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Prime Minister’s remarks at the 2023 Ontario Economic Summit

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Good afternoon, everyone.

Thank you, Michelle, Rocco, James, and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce for inviting me and for bringing us all together today.

I know that this year’s theme is Partnerships for Prosperity, and I couldn’t agree more with how important that is at a time like this. This is a serious and consequential moment. We need to make responsible choices that understand and emphasize Canada’s advantages in a highly uncertain world in a moment of deep and lasting changes.

Right now, our economy is being reshaped by external forces of historic scope and scale. We’re seeing geopolitical unrest, causing energy and food prices to go up. The global inflation crisis is being felt at the checkout counters wherever Canadians go to the grocery store. Anti-democratic forces are on the rise, undermining the rules-based order that has enabled peace and prosperity for generations. Climate change is being felt in very real ways. This summer, we had horrific record wildfires that burned through communities across the country, and the haze and smoke affected everyone everywhere. All this is coming as we fully emerge from a disorienting global pandemic that turned our lives upside down.

So, it has been an unprecedented few years. In a moment like this, strong partnerships are a source of stability, and stability is how we ensure prosperity.

The world is in a tough place right now, but I am optimistic about our future because Canadians remain ambitious, hard-working, and open. Just this September, experts were expecting that we would add 20,000 new jobs to the economy. That number turned out to be 64,000.

I’m optimistic because Canada has so much to offer, more than any other country, to be a leader in the clean economy of today and tomorrow. Global investors are shifting capital toward non-polluting technologies at an extraordinary pace. They want to reduce their emissions. They want resources. They want reliable partners.

Well, this is exactly what Canada has to offer. We have one of the cleanest electricity grids in the world. We have the critical minerals needed to build the batteries and technologies the economy relies on now and will rely on even more in the future. We have strong, stable democratic institutions and traditions, and we have the best workers in the world, workers who are well-educated, well-trained, well-supported, even as we continue to draw in even more through immigration.

All these competitive advantages have meant that when Volkswagen was looking for a place to build their first ever overseas electric vehicle battery gigafactory, they came to Canada, to St. Thomas, Ontario, and we know Volkswagen’s investment decisions are made not just for decades to come but for generations to come.

This means thousands of jobs across Southwestern Ontario, not just for today but for tomorrow as well, and they’ll join investors like Stellantis and Northvolt who are also looking to Canada to manufacture the batteries and electric vehicles that more and more people are buying.

I want to specifically thank both the Ford and Legault governments for stepping up in partnership on making these deals happen. In St. Thomas, when the major auto assembly plant closed in 2011, people lost their jobs, but St. Thomas didn’t just lose jobs, they lost sponsors for kids’ hockey teams, they lost revenue for family-owned businesses. People closed shop. Main Street hollowed out. Only someone stuck in the past who refuses to see where the economy is going would not support the Volkswagen project, and make sure our economy is healthy for generations to come.

It’s about making sure our communities are healthy for generations to come, because climate policy is economic policy. This is work that we’ve already been doing for many years, and not only in the auto industry. We’ve been doing it with companies like ArcelorMittal Dofasco, where we partnered with them to upgrade their Hamilton steel-making campus so that they’ll make some of the cleanest and best steel in the world. Now, none of this happened by accident. It happened by working together in partnership and by staying true to the promise of Canada.

The promise of Canada is that every generation can reach higher than the one before. Our job right now is to secure this promise for the next generations. We’re all dealing with the challenges of this rapidly changing world in our own ways, as countries, as sectors, as people. But in these turbulent times, it is steady, reliable partnership that is a safe harbour for investors.

The world has seen incredible shifts, not only in the past few years, but in the past few decades. In the post-Second World War years, Canada and partners saw decade after decade of strong growth that created a strong middle class. There were strong protections for workers.

We invested in critical supports for all Canadians by establishing a publicly funded health care system, secure retirement benefits, and more. A strong social safety net gave our workers and businesses the confidence to keep making investments and to keep growing.

But after a while, we started to see a shift toward deregulation and trickle down economics. Jobs went overseas and weren’t replaced, wages didn’t increase at the same rate as corporate profits, and when the financial crisis hit in 2008, big business got bailouts while families got foreclosures.

The promise each generation had made to the next, that promise of Canada I mentioned earlier, was at risk. People got anxious and people got angry. As leaders, we always have a choice in how we respond.

There are those who want to exploit that anger, they want to talk about burning it all down, who say it’s all broken. And then there are those who choose to build people up, to build new opportunities in the areas of growth that lie ahead, to build an economy where there is opportunity for everyone.

I’m sure Rocco and Michelle will remember this, but when the Ontario Chamber of Commerce released the report about the economic impacts of the pandemic on women, it mentioned the need for more affordable and more accessible child care. Well, this is exactly what we’ve done.

We chose to build an affordable child care system across the country that is saving families thousands of dollars a year, giving kids the best possible start in life, and helping women’s participation in the economy reach an all-time high.

Here’s a fact: There are 2.3 million fewer people living in poverty in Canada than in 2015, and over 650,000 of those lifted out of poverty are children. Social policy is economic policy.

Investing in people builds the economy from the middle outwards, and it’s showing real results for us all. So, let’s keep it up. Let’s work together to make investments now that yield growth for years to come. We want to be your partners in this. It’s why we’ve introduced powerful tax incentives, like the 15 per cent refundable credit for clean electricity generation storage and transmission. It’s why we have a clean manufacturing investment credit worth 30 per cent for machinery and equipment used for clean technologies, and a clean hydrogen credit worth up to 40 per cent for eligible costs. We’ve also expanded other investment tax credits that are spurring the growth of other clean technologies here in Canada.

As we invest in these technologies, we always need to make sure that this growth brings people along. So, we’re putting in conditions that make these tax credits even more generous when workers get fair pay for their work. These are examples of what we’re doing to grow the economy in a smart and sustainable way that benefits all Canadians.

But securing the promise of Canada is not only about creating jobs and keeping our air clean, it’s also about making sure that everyone has a real and fair chance at success. And given Canada’s strong population growth, that means solving the housing crisis. I know that Mayor Chow spoke earlier. I know that Premier Ford will speak in a moment.

For me, both Olivia and Doug are great examples of partnership where politically we don’t always agree on everything, but when it comes to delivering for people, we’re there to work constructively side by side, especially when it comes to housing.

I don’t need to tell anyone, here in Toronto, here in the GTA, here in Ontario, or even across the country, that we need to make sure housing becomes more affordable. It’s a complex issue, but one thing that is sure is that we need to build more homes faster.

Now, we’ve been helping build housing across Canada, and we’re accelerating this work even more now. We’re working with cities to remove red tape and barriers to unlock new opportunities for supply.

Not so long ago, I was in Brampton with Mayor Patrick Brown to announce new investments through our Housing Accelerator Fund. If that’s not a good example of working across lines in partnership, I don’t know what is.

From one end of the country to the other, we’re building thousands of units for vulnerable people. I was in Yellowknife, in Vaughan, and in London these past months to announce new projects, and Minister Fraser continues to work tirelessly on even more.

We have legislation in the House of Commons right now that would cut the GST for those who want to put up new apartment buildings for renters on top of the billions we’ve already provided, and low cost financing for those who want to build rental units.

We need to build more homes faster and that’s what the government is laser-focused on doing, and we need you to be our partners in this. We need partners from all orders of government, from developers and the financial sector, from across the private sector and the non-profit sector. We need to build housing for middle-class families, for students, for new Canadians, for all those incredible workers who help our economy grow and believe in the promise of Canada.

I know these are uncertain times, so I want to give each of you a little bit of homework as citizens. Whenever you hear a politician speak, ask yourself, are they trying to solve the problems we are facing or are they just trying to amplify the problems we are facing? That’s the question to ask. Because I want to let you in on a secret, with all the instability in the world right now, Canada is actually doing relatively well: lowest deficit, lowest debt to GDP ratio in the G7, third largest triple-A rated economy in the world after the United States and Germany, great employment numbers, lower inflation than most.

Of course, if a Canadian can’t pay for their groceries or their mortgage, it doesn’t matter that things are even worse elsewhere around the world, and we have a lot of work to do, particularly on housing, on affordability, and on climate action. But fortunately for all of us, the solutions fit together because climate policy is social policy is economic policy.

We will get through these turbulent times by working in partnership, in partnership with people like you here in this room, with workers on the assembly lines in Southwestern Ontario, with workers at mines and refining facilities in Northern Ontario, knowledge economy workers here in Toronto and people at universities and labs across the province, entrepreneurs in cities big and small.

We got this, together. You are all an essential part of securing the promise of Canada. It’s a promise we make to each other and a promise that we will keep. Canada is the best country in the world. Let’s continue working together and keep making it even better.

Thank you, my friends.