By RON FANFAIR
Investing in young people’s skills and education is the single most important thing the Ontario government can do to ensure the province has a highly competitive workforce, says Premier Dalton McGuinty.
“That’s why we delivered labour peace in our schools, lowered class sizes, added post-secondary spaces and created new programs to better engage students,” McGuinty said at a reception for the ethnic media recently. “All that made a difference. In 2003, 54 per cent of Ontario students met the provincial standard. That means they were earning a “B” average or better. Today, we are 68 per cent. Our plan will get us to 75 per cent.”
McGuinty said the Liberals plan to increase the number of Ontarians with post-secondary education from 63 to 70 per cent.
“No keen and qualified student will be turned away for lack of space on our part or lack of money on theirs,” he promised. “We will make room and we will provide financial support.”
McGuinty however pointed out it’s going to take more that just a smart workforce to be competitive. Healthy workers, he said, sustain and increase production and provide a real competitive edge.
He said his government is building 18 new hospitals and adding more doctors and nurses to the health care system.
“We have gone from zero to 200 family health teams serving 2.3 million patients and we now have nurse practitioner clinics which are another first for North America,” said McGuinty. “Today, 94 per cent of all Ontarians have a family doctor and wait times are coming down.”
As part of the government’s plan to make the province an attractive place to invest, McGuinty said a typical restaurant will pay 67 per cent less in provincial, corporate and sales taxes and the savings for a software publisher and manufacturer will be 58 and 89 per cent respectively.
“In fact, we have cut the cost of new business investment almost in half,” he said. “Our businesses are already responding by leading the country in new investments in equipment and technologies. And that drives jobs which in turn helps families. The first thing we did when we introduced our reforms was to take steps to protect families. That’s why the average Ontario family is getting an income tax cut of $355 this year and every year going forward.”