Speaking notes for the Honourable Denis Lebel, Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities to the Toronto Board of Trade
September 22, 2011
Thank you very much. Good morning everyone.
I'd like to begin by thanking you for the invitation to speak with you today. It's a pleasure to be here.
I know that when my predecessor, Minister Strahl, was here in March, he spoke about the state of the economy, our past and ongoing successes working in partnership, and the investments that our Government is making to ensure a healthy and thriving environment for business.
I can confidently state that these are still priorities for my portfolio and for our Government. We know that consistency is important. Stability is important. And maintaining this steady course is important now, more than ever.
THE CURRENT ECONOMIC SITUATION
Where we've been
As you know, the global economy has been in a state of flux for some time. In 2009, in response to the worsening economy, Canada needed a shot in the arm, and we introduced Canada's Economic Action Plan. This Plan was about getting money out the door quickly, to boost the economy during a difficult time, and to get Canadians working.
Under the Economic Action Plan, we not only introduced new funds for infrastructure, we also accelerated existing funds under the $33-billion Building Canada Plan that were announced in 2007. This acceleration allowed our partners to access funding sooner and speed up construction on their infrastructure priorities.
We have kept taxes low and created smart tax laws. As you may have heard Minister Flaherty say before, in 2006, the federal base corporate tax rate was 22.5 percent. It is now 16.5 percent. On January 1st, it will be 15 percent. And with Ontario reducing its corporate tax rate to 10 percent in 2013, we will soon have a basic combined federal-provincial tax rate of just 25 percent.
We've reduced tariffs to support businesses. By eliminating tariffs on over 1,500 items we have helped manufacturers to purchase new equipment and lower their production costs. Our approach places Canada as the leader in the G20 nations in terms of becoming a tariff-free region for manufacturers. And of course, we have eliminated capital taxes and provided incentives for provinces to get rid of their capital taxes too.
The health of Canada's financial sector is also important to us. Their strong performance is based not only on good risk management, but on having the right regulatory and supervisory framework.
And it worked. All of these actions have helped to ensure economic stability in Canada, and to create a stable environment for businesses. They have helped to create jobs and boost the economy.
As the government has emphasized repeatedly for some time now, we are in a period where the global economic recovery – especially in the US and Europe – is fragile and growth will be modest.
While Canada's economic recovery remains fragile, our Government is squarely focused on the economy.
Almost 600,000 more Canadians are working today than when the recession ended in July 2009. We are the only G7 country that has regained more than all of the output and the jobs lost during the downturn. Both the IMF and OECD forecast that our economy will be among the strongest in the G-7 this year and next. And recently, Moody's renewed Canada's triple-AAA credit rating based on Canada's "economic resiliency, very high government financial strength, and a low susceptibility to event risk.
"Where we are now, and the next phases"
Looking to the future, we're taking steps to protect our recovery. We are creating the conditions that will lead to more long-term jobs and stronger economic growth. We're looking to save money by achieving efficiencies and improving the effectiveness of our spending through a deficit reduction action plan.
Our plan has the government returning to a balanced budget by 2014-15… a year sooner than previously planned.
As a trading nation, it's important that our trading partners and investors have confidence in Canada's ability to weather the difficulties. Through balanced budgets and controlled spending, we will ensure that we maintain our strong fiscal position. We will help bolster confidence and growth in Canada.
At the same time, the Government of Canada has also pledged to develop a long-term plan for public infrastructure beyond the life of the Building Canada Plan in 2014.
In developing this plan, we are taking stock of our past accomplishments, and working together with provinces, municipalities and other stakeholders. Together, we will identify the priorities and key challenges that need to be addressed. We will also determine the actions we can take together to meet them.
All this important work will require partnership.
IMPORTANCE OF PARTNERSHIP, AND RESULTS FOR THE GREATER TORONTO AREA
Toronto's Importance to the Canadian Economy
And when I talk about partnership, I also mean effective partnership with the business community. As leaders in Toronto's business sector, you know better than anyone that the GTA plays heavily in the health of Canada's economy.
And our Government has made significant investments in the infrastructure that is required to support your work, and the quality of life for the people who live here.
How We've Achieved Results Through Partnership
Working in partnership, our government is investing in transportation infrastructure across Canada to support the movement of goods to market, and people to their jobs.
Here in the GTA, that partnership with Ontario and municipalities means major investment in the highways, roads and transit systems that benefit local families and businesses.
For example, in the last five years alone, we have committed over $1.8 billion to public transit across the GTA, including the extension of the Spadina subway line to Vaughan in York Region. This is the first time that the Toronto subway network will extend outside the city.
Right at your doorstep, we're funding the upgrades to Union Station to rebuild and link the GO Transit concourse at Bay Street to a new concourse at York Street. These changes will increase pedestrian flow along the PATH route, and improve national and regional rail passenger services. This is just one of many public transit investments that we're making in this region.
It's not for the federal government to define the infrastructure needs of urban centres like Toronto. Instead, we rely on our partnerships with the provinces and municipalities to make the investments that are needed by the business community.
As former mayor of Roberval, I know that it takes working together to achieve results. And how important it is to find common ground.
And now, as Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, I have had the chance to see, first hand, how VIA, Metrolinx, the TTC and other GTA transit agencies work together to find efficiencies and enhance productivity. We are pleased to partner with them, too.
WHY OUR WORK HERE IN THE GREATER TORONTO AREA MATTERS NATIONALLY
It Makes Canada More Competitive
Investing in the region matters to Canada, not only because so many Canadians call Toronto their home. As I previously mentioned, the GTA is a key driver of the nation's economy.
And it goes the other way too. Federal transportation investments across the country benefit businesses in the GTA. Targeted investments in strategic infrastructure help drive productivity and competitiveness.
We all recognize that world trade patterns are changing, and Canada's transportation systems and transportation infrastructure must adapt.
That's why we're working with partners across the country to help drive that change through the Gateways and Corridors Strategy.
In the last few years, we have invested in a broad range of transportation infrastructure that supports Canada's gateways and trade corridors in order to strengthen Canada's competitive position in international commerce.
We are partnering with provinces, municipalities and the private sector to make investments that support Canada's trade with Asia-Pacific economies, with Europe, Africa, Asia, South America, and across the United States and Mexico.
- We have provided over $1.4 billion for projects totalling $3.5 billion, through the Asia-Pacific Gateway and Corridor Initiative. We're investing in partnership with all four western provinces, their municipalities and the private sector. These projects are aimed at improving the movement of goods from British Columbia across North America. As important, these investments will also support trade with our key Asia-Pacific trading partners, and help to make this gateway the best trading link to connect Asia with Canada and North America.
- We are contributing $250 million to 20 strategic infrastructure projects valued at more than $600 million through the Atlantic Gateway and Trade Corridor. These projects in the Atlantic provinces will optimize the efficiency and capacity of key highways, airports and seaports.
- And we have begun to make extensive investments through the Ontario-Quebec Continental Gateway and Trade Corridor. Since 2007, over $4 billion has been committed to transportation infrastructure in both provinces to facilitate domestic and international trade. In Quebec, this includes a $15.2-million investment in the modernization of the Port of Montreal. Here in Ontario, Budget 2011 includes a commitment of up to $1 billion to fund half of the capital costs for the Windsor-Essex Parkway that will extend Highway 401 in Windsor to the new international bridge.
- We have invested in the Detroit-Windsor corridor, the busiest commercial land border crossing on the continent, to keep Canadian companies competitive by increasing our capacity for bilateral trade with the United States. With more than 8,000 trucks and 68,000 travellers daily, last year alone it represented $62 billion in trade. Imagine where we can go from here!
I have spoken about our gateways and corridors strategies, but through the Economic Action Plan, we have also enhanced the safety and quality of our waterways and ports. Our ports compete with others in North America for greater shares of global shipping, and federal investments are helping them develop Canada's supply chains and the systems supporting them.
Finally, we're ensuring our transportation network continues to meet the highest standards to ensure that Canada remains competitive globally. We're always looking for new technology and best practices to further improve the safety and security of the transportation system.
The economy is global, our trading networks are global, and so is our transportation network. It connects us not only to the US but to Europe, Africa, Asia and South America. Clearly, it is more important than ever to emphasize competitiveness and efficiencies across the entire transportation network.
To make the systems more efficient and reliable, we're moving beyond physical infrastructure and into competitiveness measures like aligning policies and regulations. We're promoting our advantages for trade and investment that result in a business-friendly environment. We're focusing on innovative policies and frameworks to ensure that gateways and corridors are efficient, reliable and effective. We're focusing on creating more jobs, generating wealth, and contributing to long-term sustainable economic growth.
Looking closer to home, Toronto Pearson's newly released Gateway Strategy aims to develop the airport as a global hub. This strategy is driving a concerted outreach effort at many levels, starting with municipal relations – a critical ingredient in any successful growth strategy.
Toronto is well situated, and has a well-educated, skilled population and a strong commercial base. As Canada's largest airport and one of the largest in North America, Toronto Pearson connects Canadians to the rest of the world. However, it must compete against major hubs such as Chicago and New York to attract airlines. The challenge is to make Toronto Pearson an even bigger draw for business so that the airport, community and Canadians can reap greater economic rewards and connectivity.
Our approach to Canada's transportation system is changing the way we do business in Canada. Through a modern, safe and secure transportation system, we can create the right business conditions. The right investments support commerce, create employment opportunities, and attract skilled knowledge workers.
Our success with Gateways and Corridors, and all of our infrastructure investments, has been based on partnership. More than anything, our success is proof that it's vital to continue to work together with all levels of government and the private sector.
Partnership is not a vague concept. Through partnership, we have achieved real results in tough economic times. And our Government will continue to focus on what we can accomplish together with our partners.
The steps that we are taking to modernize Canada's transportation network are affordable. They are sustainable, they are broad-based, they are structurally sound, and will ensure that Canada remains competitive and an attractive global trading partner.
We will also continue to build on our efforts to create jobs, boost the economy, and get Canada's books back in the black.
In all of these efforts, a key goal is to provide the tools to allow Canadian businesses to be successful, while at the same time protecting the future of Canada's infrastructure and economy. Together with our partners, we will achieve our goals.
Thank you for inviting me to speak to you today. Merci.
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