Kathleen Wynne’s throne speech to promise...
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Jul 02, 2014  |  Vote 0    0

Kathleen Wynne’s throne speech to promise ‘activist’ agenda

Premier Kathleen Wynne’s emboldened majority Liberals will unveil an activist agenda in a speech from the throne that promises to “build Ontario up.”

Guelph Mercury

Premier Kathleen Wynne's emboldened majority Liberals will unveil an activist agenda in a speech from the throne that promises to "build Ontario up."

The speech, to be delivered in the legislature by Lt.-Gov. David Onley on Thursday afternoon, says Wynne will govern from the "activist centre" using "evidence before ideology, choosing partnership over partisanship."

She will also embark upon her first foreign trade mission since succeeding Dalton McGuinty in February 2013 — joining other provincial and territorial leaders on a premiers' Team Canada trip to China this fall.

While her controversial predecessor was practically persona non grata at Queen's Park during her first 17 months in office, McGuinty and his wife, Terri, are to be among Wynne's special guests for the 2 p.m. throne speech.

The premier had distanced herself from him over his decision to cancel gas-fired power plants in Oakville and Mississauga before the 2011 election to save five Liberal MPPs' seats.

But the gas-plants' debacle, which could cost up $1.1 billion over 20 years, did not hurt the Liberals with voters as Wynne won the majority on June 12 that had eluded McGuinty almost three years ago.

Still, the throne speech will allude to the imbroglio, emphasizing the new government "knows that trust is hard-earned, but easily lost." It will also point to her ongoing efforts toward improving transparency that are designed to ensure such fiascos are avoided in the future.

Grit insiders said "building" is the overarching theme of Wynne's new plan for governing.

That refers to building talents and skills, building $130 billion in infrastructure over the next decade — including $15 billion for Toronto-Hamilton area transit — and $1 billion toward the Ring of Fire chromite mining effort in northern Ontario.

Wynne also intends to build a better business climate and build retirement security, which refers to the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan — a provincial initiative that was a cornerstone promise of Wynne's successful election campaign.

Once implemented in the next few years it will bolster the Canada Pension Plan that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has refused to improve even though it only pays out a maximum of $12,000 in annual benefits to retirees.

The Ontario Retirement Pension Plan will be mandatory for Ontarians who do not have a pension plan and would mean an additional $788 deduction from the salary of someone making $45,000 a year.

Because it would also entail matching contributions from employers, critics have argued the forced savings scheme is a payroll tax that could cost jobs.

In an interview Wednesday, Finance Minister Charles Sousa said Ontarians should not be surprised by what's in store.

"The throne speech will reaffirm lots of things that we've already discussed in our budget and in our plan throughout the campaign," said Sousa, who will re-table the May 1 budget on July 14.

That minority Liberal spending plan had sparked the election when the Progressive Conservatives and New Democrats said they could not support it.

With a majority of 57 seats, excluding Speaker Dave Levac, in the 107-member legislature, the Grits no longer need any opposition backing.

Sousa said the new electoral realities will not change his fiscal blueprint.

"It's about investing in the things that matter (and) being disciplined and determined in our spending so that we control our costs, balance the books appropriately," he said, acknowledging there's a $12.5-billion budget deficit.

"We're going to balance the books by '17-18. We're taking determined steps to control our spending ... and we are looking at all alternatives, including our asset management to ensure that we increase our dividends and our revenues."

A blue-ribbon panel of volunteers headed by Ed Clark, president and CEO of TD Bank Group, will advise Sousa on how to make more money out of assets like the LCBO monopoly as well as provincial energy utilities, Hydro One and Ontario Power Generation.

Their report is expected by year's end and it is unclear how much, if any, privatization there will be.

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