With summer clothes packed away and children back at school, we wave goodbye to another summer and embrace the sense of renewal that fall brings. Seeing students with their backpacks, freshly-sharpened pencils and optimistic smiles reminds me of why I got involved in politics in the first place.
I wanted to make sure that my children, and all children in our province, were getting the education they deserve. Giving kids a strong start in the public education system is one of the most fundamental ways government can help people throughout their lives. And helping people in their everyday lives is still what motivates me as Premier and your representative in the Legislature.
I know from meeting with you in Leaside and at other community events that you’re interested in hearing about our plans, especially as they relate to our children.
Leaside is growing and becoming home to many new families with young children. The community takes pride in the family-friendliness of the neighbourhood with its beautiful parks and excellent schools and childcare centres. Every child deserves the best start in life, and working families need quality, affordable care. Our plan is to help create an additional 100,000 licensed child care spaces within the next five years, starting in 2017, to double the current capacity for children age 0-4.
In other plans, the new Ontario Student Grant makes college and university tuition free for tens of thousands of low- and middle- income students. That means fewer barriers to college and university and less debt upon graduation. By levelling the playing field, we’re helping today’s youth enter their adult lives with more opportunities than their parents, just as every generation has had for 150 years. We’re also expanding experiential learning to help develop skills for a changing workforce and encouraging more young people to turn their good ideas into start-ups. Our focus on students’ mental health, a renewed emphasis on math skills, and continued investments in building and repairing schools give our children the best environment to grow and learn.
A healthy community has to take into account the well-being of all its residents, no matter what their age. To that end, we are working to build a health-care system that everyone can rely on and that takes care of you and your family. People in Leaside have shared with me stories of their elderly parents who need more help, while others have talked about their own needs and how they are increasingly dependent on family and friends.
That’s why we are investing in front-line workers, helping seniors with the cost of prescription drugs, making the shingles vaccine free for eligible seniors, and reducing wait times for specialists. We are also adding an estimated 350,000 hours of nursing care and 1.3 million hours of personal support to enhance home and community care.
We are continuing to build new hospitals, schools, roads, bridges and transit across Ontario by making the largest infrastructure investment in Ontario’s history — about $160 billion over 12 years. It includes repairing hospitals like Women’s College Hospital and Bridgepoint Health, which both serve our community. It also includes building transit, like the Eglinton LRT project, which runs through the heart of Leaside, so you can spend less time stuck in traffic and more time with your families.
Finally, we are taking steps so everyone in Ontario can look ahead to the future with confidence, knowing they can retire with dignity. Ontario chose to take a leadership role to fight for a national solution for greater retirement security. And now that an agreement has been reached, our province will continue to work with its federal and provincial partners to enhance the Canada Pension Plan.
Government should – and can be – a force for good in our everyday lives. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate meeting with you here in Leaside, learning about your lives, and working for you as I serve your community – and the beautiful province we call home.