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NDPs release platform while tensions rise between parties

Last week we launched our weekly election series Beyond the Ballot to provide an in-depth look at the parties, people and issues around the 2018 Ontario provincial campaign. The Beyond the Ballot website is now live and will host all of our updates for your reference throughout the campaign.

Let the (Unofficial) Campaign Begin…  

Last week we launched our weekly election series Beyond the Ballot to provide an in-depth look at the parties, people and issues around the 2018 Ontario provincial campaign. The Beyond the Ballot website is now live and will host all of our updates for your reference throughout the campaign.

This week saw the release of the NDP platform and rising tensions between Doug Ford and Kathleen Wynne.  Stay tuned and enjoy this week’s edition.


Escalating campaign tensions sees Wynne trade shots with Ford, blast his “ugly and vicious” brand of politics

Civility has been tossed out the window, and the campaign hasn’t even started yet. Yesterday, Wynne slammed Ford during a press conference at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, comparing his “brand of politics that traffics in smears and lies” to U.S. President Donald Trump. This was the first time Wynne has made a direct comparison between Ford and Trump. She went on to note that it is “crystal clear” that the campaign will be “vicious.”

Wynne was responding to comments made by Ford in a news release, in which Ford promised to conduct an external audit of provincial spending if elected in June. He then went on to note that, “If Kathleen Wynne tried to pull these kinds of shady tricks in private life, then there would be a few more Liberals joining David Livingston in jail.”

The Liberals claim that this falls just short of the “lock her up” mantra used by Trump during the last election. Premier Wynne’s full statement, released via a series of tweets, accused Ford of bullying.


“Doug Ford: For the People”: Ford introduces slogan, lays out first planks of policy platform

As Southern Ontario was battered by last weekend’s ice storm, Ford unveiled his campaign bus and slogan at a downtown Toronto bus station. The bus, which Ford is using to tour the province starting this week, features a smiling Ford giving a thumbs-up, along with the slogan “For the People.”

Ford has also laid out several specific policies that his government would implement if elected. They include:

  • Cutting ‘wasteful spending’ across government, beginning with a wide-ranging value-for-money audit
  • Eliminating income tax for Ontarians earning minimum wage
  • Cutting corporate taxes for Ontario businesses from 11.5% to 10.5%, ensuring that Ontario remains competitive with neighboring jurisdictions
  • Increasing accountability for taxpayers by firing the CEO and Board at Hydro One
  • Removing Ontario’s carbon pricing plan, including challenging the Trudeau government on their imposition of a tax on carbon

These policies reflect the four main platform themes – a fifth is expected in the coming days – laid out to date are the following:

  • Clean up the Hydro Mess
  • No Taxes for Minimum Wage Earners
  • Stopping the Carbon Tax
  • Create Good Jobs

Ford’s wide-ranging priorities still lack specifics – a total contrast to the recent Liberal budget and the NDP’s fully-costed and comprehensive platform.


Tories accuse Liberals of spending public funds ahead of campaign season

Over the last month, the Liberals have hosted a number of events across the province. These campaign-style events have featured Premier Wynne and prominent cabinet ministers, and have mainly been pre-announcements or re-announcements of many programs outlined in the 2018 Budget – OHIP+ expansion, seniors care, mental health funding, high speed rail and the increase to the minimum wage.

The Tories have filed an official complaint with Elections Ontario. Campaign advisor and former PC cabinet minister Frank Klees made the announcement on Monday, claiming that these events are partisan campaigning – which is prohibited under the Election Finances Act. The party’s complaint notes that these events have included negative comparisons to the Tories, and engage the non-partisan public service to support these events.

The letter requests that Elections Ontario investigate the matter, and seek full reimbursement of public funds used for these events from the Ontario Liberal Party.

In response to Klees’ claims, Liberal campaign co-chair Deb Matthews told media that the Premier and her cabinet ministers were only speaking on behalf of the government in a fashion typical following a budget. A spokesperson from the Premier’s office also noted that the Ernie Eves government, in which Klees served, made funding announcements up until the day the writ dropped in 2003.


Spotlight: NDP leader Andrea Horwath

In 2004, former City Councillor Andrea Horwath assumed office at Queen’s Park as the MPP for Hamilton Centre. Horwath brought her municipal experience to the halls of the legislature as Critic for Economic Development and Trade and Deputy House Leader. In 2009, Horwath was elected leader of the NDP – the first woman to ever head the party.

As leader, Horwath saw the NDP through two provincial elections with June 7th serving as her third. The NDP leader has survived 2 leadership reviews since assuming the role. The last and most convincing show of support came after the 2014 election when Horwath received 77% of support at the post-election convention. With high-hopes from the NDP membership and caucus, Horwath is working hard to rebrand both herself and the party as ‘left-of-centre’; a difficult feat given the Liberals’ recent fixation on social issues. Despite the party polling relatively low, Horwath herself remains the most-liked leader when compared to Kathleen Wynne and Doug Ford.

As the leader polling the most favourably, Andrea Horwath is hoping that in providing voters with a fully-costed platform well in advance of the election, she can establish the NDP as the safer alternative to the Liberal government. It is unlikely that Doug Ford will provide as complex and detailed platform as the NDP unveiled. Ford has also stated that his platform will not be fully-costed. Unlike Ford who relies more on emotion and rhetoric rather than coherent and costed policy, the NDP are vying to be the reliable, more stable alternative to the unpopular Liberal government.

On a more personal note, Horwath is a champion for community-focused gender equality initiatives, affordable housing, minimum wage and accessible healthcare for all Ontarians, all of which were touched upon in the party’s platform.


Horwath unveils a “Change for the Better”

On Monday, the NDP revealed their platform, titled Change for the Better. The platform’s corner stone pledges are:

  • Free child care for those making $40,000 or less, and an average of $12 a day for everyone else
  • The provision of drug and dental coverage for all Ontarians
  • The reduction of student debt through converting loans to grants and creating thousands of student jobs
  • Ending hallway medicine in hospitals and fixing seniors care
  • Protecting middle class families by having the wealthiest people and most profitable corporations pay their fair share
  • Cutting hydro bills by 30% and returning Hydro One to public hands
  • Mandating that employers offer three weeks paid vacation

Financially speaking, the NDP’s ambitious goals would render a $3.3-billion deficit this year — half of the Liberal’s $6.7 billion. The NDP proposal would also see the province run deficits for 5 years before returning to balance, the exact same timeline as outlined by the Liberals in their 2018 Budget. The plan was signed off as ‘reasonable’ by former Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page, and is buoyed by higher taxes in the form of:

  • Raising the corporate tax rate on profits to 13% from 11.5%
  • “Closing big business loopholes”
  • Increasing personal income tax on amounts earned over $220,000 by 1% and on earnings over $300,000 by 2%
  • Introducing a new 3% surcharge on luxury cars and SUVs that cost more than $90,000
  • Taxing tobacco on value as opposed to volume

The 100-page long platform illustrates the NDP’s commitment to a multitude of electoral issues. Below are your key sector takeaways.

Energy and Environment

The NDP will push a transition to a greener, fairer, low-carbon economy. Renewables such as solar, water, and wind will be at the heart of the electricity system under an NDP government.

The NDP platform proposes:

  • $100 million-dollar investment to reduce dependence on high-carbon diesel and heating oil
  • Continuing carbon pricing through a “fair, effective and transparent cap-and-trade market”
  • Allocating 25% of cap-and-trade revenues to support lower-income, rural and northern households and trade-exposed industries
  • New $50 million no-interest and on-bill home retrofit program to help people consume less power at home
  • Updating the Environmental Bill of Rights
  • Cleaning the mercury from the English—Wabigoon River system
  • The introduction of a provincial forest strategy to protect the sustainability of Ontario’s forests, and committing $1 billion to the Ring of Fire

Transportation and Infrastructure

Andrea Horwath has promised to fund 50% of net transit and paratransit operating costs across Ontario. The investment is meant to spur transit operators to improve services, provide more equitable and affordable fares, and operationalize experimental and innovative solutions. The platform aims to invest “more than $330 million in Toronto and over $800 million across the province.”

Specifics in transport spending include:

  • Provision of a two-way all-day GO rail service between Kitchener—Waterloo and Toronto
  • Year-round GO rail service between Niagara and Toronto
  • Implementation of a Northern Rail Strategy that restores Ontario Northlander’s passenger service and supports the Huron Central and Algoma Central Rail Lines
  • Immediate construction of a Downtown Toronto Relief Line
  • Immediate construction of Hamilton’s LRT
  • Based on previously introduced NDP Private Member’s Bills, update Ontario’s Cycling Strategy and pass a Vulnerable Road Users’ Law specifically designed to protect cyclists and pedestrians.

Specifics in infrastructure spending include:

  • $180 billion committed to infrastructure projects over the next 10 years
  • Ending investment in “wasteful P3s”
  • Expanding the Community Benefit Agreements and ensuring the government buys more of what it needs from small and medium-sized businesses
  • Bringing highway and road maintenance back into the public service
  • A 10-year capital plan that will invest $16 billion to specifically address the repair backlog in Ontario’s schools

Food and Agriculture

The platform commits to defend supply management, protect Ontario’s Production Insurance Program and lift the cap on the Risk Management Program.

The NDP also committed to expanding the government’s definition of farming and food production to include new phenomena such as urban farming.

The platform further commits to the development a Provincial Food and Water Strategy. The strategy would promote well-being through access to healthy food, public access to drinking water, and strengthening the resilience of Ontario’s food systems.

Arts and culture

Specifics in the NDP’s arts and culture strategy include:

  • Stabilizing annual funding for the Ontario Arts Council and the Ontario Media Development Corporation
  • Establishing a new $50-million fund over the next five years out of the Jobs and Prosperity Fund to match TV and film industry investment in new studio space
  • Investing $10 million to allow libraries to give out passes to museums and galleries

The NDP platform is aimed at protecting the party from the “left-drifting” Liberals. In her speech unveiling the platform, Horwath made frequent mention of the Liberal government’s failure to properly fund schools, healthcare, and important community programs.

The NDP Leader closed her speech by contrasting her vision for Ontario with that of PC Leader Doug Ford’s “billions of dollars in cuts [that] will hurt the very people who need help. He’ll cut hospitals. He’ll cut our children’s schools. He’ll cut transit, child care and so much more,” she said. “That’s not change; that’s going from bad to worse.”

With the release of the platform, voters now have a proposed path forward from the Ontario NDP, the first party to provide an official plan.


The leadership stakes in the Ontario election 2018

Global insights by Hershell Ezrin

It is a truism that elections and election coverage have become more leader-centric in recent years, even in a Parliamentary system. Intermittent public attention spans between elections, limited media resources, the nature of campaigning and reporting focused almost exclusively on leaders, all contribute to this phenomenon.

The personal stakes for the leaders are high.  Two of the three major ON party leaders could likely lose their own jobs within days or weeks of the June results. Faced with mandatory leadership confidence reviews after the election, the options for vanquished leaders are limited- step down or risk embarrassing defeat especially with the setting of artificially high confidence thresholds.  Leadership races, public or behind the scenes, will be launched within months of the election and a new crop of political saviors unveiled.

For Premier Wynne, winning is the only alternative to immediate enforced retirement. With her personal popularity across the province at albatross levels, Wynne will carry the ‘can’ among party faithful for a failed Liberal five- peat victory- unfair and unrealistic- but politics is a blood sport.  And a catastrophic third place finish could force the inevitable withdrawal even faster.

This is NDP leader Andrea Horvath’s best, and last chance, to make her mark in Ontario politics. Auditioning to become the progressive alternative to Doug Ford, Horvath has to shake off her failure to meet her own party’s expectations with disappointing third place finishes in the past two elections.  Her personal high ratings among current provincial leaders will count for little unless accompanied by significant seat gains.  The unceremonious dumping of federal NDP leader Tom Mulcair, despite accolades regarding his Parliamentary performance, provides a stern warning of her ultimate fate.  A strong second place finish edging out provincial Liberals could delay her day of judgment.

In this era of women’s empowerment and gender advancement, how ironic that women in ON politics may bear the burden of these defeats.

This is recently anointed PC leader Ford’s race to lose. A comfortable majority will cement his position as a national political figure. Anything short of a majority triumph will energize the replacement whisper campaigns about whether Ford is truly ready to make the jump from municipal counsellor to leader of Canada’s largest sub-national government.

What could change these projections? A minority government scenario could flash freeze the leaders in their roles for a little while.  The other not impossible development is that one of the leaders might lose their seat on election night. Premier David Peterson lost his London-area seat in the 1990 election that saw the resurrection of Bob Rae from the 1987 Liberal election massacre of their opponents.

Changes in leaders have a domino effect on political parties. When Tim Hudak lost for a second time and was replaced, Patrick Brown swept aside the Conservative establishment and involved a brand-new team of advisers, supporters and candidates. Ford’s last-minute emergence in the latest Tory race swept in a new group of political advisers. It will fall to them to help articulate the Tory platform post-election.


Global will be providing extensive coverage of the provincial election through our new Beyond the Ballot updates – stay tuned!


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