Thank you very much, and thank you so much Paul for your very kind introduction, and thank you as well for the leadership you bring here to the Toronto Board of Trade. You simply could not have chosen more interesting times. As my father would say, your reward will come in heaven.

Distinguished guests, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, friends, thank you so much for being here this afternoon on this glorious spring day, when there are so many other things that you could be doing, or things that other people want you to do. Terri's rule is that once your backyard reappears, my free time disappears - and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Let me begin in earnest by thanking you, all of you. Thank you for the role that each of you play to support the tremendous quality of life that we enjoy together in Ontario, the greatest province in the best country in the world. To all our entrepreneurs, thank you for the risks you take, the investments that you make, the jobs that you create, and all the families that you support, and thanks as well for your optimistic leadership in this challenging times.

Our budget, tabled just last week, is grounded in optimism for our future, and confidence in our ability as Ontarians to always find a way forward. Today, of course, I'm here to speak about that budget. Not only about what it proposes by way of tax measures and investment, but what it means for our people, for our businesses, for our future. A budget is more than just a fiscal planning tool; it gives expression to who we are. It helps shape the kind of society we want to create together because in the end, that's what it's all about: a caring society supported by a strong economy.

For the past five years, through our past five budgets, we've all been strengthening our schools, our hospitals, our environmental protections and our roads and bridges, all those public services that support a good quality of life for all of us. Now, we face our biggest economic crisis in 80 years. So, we need to help each other get through this storm, and we need to take steps to emerge stronger on the other side. These extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures; for an extraordinary level of cooperation amoung governments, for an unprecedented willingness to do whatever it takes, together; to help our people through this difficult time and to grow stronger.

Let's be clear. What's happening out there is big, really big. It's powerful, and it's persistent. It has Ontario, all of Canada, indeed all the world, in its grip. Getting out of this and growing stronger is going to take change, and it's going to take all of us.

The world has changed, and so must we. We need to find a way forward. Not right, not left, just forward. As a government, we have listened carefully. We have looked at the experience elsewhere, we've reflected, and this is our conclusion: we need to create a single sales tax. We need to reduce business taxes. We need to protect our families against new costs, and we always, always need to protect tour public services. So, that's what we're going to do.

I know some people are saying that now isn't the right time for our tax reforms, and some are saying that we should never do this. I see it differently. I see it this way: if we were starting a tax system from scratch, we would not choose ours. We would not require our businesses to collect two different sales taxes, send them to two different governments and comply with two different sets of regulations. We would not choose a tax system that makes businesses pay tax on their inputs, discouraging investment and job creation. Instead, we would choose a single tax system that reduces business cost.

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