On Thursday, June 7, 2018, the 2018 Ontario Election saw an approximate 58 percent voter turnout—the highest since 1999—resulting in a majority government for the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party (PC) and Premier-designate Doug Ford. Ontarians elected 76 PC Members of Provincial Parliament (MPP) with 40.64 percent of the popular vote, a 28-seat increase since the last election.
The official opposition is now the New Democratic Party (NDP), with 40 elected MPPs holding 33.69 percent of the popular vote.
The Liberals saw their majority diminish to seven MPPs with 19.3 percent of the popular vote and loss of party status. Premier Kathleen Wynne won her seat in Don Valley West, but resigned as the Liberal Party leader on Thursday. Just days before, Premier Wynne conceded the election.
The Green Party elected one MPP (their first-ever in Ontario) in Guelph: Green Party Leader, Mike Schreiner. The Greens secured 4.62 percent of the popular vote.
According to published polls, the PCs and NDPs alternated leads throughout the campaign.
The PCs have not had a majority government since 2003, when premier Ernie Eves lost to Kathleen Wynne's predecessor, Liberal Dalton McGuinty. Mr. Ford will be sworn-in as premier on June 29, 2018.
Premier-designate Doug Ford faced criticism during the campaign when he failed to provide a fully- costed plan despite his promise to do so. His Plan for the People (the Plan1 released on May 30, 2018) outlined an official list of campaign promises his government would pursue, if elected.
Ford said he would run a deficit in his first and second years, but did not provide a timeline or plan for balancing the budget. Since Ontario's provincial economic growth is expected to decline in the coming years, some are questioning Ford's ability to maintain program spending and service the province's considerable debt load, while also reducing the deficit.
Premier-designate Doug Ford pledged to reduce the corporate tax rate from 11.5 percent to 10.5 percent, which will give Ontario businesses the lowest corporate taxes in Canada. This decrease in corporate taxes will also neutralize the tax advantage from which many US companies benefit. Such an advantage will serve Ontario well if President Trump imposes tariffs on the automotive industry.
Ford also plans to phase-out income tax for minimum wage earners (those making less than CA$28,000 per year) at a cost of CA$558 million per year through a tax credit, so those on minimum wage pay no tax after the credit is applied. Ford would cancel the CA$1 minimum wage increase slated for 2019 and cut middle-class income taxes by 20 percent.
Doug Ford vowed to create a single-window access for approvals with a hard one-year deadline, so business is not frustrated by red tape. Mr. Ford will likely present policies that are pro-business during his tenure as Premier. It is likely that his government will consider different distribution models for liquor and cannabis with a greater role for the private sector.
Mr. Ford plans to eliminate the cap-and-trade market with Québec and California, which will save CA$1.9 billion per year. Ford also plans to challenge the Supreme Court of Canada on any attempt by the Federal Government to impose a carbon tax on Ontario families, which would save an average family CA$285 per year; and reduce gas prices by 10 cents per litre and diesel taxes by 10.3 cents per litre.
Through Ontario's cap-and-trade market with Québec and California, it is estimated that approximately 150 companies have committed more than CA$2.8 billion in emission trading allowances through several auctions, with nine more scheduled by December 2020. If Ford's government were to pull Ontario out of the cap-and-trade market, the province would likely face legal repercussions from Québec and California. As we have seen in other parts of the country, legal uncertainties in the energy sector can negatively affect investor confidence and the overall performance of the provincial economy. However, reduced energy costs will go a long way towards maintaining and attracting business investment in Ontario.
Under the Pan Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change (the federal climate change plan), provinces have been given the choice to proceed with a carbon tax, cap-and-trade or other system.
Mr. Ford has said he would challenge the federal carbon-pricing directive along with Saskatchewan. Some speculate the cost of the federal carbon tax for emitters will be significantly more than the current Ontario cap-and-trade system.
Mr. Ford said he would terminate the Hydro One CEO and Board of Directors, due to high executive salaries at an estimated cost of CA$10.7 million in severance, as well as eliminating other large salaries at Ontario Power Generation and Hydro One.
Ford vowed to cut hydro rates by 12 percent by returning Hydro One dividend payments to families, and by paying for conservation programs out of general government revenue rather than on individual tax bills. Ford also pledged to cancel energy projects that are in the pre-construction phase, and renegotiate other projects and declare a moratorium on any new energy projects.
It is not immediately clear how successful Ford will be in a number of his plans regarding Hydro One. For example, it is unlikely the provincial government has the ability to terminate the Hydro One Board of Directors given the province no longer has a controlling stake in the company. As well, efforts to return Hydro One dividend payments back to families will result in higher deficits for the province, unless efficiencies can be found elsewhere.
In a move to appease social conservative voters, Ford vowed to replace the current sex-education curriculum. Kathleen Wynne's government updated Ontario's sex education curriculum in 2015 to incorporate concepts including gender identity and sexual orientation. Critics of the program suggested the teachings were not age appropriate and lacked sufficient consultation with parents.
Former PC Leader Patrick Brown's People's Guarantee emphasized the importance of improving mathematics education, for both students and teachers.
Dwindling student populations in rural areas have caused a number of school closures in Ontario, which means many students are now travelling much further to school. The province funds school boards largely based on enrollment, giving school boards the power to determine which schools to keep open. Rural schools face tighter budget restraints because of fewer pupils. The Liberal government put a stop to all school closures in 2017, though the moratorium was not retroactive. Mr. Ford's plan appears to keep the status quo on this issue.
In April 2018, a government-commissioned report recommended substantial changes to standardized testing across Ontario. The report recommended phasing out the tests for Grade 3 students, as well as phasing out certain segments of the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) test for Grades 6 and 9 students. The report also recommended more flexibility in the timing of assessments and a more personalized approach. Supporters of the EQAO exams argue they measure how students are learning the curriculum and keep the education system accountable. Critics say they are used by some as a way to rank schools and provide real-estate agents with a valuable sales tool. Ford did not provide further details on how he would fix the current EQAO testing regime, so it is unclear what the result will be.
In what has become a politically-charged issue, Canadian university campuses have faced criticism over speakers or professors who hold controversial views. Mr. Ford pledged to limit funding to post-secondary institutions that do not respect free speech, but did not provide any further information on plans for post-secondary institutions.
Mr. Ford pledged to provide breaks for families through a tax rebate program. This includes a sliding scale, which will provide up to CA$6,750 per child under 15, and give lower income families as much as 75 percent of their childcare costs at a cost of CA$339 million per year.
Mr. Ford promised to add CA$3.8 billion in supports for mental health, addictions, and housing. He promised to introduce free dental care for low-income seniors, and create 15,000 new long-term care beds over the next five years and 30,000 beds in 10 years.
The Plan did not include Pharmacare, which will be an important healthcare issue given the Federal Government's efforts to advance its own program.
Premier-designate Doug Ford promised to improve transit, and explore high-speed rail and highway projects. Ford plans to upload responsibility and increase funding for subway infrastructure. Day-to-day operations, including labour relations, would remain with the City of Toronto, with a guarantee that the City will continue to keep all revenue generated by the subway system.
If the provincial government purchases the Toronto subway, there could be issues in terms of expansion. If Queen's Park manages the subway, it is unclear as to whether Toronto city councilors will have input on any new expansion plans.
There were 17 new ridings added for the 2018 provincial election. Because of the riding redistribution process, 95 percent of existing ridings saw their boundaries change. For a complete breakdown of the riding boundaries and elected MPPs, please visit the Elections Ontario website.
Two of the Ontario PC leadership candidates won their seats: Caroline Mulroney in York-Simcoe, and Christine Elliott in Newmarket-Aurora. Both Mulroney and Elliott are likely to earn a cabinet position in Premier-designate Ford's government.
Ford has not given any indication about the size or make-up of his cabinet, though he has a comparatively experienced team from which to choose, and transition work is underway.
The 2018 Ontario Election showed that the province's voters wanted change. With the loss of party status for the Liberals, the decisive win for the PCs, and the gains made by the NDPs, it is sure to be an interesting time at Queen's Park in the coming months and years.
1 The Plan for the People can be found online here.
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