Oakville has played a key role in building up our quality of life. You know, not that long ago this was still a rural community. There were farms not far from the center of town, but in a few short decades, this place went from buggy whips to automotive assembly lines, from cattle farms to corporate head offices, and even though you are a thriving, thoroughly modern city, you still refer to your home as "The Town of Oakville", and that tells me a couple things about you.

First, that the people of Oakville have deep values, rooted in a strong sense of community.

Second, that the people of this town remember and cherish their history, and in these uncertain times, that can be a great advantage because a sense of our shared past can shed an important light on today's challenges, and looking back, we can see that Ontarians have never allowed any challenge, no matter how great, to get in the way of making progress for our children and our grandchildren.

It's the sacrifice and hard work of those who came before us that made possible, the Ontario that we live in today.

My own roots are in the Ottawa Valley. My family settled there in the 1840's. There were no schools, no healthcare and certainly no government services. It was a hard existence, but my family overcame it, and so did many others. Generation after generation of Ontarians have built up our province with quiet, relentless determination. Anchor by anchor, brick by brick, we have built a better, stronger, more prosperous Ontario, and we have done it though good times and bad.

Over the course of our history, our achievements together have become the envy of the world: strong schools to provide all our kids an with excellent education from JK to PhD; strong, public healthcare to provide all our families with quality care and our businesses with a distinct, economic advantage.

Together, we build roads to move our people and their goods, and information highways to move our ideas and commerce. We built world-beating research institutions and innovative, world-class businesses, and all those tremendous advantages, which have been passed down to us, are the foundation upon which you and I have been building.

Because of our work together during the past five years, we have better schools with higher test scores and graduation rates; better healthcare with more doctors and nurses and shorter wait times; a stronger work force, now with the highest rate of post-secondary education in the western world; a more competitive, business environment with lower taxes; stronger support than ever for research and innovation and massive, continuing investment in infrastructure.

Less tangible, something that has largely gone unremarked but equally important, is another gain we have made: we have reaffirmed the value in Ontario of partnership and the value of working together. Ontarians have always understood, we're in this together, and we're at our very best when we work together.

So, the gains we've made together, my friends, have been real, but let's also be honest about the scale and the scope of the challenge before us. Ontario, like Canada, like the world, is caught in this fierce, global recession. Every sector, every region, every one of us feels this. Ontario families are anxious. Some have been hurt by job losses. This recession is proving to be persistent and powerful, and while we can't do everything, we will do everything we can to help.

That's why we've created thousands of new job re-training opportunities, and it's why there are hundreds of construction projects underway across the province right now, employing thousands and thousands of Ontarians. Right here in Oakville, just around the corner from here, construction is taking place at the QEW and Bronte Road, to help address congestion, and together with the federal government, we're about to build a $30 million parking facility to make it easier for the people of this community to get on the GO.

Now, as important as it is, we need to do more than help Ontarians for today. We also need to build a stronger economy for tomorrow. We want - we deserve - a powerful economy, one that will thrive on globalization; one that will sustain and indeed enhance, our quality of life. Building that economy will take time, a lot of work, and all of us.

Shortly, our budget will take the next major steps towards that powerful economy, but here's a step we're already taking: it's called the Green Energy Act. We're debating it in legislature right now. Here's what our new law will do: it will bring more, renewable energy online. I'm talking about more green power, more solar farms and more wind turbines. Our new law will also help build a culture of conservation, one where we go about our daily lives using less energy, whether it's in our homes, our businesses, our schools or our industrial operations.

Our new law will reduce green house gases that cause climate change, and last and perhaps most importantly, it will create more than 50,000 jobs over the next three years. I'm talking about jobs in manufacturing and assembly, building, service and installation, engineering trucking and in the financial sector. Jobs for electricians, inspectors, architects and people who design computer software and hardware, and jobs for farmers.

A few weeks ago, I visited a dairy farm in Lindsay. Our government is partnering with the farmers there to help build a generator to turn the manure from 600 cows into electricity for 400 homes. I'm sure there's a great joke in there somewhere, just haven't been able to figure it out, but what it means, more than an opportunity for comedy, is it means jobs. More jobs on that farm, and jobs for the people who design, build and operate that new generator, and that's just one example.

We're convinced that thousands of Ontarians want to get in on the act by investing in green energy projects. Our new act will harness all this entrepreneurial energy, and make those investments and those jobs a reality.

Now, here's another reality. Our new Green Energy Act alone won't get us where we need to go - neither will our budget - not on it's own. Getting to where we need to go will take more than government acting alone. It's going to take all of us, businesses, workers and government. None of us can build that powerful Ontario economy on our own, but together, nothing will stop us.

Here are three major challenges we need to face together. First, our businesses need to invest more in themselves. By comparison, the US competition invests 17% more in new productivity enhancing equipment, and their investing one third more in research and development.

Second, we need to build a stronger work force, one that won't be pushed around by globalization. That means more skills and education. Yes, it's true - and I'm very proud of this - we now have the highest rate of post-secondary education in the Western world.

40% of Ontarians have been to college or university or pursued an apprenticeship, but we now know that 70% of our new jobs require post-secondary education. This means, at a minimum our kids - I mean, all our kids - have got to complete high school and go beyond, and did you know that if you complete a degree in the U.S, you are twice as likely as our kids to do your masters, but our kids are just as bright, and our tuition is a lot less expensive!

Now, to the third member of this trimphort: government. What's our responsibility? Well, for one thing, our government needs to do more to make those business investments of which I just spoke, more affordable, and we will, and we need to do more to bulk of the skills and education of our workforce, and we will do that too, but our responsibilities don't end there.

For one thing, we need to admit, in too many instances, government is acting as a break on growth. We move too slowly, and we burden ourselves and our job creators (you, the entrepreneurs), with too much process. This has been the case for a long time now, but in a globalized, "just in time" economy, government sluggishness is more than an irritation, it's turning away investment. It's costing us jobs, and that's why we're doing something about it with our Open for Business Strategy. We're making it easier for you to do what you do best, by making dealing with our government faster and friendlier.

We've already started to move on this, but here are three more changes I'm announcing right now. First, we're creating a new 1-800 number that will give businesses a single point of access to all the government information they need. So, instead of calling our now 12 different phone numbers, people only need to call one.

Second, we're introducing a new single identification number for businesses. Right now, your business could have 14 or more Ontario government I.D business numbers. We're changing that to one I.D number, no matter how many government departments you have to deal with.

Third, we're slimming down the regulatory environment by getting rid of outdated and obsolete rules. Our goal is to reduce the regulatory burden on businesses by 25%, by 2011. As I say, our commitment to Ontarians is to make their government faster and friendlier, and we will never compromise public safety or the environment.

My friends, the time is late, I can hear your stomachs. I want to reassure you, here comes the wind up. This is a time of great challenge for Ontario. This global recession demands the very best from us. That means we need to work together, and we can draw inspiration from the people who came before us. Ontarians have always risen to the challenge of their day. We've never given in, never given up, no matter how great the challenge.

With the guidance and wisdom of our Aboriginal peoples, we settled this harsh, Northern land, and at first, we carved out a basic existence. Over time, we created a quality of life for ourselves that is nothing short of extraordinary. We've come through a great depression, and great wars. We've had our share of ups and downs, but always we found a way forward. So, let us take up our generation's challenge with confidence and determination.

There is so much at stake, but we have much to give by way of experience and ambition, and so much to gain: a powerful, Ontario economy, one that supports the best public services in all our communities; the highest standard of living for all our families, and the highest quality of life for all Ontarians.

Thank you very much.

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