Despite the challenging economic environment in which business currently operates, the GTHA had a solid year, posting some noteworthy achievements. “We’re a vital economic component,” said Robert Housez, chair of the GTHA. “We made significant progress by introducing a voluntary Destination Marketing Program. If it wasn’t for [GTHA president and CEO] Terry Mundell’s expertise in navigating the channels and working with all stakeholders, this would not have been possible.” Housez also pointed out that despite a lacklustre economy, international arrivals increased by six per cent to Ontario, with 45 per cent of international travel to Canada taking place to Ontario. Many arrivals are coming from emerging markets such as Brazil, India and China. Housez also recognized three GTHA Board members who have stepped down, including Paul Verciglio, formerly GM of the Park Hyatt, who retired this past February; David Ogilvie, formerly of Starwood Hotels; and Dermot McKeown, GM, Radisson Admiral Hotel.
Recognizing the need for a stronger economy, Hudak spoke passionately about the need for change in the province, pointing to biting stats that show 600,000 Ontarians are unemployed, 400,000 are on welfare and 200,000 have stopped looking for work. “The Ontario I want to see is like the one you want to see,” he told hoteliers in the audience, stressing the need for a place where “hard work and talent are rewarded, where there is more take home pay, and where our citizens get the best possible education to take on a more challenging world, than when I was a child,” said Hudak. “We now spend more than we take in.” He continued: “Ontario debt has doubled and is on pace to triple. It’s greater than all provinces combined.”
Still, Hudak is optimistic and has faith in the province. “We can do better, and, we will, if we make fundamental changes,” he said. “This is not about a revenue problem, it’s about a spending problem,” he added, pointing out that the province has $11 billion in credit-card bills. “We’re spending above our means.”
As part of his government’s mandate, Hudak stressed the need for reduced spending. “Government spending now accounts for 50.4 per cent of the province’s spending with government workers.” He also stressed the need for less government regulations to affect a more fluid economy. “Your industry is one of the most heavily regulated industries. We need to reduce the 300,000 regulations that exist by at least one third. We want to make us number 1 again, but it won’t mean anything if we’re stuck in traffic. We’ve got to get moving again. We can and will usher in a new plan of prosperity.”