OPINION: Happy Canada 150!



FROM the time I was in grade school, I’ve been fascinated by history — how we got to where we are today. This weekend, as we celebrate Ontario and Canada’s 150th anniversary, I find myself coming back to one key question. Today’s Ontario is known as one of the best places in the world. People from Canada and around the globe choose to live and work and raise families here because of the opportunities we are creating and the way we look after each other. As we reflect on our past and look ahead to the next 150 years we must ask ourselves now, how can we build an even better future? One thing is certain, we must build it together.

It is worth emphasizing that Ontario’s history goes back much further than 150 years. For countless generations, Indigenous people have called this land home. But for most of Canada’s history, we have failed Indigenous communities. This needs to change, and by walking together on the path to reconciliation and healing we will change it. One thing that links our history, and remains constant, is that Ontario’s greatest strength has always been its people — whether they’ve been here since time immemorial, for six generations or six months.

Back in January, I met a man at a Toronto community centre who came here from Syria with his family. He told me that on their flight to Ontario, he and his family discussed what they would like to do to become involved in their new community, and what they could do to make our country a better place. Contributing to Canada was their focus, before they’d even landed!

I think we can all agree that Ontario should be a place where everyone is able to benefit from and contribute to our growth and success. When we invest in our people, when we embrace our diversity, when we care for each other and strive to ensure that everyone shares in Ontario’s wealth and opportunities, we create a more unified society that comes together when challenges arise. That’s really how our province was built. Brick by brick and generation by generation, we harnessed the power of our growing economy to make a positive difference in the lives of all who live here. Just look at how our universal health care system and publicly funded schools have fundamentally shaped Ontario, helping to make our home one of the best places in the world to live and raise a family and find a sense of community.

As Premier, I am working every day to build on this legacy and create a province where every person, no matter how or where you started in life, will get a fair shot. That is why we are introducing free tuition for hundreds of thousands of students this fall and making prescription medication free for young people under the age of 25 starting January 1, 2018. We must always be striving to reflect our shared values of compassion, fairness and equal opportunity.

Globally, this is a challenging period — a time of change and uncertainty. But our commitment to a fair and open society is unwavering. It is now more important than ever to support one another, and to actively build the fairer, better future we know is possible. That is the Ontario we want to live in, and the Ontario that people will be proud to call home 150 years from now.  Happy Canada Day!