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Candidates Clash over Transit, Transportation Issues

Source: Nathan Denette / The Canadian Press

In this week’s edition of Beyond the Ballot, we look at the all-party debate on transit, questions into NDP platform costing, cuts to prices at the pump and discuss what a coalition government could look like.

Leader Watch

Premier Kathleen Wynne finds herself in Mississauga today before returning to Ottawa for the second time in as many weeks. Wynne will campaign with John Fraser in Ottawa-South, a longtime Liberal riding formerly held by Dalton McGuinty. The Premier will then visit the Kingston and the Islands riding with incumbent Sophie Kiwala to tour the Innovation Hub and deliver remarks at St. Lawrence College. Wynne will then wrap up her week with a return to the GTA with a stop in Whitby.

PC Leader Doug Ford will be around the GTA this week, with rallies planned for Kitchener, Pickering and Hamilton, as well as a meet-and-greet in North York. Ford’s time in Toronto comes after recent tours of both Northern and Southwestern areas of Ontario; he is expected to focus his time on the suburbs around Toronto over the long weekend.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath looks to build on her recent momentum with upcoing stops in Toronto and St. Catharines. Wednesday evening, Horwath participated in a live Q&A on Twitter using the hashtag #AskAndrea as a way to connect with youth voters. Like Ford, Horwath will focus on the GTA over the weekend, as the two leaders look to further widen the gap between them and the Liberals.

Source: Nathan Denette / The Canadian Press

Leaders clash during northern debate in Parry Sound

Last week at the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities (FONOM) annual conference, Doug Ford, Andrea Horwath and Kathleen Wynne took part in an official debate focusing on northern issues. Despite a lack of new policy announcements, the debate focused on northern economic development, the Ring of Fire, and improved access to healthcare. Ford continued to rail against the Liberals, noting that “the party with the taxpayer’s money is over” while Horwath and Wynne accused Ford of planning deep cuts to services under a PC government.The next official debate will be held on Sunday May 27 at 6:30pm in Toronto, broadcast live and moderated by Global News anchor Farah Nasser and TVO host Steve Paikin.

Candidates clash over transit, transportation issues at Transport Futures debate

On Monday, key MPPs from all parties participated in a subdued debate on transit and transportation issues in the province, led by transportation organization Transport Futuresand moderated by TVO’s Steve Paikin. No new policy details or promises were introduced, and the participants focused on reiterating their visions for Ontario’s transit and transportation systems. A key focus of the debate was non-GTA transit planning, although all candidates repeatedly invoked successes and failures in Toronto.

Steven Del Duca, former transportation Minister and most recently the Minister tasked with economic development and growth conjured up images of frustrated constituents who just want “the talking to stop” on major projects, including the Scarborough subway. He also highlighted his party’s success after fifteen years of leadership, focusing on the progress in building major projects, and the work that is “literally happening under our feet.” He also warned against the PC party, claiming that under Mike Harris’ leadership, transit and transportation projects suffered.

The PCs sent star candidate Rod Phillips to represent the party. Phillips highlighted how much money the party is committed to spending on new transportation projects, including an additional $5 billion toward subways in Toronto – on top of existing government. He also pledged his party’s support for several projects already underway, including GO Regional Express Rail and SmartTrack; Phillips also pledged PC support for reinstating the Ontario Northlander train service to Northern Ontario – an initiative also supported by the NDP and the Greens.

NDP candidate Jessica Bell reinforced NDP’s philosophical stance against ‘privatization’ of transit and infrastructure but did not provide specific details on some questions. Bell was unsure about her party’s commitment to infrastructure for the Ring of Fire.

Green Party transportation critic Tim Grant repeated his party’s call for a 50% federal subsidy of transit operating costs, a stricter approach to provincial funding of municipal rapid transit lines, and a greater emphasis on inter-city transport options.

Source: Dave Abel / Toronto Sun

Liberal, NDP teams argue over NDP platform costing

On Monday, Kathleen Wynne, flanked by Finance Minister Charles Sousa and Treasury Board Secretary Eleanor McMahon, held a press conference accusing the NDP of serious financial incompetence. Wynne and team accused the NDP of not accounting for approximately $2.7 billion in their election platform by not accounting for spending announcements made between 2017-2018 that had multi-year commitments. As a result, the Liberals maintain that this would result in larger than projected deficits, tax hikes, and program cuts should the NDP form government.In response, the NDP claimed that the accounting in their platform is indeed accurate, and clarified that in developing their platform, the party took the 2018 Liberal budget and replaced some spending programs with their own unique spending initiatives – which is where the discrepancy likely originated.Horwath noted the irony of the Liberals challenging their numbers, given their own disagreements with the Financial Accountability Office on the current budget deficit.

The Liberal attack on the NDP comes after a recent upswing for the NDP in the polls, which is seen to be an increasing challenge for the Liberals. After weeks of focusing on Doug Ford and the PCs, the Liberals now focus their offensive efforts on both parties – something that was widely unexpected in the weeks leading up to the race.

Source: Tara Walton / The Canadian Press

Ford declares Ontario to be Open for Business, promises to cancel corporate grants

On Monday, Ford held a press conference overlooking Niagara Falls, announcing that “Ontario is open for business. Fulfilling his promise of bringing an  “OPEN” sign to the Ontario-U.S border, Ford committed to stabilizing hydro rates, cutting red tape and bringing jobs back to the province.Ford also pledged to cancel some business support programs, saying the comparing the government’s “corporate welfare” to a game of “picking winners and losers”. His team later clarified that a Ford government would maintain regional economic development funds to help attract investments to areas in need, but would cancel the Jobs and Prosperity Fund, first established by the Liberal government in 2013.  Ford also committed to cutting the corporate income tax from 11.5 to 10.5 per cent and reduces small business taxes by 8.7 per cent.Ford concluded his Niagara tour with a rally accompanied by a number of PC candidates.

An eye on the polls: NDP soar and Liberals remain in third

A new Ipsos-conducted poll has revealed interesting insight into the mind of the Ontario electorate. Conducted exclusively for Global News, the results show the NDP gaining ground, with 35% of respondents saying they would cast a vote for Andrea Horwath’s party. Up 6 points from last week’s poll, the gain comes at the expense of the Liberals, who only 22% of respondents claim they would support.
Conducted between May 11 and 14 via an online survey of 1,000 Ontarians, the poll also showcased some fascinating regional dynamics. Ipsos’ CEO Darrel Bricker explained that while Doug Ford is polling significantly ahead in the seat-heavy 905 region, the NDP have demonstrated a strong lead in the 416 area. Outside of the GTA however, is a different story. Southwestern and Northern Ontario have the NDP as the frontrunners with 41 and 47% of the vote respectively, with the Tories trailing closely behind at 35 and 27%.

Notably, the Liberals have been relegated to third place in most of the province, save for Eastern Ontario where Kathleen Wynne’s party finds themselves in second with 26% of respondents leaning Liberal. With exactly three weeks left until the election, all three parties and their respective leaders will be ramping up their efforts to convince Ontarians they have what it takes to serve as Ontario’s 25th Premier.

Aaron Vincent Elkaim / The Canadian Press

Ford Nation protests Hydro One board salary increases at Toronto AGM

The war on Hydro One continued this week. On Tuesday, it was reported that Hydro One’s board approved significant salary increases ahead of their annual meeting. Adding fuel to the fire, the raises are for executives and board members, including a $70,000 raise for the board’s chair and $25,000 raises for other board members – which have been effective since January of this year.Compensation for Hydro One executives has been a hot-button issue for Ford and the PCs, with the party repeatedly promising to fire CEO Mayo Schmidt over his $6-million annual salary. Ford and his team continued to protest this; at a rally outside of the AGM in Toronto on Tuesday, Ford restated his promise to fire Schmidt and the entire board of directors, noting that “we have more than enough capable people of running hydro.”NDP critic for energy and candidate for Toronto-Danforth Peter Tabuns piggy-backed on the Ford rally to provide the NDP position on Hydro One. Tabuns promised that an NDP government would buy back Hydro One, returning it into a government-owned organization. While no Liberal candidate attended the rally, Wynne was asked at a campaign stop about the Board’s salary increases; she called them “unacceptable”, and noted that as a shareholder, the government would abstain from the vote on the increases.

Ford promises relief at the pumps, commits to 10 cent price decrease of gas 

On Wednesday, Doug Ford held a press conference at an Oakville gas station in which he revealed a new campaign promise, pledging relief for Ontarians at the gas pump by reducing gas prices by 10 cents per litre. Ford rationalized the cut through his promises to scrap the cap and trade program and reducing the provincial fuel tax. Ford didn’t provide further details on how he plans to implement these changes, but remained adamant that the Liberals are responsible for the increasing gas prices and reiterated the PC campaign slogan of putting “more money in your pocket”.

During the announcement, Ford also restated his opposition to any form of carbon tax.

Beyond the Ballot: Jennifer Hollett @jenniferhollett

Global Insights: Is a coalition government likely and what would it look like? 

By Hershell EzrinA string of polls, catapulting the NDP into second place and reinforcing the Liberals ‘death spiral’, fuels the latest ‘anything but Ford’ rumour swirling on the campaign trail.So what is the prospect of a coalition government involving the NDP and Liberals?

But there is danger in extrapolating this early polling (which combines decided and leaning voters) into any kind of anti-Ford coalition opportunity?

The campaign has four weeks to run and history tells us that undecided, leaning voters and flexible partisans thinking of strategic voting do not make up their minds until closer to the last two weeks of the campaign.

But let’s play out this latest NDP resurgence speculation. It would require a PC or NDP minority (not impossible), and a combined NDP-Liberal win in seats and the popular vote. A couple of historic case studies provide clues of how a coalition government would be structured.

Option 1) The 1985 Liberal-NDP accord: As one of the lead negotiator for the Liberals, we landed on a modest affair with the NDP. No cabinet posts, agreement on confidence measure support for two years and a legislative program based on shared policies from both parties’ election manifestos. What was unique was that the Liberals had fewer seats (albeit a higher popular vote) than the Conservatives who were given first opportunity to face a confidence vote in the House.

Option 2) The recent NDP-Green confidence and supply agreement in British Columbia: In return for Green support for four-year term on confidence measures, the Greens extracted a heavier price from the NDP since the BC Liberals were only 1 seat short of a majority. This included new legislation calling for a 2018 referendum on proportional representation (which both parties pledged to support) and significant changes controlling lobbying and political donations. While no cabinet positions were exchanged, formal mechanisms and structures were established to pre-consult on the legislative agenda, much of which was laid out in the agreement, including meaningful consultation on budget priorities, to ensure that the Green Party views ‘were incorporated in final decisions’. Some disgruntled NDP caucus questioned why there could be more consultation by NDP Cabinet with the Green caucus and leadership than with their own party. The Greens were even given ongoing access to officials in the bureaucracy. Adequate funding support for the Greens and additional staffing support was also addressed.

Option 3) A formal coalition as was the case following the 2010 election in the United Kingdom between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats: This agreement included sharing of cabinet seats, commitments to confidence vote support for a fixed period of time, and policy agenda coordination.

While it’s fun to speculate let’s be clear such agreements are only negotiated after an election. After all who would mortgage their futures or wave the white flag of political surrender in advance of the final vote?

Key Dates

May 27             Ontario Broadcasters Group leaders debate
June 7              Ontario election


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