On Monday March 8, 2010, the McGuinty government delivered their fourth Speech from the Throne marking the opening of a new session of the Ontario Legislature and laying out the government’s legislative and policy priorities. The government’s “Open Ontario”, five year economic growth plan is the key theme of the speech.

Below is a short summary of the central initiatives outlined in yesterday’s Speech from the Throne that are of primary interest in BLG’s clients and friends.

Leveraging Clean Water and Water Conservation

The government has committed to introducing new legislation to build on the province’s expertise in clean water technology. The legislation is entitled “The Water Opportunities Act” and it will strengthen existing protections for the province’s water resources while also building a clean technology sector for water conservation.

Government Agency and Asset Review

The Speech from the Throne also notes that the government has initiated a review of its business enterprises (Hydro One, Ontario Power Generation, LCBO among others). It also states that once the review is concluded, any change in Ontario’s assets will be guided by what is in the public’s best interests. Also the government would reinvest any proceeds from any asset sale to better support Ontarians’ priorities in a global economy, like its commitment to skills development and education, for example.

Continuing Tax Reform

The government signalled that it will continue with its various tax reform initiatives announced in last years budget (elimination of the capital tax, income tax reductions) and will continue to moving forward with the harmonized sales tax.

Expanding Mining Opportunities in Ontario’s Far North

The McGuinty government will expand chromite mining in the far north in the region know as the “ring of fire” in partnership with First Nations communities. Chromite is a key ingredient in the manufacturing of stainless steel and Ontario has one of largest deposits in the world.

Health Care Reform

Building on the various health reform initiatives such as reducing emergency wait times, the government plans on introducing new legislation to make health care providers and executives accountable for improving patient care. In addition, the government will introduce a process to “keep drugs affordable” and reinvest the savings in health care. The government will establish an “expert panel” of independent advisors to provide recommendations on clinical practise guidelines to ensure Ontarians receive quality care. The government also plans to review the Public Hospitals Act and will introduce legislation to create a hospital system that better leverages the health care expertise of community partners and other health care professionals.

Investing in Financial Services

The government will establish a “Financial Services Leadership Council” to support the industry and will also develop a strategy to make Toronto one of the world’s key financial centres. This would also include establishing Toronto as the location for a new, single securities regulatory body.

Expanding Post Secondary Education and the Knowledge Economy

The government stated that it will raise Ontario’s postsecondary rate to 70% from the current 62% to better accommodate training needs for the knowledge economy. The government will also work with all stakeholders to improve the quality of postsecondary education through a five year plan. The government indicated that it will create a new “Ontario Online Institute” which will expand on-line educational opportunities for students. Finally, the government plans to promote Ontario postsecondary institutions abroad to attract more international students.