Premier Doug Ford’s Speech at the 2024 Rural Ontario Municipal Association Annual Conference

In Provincial

(Today’s Northumberland file photo)

Premier Ford delivered the following remarks at the 2024 Rural Ontario Municipal Association annual conference.

“Well, good morning!

Thank you, Jeyan, for that introduction.

I’m thrilled to be back here….

For the 2024 ROMA Conference…

Alongside my caucus and cabinet colleagues.

Before I begin…

I want to give a big thank you to the Rural Ontario Municipal Association…

Mayor Robin Jones…The board of directors…

And all the members for having me here today.

It’s hard to believe…

It’s been five years since I first stood on this stage as Premier.

Back then…In 2019…I made a promise to you.

A promise…That…Unlike previous governments…Our government would not ignore rural Ontario.

We pledged…That your voices would be heard at Queen’s Park.

That we’d work with you…Shoulder to shoulder…To attract new investments and jobs…

To provide better services…closer to home…And to build the infrastructure you need…For your communities to grow and prosper.

And friends…We’re delivering on our promise.

I’m proud to say…We’re investing more money into rural communities than any government in the history of Ontario.

This includes…

Historic investments to support economic development.

Through programs like our government’s Northern Ontario Heritage Fund …

The Rural Economic Development Program…

And the Regional Development Program…

We’re investing hundreds of millions of dollars…To support projects that diversify rural economies…

And help deliver better jobs with bigger paycheques.

As we do…We’re working hard to create the conditions to attract new investments and new jobs…In every part of the province.

Since coming into office in 2018…

We’ve cut red tape…

Saving people and businesses $1 billion…

And over 100,000 hours in time…

Each and every year.

We’ve made energy more affordable…By reducing electricity rates for small, medium, and large-sized businesses…By 15 to 17 per cent.

We scrapped the previous Liberal government’s cap and trade carbon tax…

Which punished rural businesses and people…

For the simplest of things…

Like heating your homes…

Or driving between communities.

And we’re keeping taxes and fees low.

In fact…We’ve never raised a tax on the backs of people and businesses.

We’ve lowered taxes.

Overall…

We’ve reduced the cost of doing business in Ontario…

By $8 billion a year.

That’s money that goes back into your communities…Back into businesses…

So, they can invest in workers…

Innovation…

And creating more good-paying jobs.

And friends…

Our plan…

The steps we’re taking to boost our rural economies…

Is working.

In 2023…Despite painful Bank of Canada interest rate hikes…And ongoing, global supply chain disruptions…

We attracted billions of dollars in new investments.

Last year…Ontario added over 180,000 new jobs…Including more manufacturing jobs than all U.S. states combined.

That’s just incredible!

And what I’m really proud of…Is that these investments…

These jobs…Are spread out …All throughout the province.

Huge investments like…

Numesh Ontario’s …Nearly $40 million investment to build a new facility in Brantford.

TNR Industrial Doors’…$40 million investment in Oro-Medonte…

And Umicore’s $2.1 billion investment in Loyalist Township…

To build a new manufacturing plant for electric vehicle battery components.

And folks…

I know you’ve heard me speak about this many times before…

But I need to talk about our booming electric vehicle industry.

That’s because this industry…

Is going to benefit every community in the province…For generations to come.

We’re building a home-grown EV supply chain…Connecting critical minerals in northern Ontario…

And clean steelmakers in Hamilton and Sault Ste. Marie…

To auto makers and battery manufacturers across Ontario…

All powered by clean, affordable Ontario energy.

Over the past three years…

We’ve attracted more than $28 billion…In auto and electric vehicle investments…

Including Volkswagen’s $7 billion investment…

The single largest auto investment in Canadian history…

To build North America’s largest battery plant in St. Thomas.

These investments…

Are creating thousands of new jobs…

And supporting hundreds of thousands of indirect jobs…

Throughout the supply chain…

In communities across the province.

We’re becoming a world leader in the electric vehicle revolution.

Now…

Ontario is the only place in the WORLD…

That the six largest auto makers call home.

And friends…As our economy grows…

Our population is growing at record speed.

Ontario is the fastest-growing place in North America…bar none.

We’re on pace to grow by five million people over the next decade.

That’s growth the likes of which this province has never seen before.

So, we need to build.

And we need to build in every part of our great province.

That’s why…

We’ve embarked on the most ambitious capital plan in Canadian history…

By investing $185 billion over the next 10 years.

Through the Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund…

We’re providing $400 million…this year…

To 425 small, rural and northern communities…

To renew and restore critical infrastructure…

Including roads, bridges, water and wastewater projects.

In the County of Simcoe…

Work is underway…

On a bridge crossing over the future Bradford Bypass.

In Essex County …

We’re widening and expanding Highway 3.

This fall, we completed the first phase of work…

To widen Highway 17…

Between the Town of Renfrew and Arnprior.

We’re also continuing work…To widen Highway 11 – 17…

In Thunder Bay District.

These projects are improving safety…Easing congestion…

And making it easier for families to get where they need to go.

We’ve purchased three new trainsets as part of our plan to bring back the Northlander…

Connecting Timmins and Cochrane with Toronto.

And, last year…We approved the terms of reference for the First Nations-led Environmental Assessment…

To finally build the all-season roads in the Ring of Fire region.

We’re also making historic investments in health care…

Bringing convenient care…Closer to home…For rural communities.

Over ten years…We’re providing almost $50 billion…For over 50 new hospital projects…

Including projects outside major cities.

Like in Bracebridge and Huntsville…

Collingwood, West Lincoln and Picton…

To name just a few.

Minister Jones recently announced…

An investment of over $108 million…

To expand Ornge Air…

Better connecting patients in rural and remote areas to urgent care.

And pharmacists are doing more to treat people in their communities…

Relieving pressures on family doctors…

And our entire health care system.

In fact…We now have the shortest surgical wait times in all of Canada.

As we move forward into 2024…We’re going to keep investing to connect people to care…

Including by connecting more people to a family doctor and primary care team.

And friends…We also know that reliable internet is a priority for your communities.

As part…Of our nearly $4 billion, multi-year investment…

We’re on track to bring high-speed internet access…To every region in Ontario by the end of 2025.

Because in today’s digital world…

Everyone needs access to reliable Internet…

No matter where you live.

And we’re working hard to make sure that they do.

With this infrastructure…Rural communities will have the tools to build for the future.

But of course…

We can’t talk about building without talking about building more homes.

That’s why…Last summer…

Our government introduced…The Building Faster Fund.

This new fund…

Is a three-year, $1.2 billion provincial program…

To reward municipalities…

That are getting homes built quickly.

I know many small, rural and northern municipalities…

Have been waiting patiently…

To hear how they can access their share of the fund.

And friends…

Let me assure you…

We will not leave these communities behind.

As I announced last year at AMO…

10 per cent of the overall fund…

$120 million over three years…

Is dedicated to small, rural and northern municipalities.

Today …

I want to tell you a bit more about how that funding will be used.

After consulting closely with AMO…

And representatives from rural Ontario…

We will soon set up an application-based process…

That will allow municipalities which have not been assigned housing targets…

To access the Building Faster Fund.

Successful applications will receive funding…

For important infrastructure projects…

Like roads, water or wastewater…

That will help get more homes built in your communities.

As we finalize that process …

The province will continue to consult to make sure this program…Is giving you the support you need.

There are a number of municipalities …

That are on track to meet …

Or exceed …

Their housing targets …

Including several that are here today.

That list includes places like Belleville …

Chatham-Kent …

Innisfil …

Kingston…

Pickering…

Sarnia…

Sault Ste. Marie…

Thunder Bay…

Welland…

And Whitchurch-Stouffville.

To these communities…

And to all the other municipalities that are on track to hit their targets…

Congratulations and well done!

In the coming months…

These municipalities will receive funding…

Through the Building Faster Fund…

That can be used to support a range of community-building projects…

And housing-enabling infrastructure.

This funding will be critical to getting even more homes built…

And sends a clear message…

That our government is there to support you…

As you get more shovels in the ground.

Of course, not every municipality has reached their target.

I know that in many cases…A lack of infrastructure is partly to blame.

So…moving forward…

Our government will take unused funds from the Building Faster Fund…

Potentially hundreds of millions of dollars…

And make them available for housing-enabling infrastructure investments…

That all municipalities can apply for.

This approach will continue to reward municipalities that hit their targets…

While supporting much-needed new infrastructure…

In communities across the province.

And as our government continues to step up…

With billions of dollars of support for infrastructure…

I once again urge our federal partners…

To match our funding…

Dollar for dollar.

Friends…I’m so proud of the progress we’ve made together over the past five years…

To ensure that everyone…No matter where they live in Ontario…Has the same opportunity…

To access a good-paying job…To start a business

To buy a home…And raise a family.

And…While we have made progress…We know there is so much more to do.

As we face challenging economic headwinds…

We need to continue creating the conditions for better jobs with bigger paycheques.

We need to find ways to get more shovels in the ground faster…To build homes, roads, highways and infrastructure.

And we need to take more action to ensure people in every part of the province…Are connected to the high-quality services they expect and deserve.

We’ve shown that when all levels of government work together…

When people and communities work together…

We can achieve amazing things.

I look forward to working with all of you…To build a stronger province.

Let’s keep it going.

Let’s get it done.

Thank you…And may God Bless the people of Ontario.”

Pete Fisher
Author: Pete Fisher

Has been a photojournalist for over 30-years and have been honoured to win numerous awards for photography and writing over the years. Best selling author for the book Highway of Heroes - True Patriot Love

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