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Liberal throne speech focuses on jobs, public transit

A rare summer session of the Ontario legislature opened Thursday with a throne speech — the last one from outgoing Lt.-Gov. David Onley.

The speech, which laid out the government’s agenda for the next decade, promised big spending while eliminating the $12.5-billion deficit by 2017-18. Click here to read the full speech.

The plan, based on the May 1 budget that triggered the election, includes more than $130 billion in public infrastructure spending over 10 years to build new hospitals, schools and transit.

“It is a way forward that promises more opportunity and builds more security for all Ontarians in this 21st century economy,” Onley said.

Premier Kathleen Wynne said, “Our government has put forward a comprehensive plan that will help Ontario realize its full potential. We will build Ontario up with new roads, bridges and highways to connect our communities so they can all prosper.”

The speech came as Moody’s changed its outlook on debt rating for the province to negative from stable, citing concerns about the government’s ability to eliminate the deficit in three years.

The government’s plan also earmarks $29-billion for public transit and infrastructure, including $15 billion towards projects in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.

Onley said the government will also invest in education, skills training and corporate grants to boost the province’s economic potential.

But the government has cautioned there’s no money for wage increases in the broader public sector as new contract talks loom on the horizon.

Onley also said the majority government will re-introduce its budget on July 14 and ask the assembly to quickly pass it.

Other speech highlights include:

  • a $1 billion commitment for transportation infrastructure to help access the Ring of Fire.
  • creating an independently managed Ontario Retirement Pension Plan.
  • making strategic investments in community care and guaranteeing every Ontarian a primary care provider.
  • trade missions led by the premier to other countries, including China, this fall.
  • bringing back the Public Sector and MPP Accountability and Transparency Act, which was not passed by the previous legislature.

On Wednesday, the Ontario PC Party caucus chose Simcoe-Grey MPP Jim Wilson as its interim leader as the legislature resumed for the first time since the June 12 election.

Tim Hudak officially stepped down as leader Wednesday after announcing his intention to do so following a disappointing party showing on election night. Wilson will lead the party until a new, permanent leader is chosen.

Last week, Prime Minister Stephen Harper appointed environmentalist Elizabeth Dowdeswell Ontario’s new lieutenant-governor. The appointee is known as the lieutenant-governor-designate until she is sworn in.

With files from The Canadian Press