There was a sense of anticipation as we waited for the new Premier to be selected by the Liberal party.
This process was initiated by the former Premier Dalton McGuinty, as he tried to quiet the outcry over two gas power plants that were cancelled to retain four Liberal seats in the 2011 election and the following cover-up of the cost.
Now eleven months after taking over as Premier, we are yet to see Kathleen Wynne table any legislation that would reduce the regulatory and financial burden that is making our businesses uncompetitive.
Instead, we have witnessed her office under an OPP investigation triggered by the Privacy Commissioner’s report into the illegal deletion of sensitive government records.
While her government initiated dozens of feel-good bills designed solely to attract good press, 600,000 Ontarians are still out of work. In a province with the best-qualified workforce in North America, this is an unacceptable waste.
The Auditor-General’s team was also busy fulfilling their role as the financial watchdog of the Province.
Their first two Special Reports detailed how actions taken by the Liberal government to keep the true cost of the cancelled power plants hidden, unnecessarily drove the bill up by hundreds of millions of dollars to more than $1.1 billion.
The third special report confirmed that the sale of Ontario Northland will cost the taxpayer $800 million rather than saving $200 million as claimed by the Liberals.
In her Annual Report, Auditor-General Bonnie Lysyk highlighted numerous examples of waste and lack of oversight, including the excessive executive compensation and murky hiring practices at Ontario Power Generation.
The scale of waste perpetrated by the present Government is now undeniable, and urgent action is needed.
Our prosperity rests with a healthy private sector that generates wealth and jobs.
Unfortunately, 2013 saw many plant closures, such as Heinz, Kellogg’s, and Novartis. The Government knew of the problems faced by job-creators in Ontario as they were informed by Heinz’s and others’ in the spring.
Since Kathleen Wynne became premier, over 38,000 net manufacturing jobs have left our province.
My fellow PC Caucus members and I have been reminding them daily that high energy costs and over-regulation have made us uncompetitive.
Their insistence on failed policies, instead, brings about inevitable job losses.
We need to make tough decisions in order to secure our future and this Liberal government is just not up to it.
We need a government that will rise to this challenge and bring Ontario the prosperity needed to protect our health care and our quality of life.
On a more local level, I was able to hear from a large number of residents and the business community at events throughout the year or in our office when they needed help dealing with the provincial government.
Our PC leader, Tim Hudak, was in the riding to meet with residents and stakeholders in the agricultural, health care and construction industries.
Vic Fedeli, our energy critic, also toured a number of locations, addressing concerns over the skyrocketing electricity rates, now forecast to rise another 42% over the next five years.
I also tabled three bills to address problems raised by small businesses and municipalities on the Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA), labour relations issues, and under my new critic role for Municipal Affairs and Housing, a bill to revise the Municipal Elections Act.
Our Caucus also continued to release our policy White Papers that detail the action a PC Government would take to create jobs and secure the public services we all treasure.
The opportunities I had to meet the wonderful people of Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry at the many festivals and social events, including the special activities to celebrate the area’s historic War of 1812 battles and the remarkable contributions of the Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders, made 2013 a very busy and very rewarding year.
It has been a very challenging year for the province as a whole, as well for many Ontarians and local communities.
I remain optimistic that we can do better and that the future can be bright if we take the right action. It will require some tough decisions that are made for the benefit of all, and you should accept no less.
In closing, as your proud representative of provincial government, I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and the Very Best in 2014.