It’s been one week since the Ontario election began and it has been nothing short of a primetime drama, filled with name calling, attack ads, campaign promises out of left field, and as many were expecting, a reminder that the people of the province and the country more broadly remain divided on several issues. However, for all the provincial parties, there are three things that they believe all Ontarians agree on and expect from them:
- Addressing the cost of living and affordability
- Investing in and improving Ontario’s healthcare system
- Reinvigorating the province’s economy post-pandemic
Here is what the party leaders are saying
- It did not take long for Doug Ford and his Ontario Progressive Conservatives (PCs) to remind Ontarians of Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca’s tenure as a cabinet minister under former Premier Kathleen Wynne, labelling the Liberal Party’s current iteration as the “Del Duca-Wynne Liberals.”
- Similarly, Del Duca has not missed opportunities to criticize Ford’s reliance on his bravado to try and connect with voters rather than “actually getting things done.” He reminded Ontarians of Ford’s comments about “hopping onto a bulldozer and making this happen” when discussing development at the Ring of Fire.
- Ontario New Democratic Party (NDP) Leader Andrea Horwath and her party have doubled down on the “developer buddies” narrative when speaking about PC Leader Ford and his party when discussing rising housing costs and the need for affordability. Interestingly enough, neither Ford nor Del Duca have spent too much time going at Horwath, and instead have been focused on criticizing each other’s parties.
- To date, Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner has taken a bit of a different approach to appeal to the masses and grow his party’s voter demographic by stressing the importance of accountability from the Premier as well as the other parties and their previous governments. He has also made a point to highlight deflections from leaders when they are asked the “tough questions” suggesting that his party is the only one of the four that is willing to answer them.
Each of the four major provincial political parties has made lofty promises to make life more affordable and to improve Ontario’s healthcare system in parallel to reinvigorating the province’s economy by making strategic investments in infrastructure and job growth. There are, however, some stark differences in what each party promises and below we highlight a few of those unique ideas.
A closer look at some interesting campaign promises
Ontario PCs – Let’s Get it Done
- Maybe as a direct response to or at least in contrast to Liberal Leader Del Duca’s comments about getting things done, Ford pledges to do just that. However, one of the most interesting nuances to note from his party’s five-step plan is the inclusion of energy-intensive resource extraction paired with environmental stewardship within the same first step.
- There is no doubt that the PCs need to retain their stronghold of seats in Northern and rural Ontario but there are only so many times that the development of the Ring of Fire can be promised before a new government comes in to make the same promises. Though, the PCs highlighting their commitments to climate action through electric vehicles in the same step as building a road and exploring mining opportunities in the north is somewhat of a contradiction.
Ontario Liberals – A Place to Grow
- Del Duca and his Liberal party have already made several eye-catching platform promises that have people talking. Whether all of them are seen as practical is worth debating but a couple of interesting ones include “buck-a-ride" provincewide transit as well as the optional Grade 13 school year. In theory the $1 a ride transit could increase ridership while making life more affordable and taking cars and subsequently the pollution they cause off the road.
- Though in reality, such as a drastic drop in transit fares across the province seems unsustainable. It is also very unlikely for municipal governments to agree to cough up guaranteed revenue that often falls short of the capital investments that go into transit infrastructure. Grade 13 on the other hand, is likely to be opposed by many high school students.
Ontario NDP – They Broke It, We’ll Fix It
- A lot has been said about the Liberal-NDP agreement between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh. For many, it simply secures stability for the Liberal government to continue governing while giving in to a few policies that the NDP are keen on, which they themselves were already likely to introduce in some capacity. There is, however, an Ontario angle worth considering.
- For Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, the federal Liberal-NDP agreement provides an intriguing opportunity. By building on some of the key policy priorities that the federal government has already agreed to move forward with in principle, Horwath can double down on both her party’s demographic but also decided and undecided Liberals. For example, the Ontario NDP’s commitment to universal dental care can resonate with voters and is an attainable promise. Though, an argument could be made about whether it is even her promise to make in the first place. Fixing the long-term care sector though is one that will require an immense amount of work from the Ontario NDP and is another promise Horwath has made, stating that her party would make it entirely public and not-for-profit.
Ontario Greens – Building a greener, more caring Ontario. Together.
- When we think of the Green Party, we think of climate action, conservation, environmental stewardship, and a cleaner, greener future. Though, it is important to note that Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner believes that their plan to “solve the housing crisis” by building livable and affordable communities is second to none. And for what it is worth, that is not a losing argument.
- As part of a detailed 60-page document, the Greens have laid out a comprehensive housing strategy based on three pillars: building connected communities to live, work and play, building affordable homes for people to live in, and developing sustainable housing that works both for people and the environment. Though the full implementation of this broad plan would cost a whopping 23.5 billion over 10 years which is an exceptionally long time for a new government to come in and govern, especially considering the Greens have yet to win more than a single seat in the Ontario Legislature.
So, what is next?
On Tuesday, we saw the first of two Ontario leaders’ debates as affordability took centre stage in the north that included some heated back and forth between PC Leader Ford and the other three party leaders. The debate focused on issues affecting residents in the north, hosted by the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities. All leaders took the opportunity to highlight key parts of their campaign platforms, but the most entertaining aspects of the debate were the exchanges about highway infrastructure and each of the leaders’ report card on transportation. Ford raised Del Duca’s tenure as Ontario’s Transportation Minister while Horwath criticized the Premier for “helping out his buddies” by building Highway 413.
Both NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca will need to build off Tuesday’s momentum to make a significant and lasting impact on the people of Ontario during next week’s debate, on May 16, to give PC Leader Doug Ford a run for his money on June 2.
NATIONAL will be monitoring the campaign trail closely over the next week and will provide a detailed reaction and analysis to the May 16 leaders’ debate. In the meantime, please contact our Public Affairs team for more information on the party platforms.
——— Troy Aharonian is a former Senior Consultant at NATIONAL Public Relations