especially disappointing when it comes to tackling the biggest challenges we face today.

 After so many years of waiting for real action to tackle climate change, we’re still waiting for a real plan.

But rather than getting serious about reducing carbon emissions, the Liberals talk a good game – and then celebrate as they launch a dirty diesel train and send it rumbling through Toronto backyards.

After so many years of waiting for real action to reduce and eliminate child poverty in this province, the number of children living in poverty is actually increasing right here in Toronto.

Every month more than one-hundred-and-thirty-thousand children rely on food banks across our province. It’s a disgrace.

After so many years of waiting for action to address homelessness in our communities, the Liberals still have no targets and no timelines to reduce poverty.

Our affordable housing stock is crumbling. Supportive housing units are too few and far between. And this year, in their Budget, the Liberals actually cut funding to tackle poverty

And after so many years of watching the steady increase in precarious jobs and part-time work at the expense of full time, far too many moms and dads – and especially new Ontarians – are stuck working in jobs without protections - Without benefits - Without security - Without a fair wage - And without hope for a better future for their children.

This is the Liberal record.

The Liberals are letting down the people of Ontario.

And Kathleen Wynne’s cuts, her broken promises, and her plan to sell-off our public assets will do absolutely nothing to tackle those challenges – the biggest challenges our province faces.

At the end of the day, it’s clear. The Liberals have not changed.  And no matter what Kathleen Wynne says, she is a Liberal, as unchanged and unremorseful as her party.

Kathleen Wynne is still making decisions that put their powerful friends at the top of the list. Decisions that send the families of this province, our students and our seniors, to the back of the line.

Over the coming months and over the next few years, it’s our job – it’s the job of New Democrats – to hold the Liberals accountable for that record.

It’s the job Ontarians asked us to do. 

But as importantly or perhaps more importantly, it’s also our job to fight for a better future. To provide hope to families that tomorrow can be a better day.

Middle class families work hard and they deserve a government that works as hard as they do to make life a little better.

So many people are so disappointed in Kathleen Wynne because they know we have the potential in this province to do great things – To make life better for families and to tackle the most pressing social and environmental challenges we face.

Every year, we welcome over 100,000 new people who choose to move to our province. That’s like adding a city the size of Thunder Bay each and every year.

And those newcomers are choosing to build their life or their business here in Ontario. They’re choosing to raise their families in our communities. And they’re bringing new energy and diverse experiences to help fuel our province’s potential.

That diversity of experience is one of our greatest strengths. That’s what this province is all about. And it drives us forward each and every day.

But to live up to the true promise and the full potential that our province holds, to ensure that every single family can get ahead and be part of the opportunities we create, we need a government that stands with Ontarians – Not one that turns its back on newcomers, middle class families and struggling Ontarians.

Our next step on that path – the path to delivering a better government for the people of Ontario – is to work as hard as we can this summer and this fall, to do everything we can, to elect Tom Mulcair and our federal team!

Over the next four months, I know we’ll all be out knocking on doors and reaching out to our neighbours to help re-elect our amazing Members of Parliament – and to send even more Ontario New Democrats to Ottawa as part of Canada’s first NDP government!

We’ll be doing our part to make that happen.

Because we’ve seen that change is possible – even in the most surprising places and the most unexpected ways.

They said it couldn’t be done in Quebec.

And they certainly said it couldn’t be done in Alberta! 

But just a few short weeks ago, Albertans elected their first NDP government!

I want to thank those of you who were in Alberta for that campaign, on the doorsteps in Calgary and Edmonton, including our own Deputy Leader Jagmeet Singh. 

We can all imagine it’s never been easy to be a New Democrat in Alberta!

But Rachel Notley and her team worked hard. They ignored everyone who told them it couldn’t be done.

They focused on what really matters. On putting forward a very clear plan to make life better for families.

And Albertans responded to our party, to that vision, in the most inspiring way.

Because when an out-of-touch government turns its back on families, when it ignores the growing needs of a growing province, and when it makes the wrong decisions and forces families to pay the price, that government will lose the trust of voters. It will run out of second chances.

We can all see the same thing happening right here, right now in Ontario.

Kathleen Wynne and the Liberals are losing the trust of voters. And they are out of second chances.

We will be ready.

We will continue to hold the Liberals to account. To stand up for middle class families day in and day out. And to speak up for what really matters.

And by continuing to work hard, by earning the trust of Ontarians, and by putting forward our plan for a better tomorrow, we will replace the Liberals with a better government – The government that Ontarians deserve!

One that truly reflects the families of this province. And that reaches out to make life better for our young people.

A government that stands up for the middle class – and works to make our province more fair and more prosperous for all.

A government that will take on issues like climate change with policies, programs and conviction, not more promises and speeches.

A government that knows the value of our public assets – and always remembers who the real owners are!

That actually values our public services, and respects the women and men who serve on the front lines.

A government that works to make the lives of all Ontarians a little bit better and a little bit easier – and that lives up to our shared responsibilities on the biggest challenges we face today.

That’s the kind of government we need.

That’s what we’re fighting for.

That’s what we can achieve.

Friends, it can be done.