An estimated 200 people sent in their RSVPs for an opportunity to meet Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne at a reception, Friday, hosted by the York-Simcoe Provincial Liberal Association at the Holland Marsh Winery in King Township.
The event attracted not only Liberal supporters, but local politicians of all stripes, as well as farmers, ordinary residents, and community leaders, interested in hearing the woman who is both the Premier of Ontario and Minister of Agriculture and Food.
They were also there to hear Wynne comment on some of the more controversial Liberal government decisions.
But first, Wynne – who earlier in the day opened the 91st annual Royal Agricultural Winter Fair – spoke about the importance of York-Simcoe and the Holland Marsh.
“This is one of the communities that really brings country and city together,” she said, adding that both urban and rural residents have the same aspirations. “You want your children to succeed, you want your parents and grandparents to be taken care of, you want the land to be taken care of… We’ve got to realize that we are inter-connected. The food grown in the Holland Marsh feeds peoples in cities.”
While issues may differ, Wynne said, the aspirations and needs are the same across the province – and to meet the needs of all Ontarians, “it is critical at this juncture that we play the long game,” investing for the future and focusing on long-term goals, rather than the next election.
Among those “long-term” investments: Education, training, and a review of the Canada Pension Plan, to ensure a “decent retirement for our kids and grandchildren. That’s not a short-term discussion. That’s a long-term discussion.”
Wynne also spoke of the need to make investments in infrastructure, especially bridges and wastewater treatment plants. “That’s not too sexy,” she admitted, but necessary. “The economic viability of small towns is threatened because we haven’t made the investments in infrastructure.”
Wynne told the gathering, “We have to make those investments – and that’s across the whole country,” noting that there is a need to not only repair aging infrastructure, but to build new infrastructure to promote economic growth, and develop a strategy that involves “investing in people, investing in infrastructure, and investing in a business climate.” And while the government is looking at eliminating the deficit by 2017-18, she said, simply limiting spending is not going to provide the kind of economic growth, in sectors that include Agrifood, that Ontario needs.
“We have to make the strategic investments,” Wynne said, promising a new economic statement on November 7, to “light that fire under the economy.” Wynne also took responsibility for some of the controversial decisions of the Liberal government. Asked about the state of the horse-racing industry by Lt.-Col. (retired) Susan Beharriell of King City, Wynne said flatly, “The decisions about the horse-racing industry were not well thought-out… We knew there had to be more money put into the horse-racing industry.” She said that her government has committed $400 million over the next five years, and will continue to work with the racetracks to come up with a plan for a sustainable racing sector. “I am optimistic,” she said.
And Wynne was asked how the cost of cancelling the Oakville gas-fired peaker plant had ballooned to “$1 Billion.”
Wynne responded that the Liberals have successfully built 21 gas-fired “peaker” power plants – but the two plants, in Mississauga and Oakville, were badly sited.
“There was not enough work done in the community,” Wynne said, pointing out that all of Parties in the legislature were unanimous in opposing the location of the two plants.
“The Auditor General had some very harsh things to say,” the Premier admitted. “I know those decisions were not made in the way they should have been. I know there should have been a better process in place – and there will be a better process in place,” she promised.
Wynne also circulated, greeting members of the public and posing for photos, and congratulating members of the York-Simcoe Provincial Liberal Association for organizing a successful event.
Dr. Helena Jaczek, MPP for Oak Ridges-Markham, had introduced Wynne, summing up the characteristics that have won the Premier support: “She speaks her mind, and she speaks from the heart. She listens. She really and truly listens.”
Originally appeared in The Barrie Examiner November 23rd, 2013