With the Ontario Legislature returning for the first time in 2020, and Premier Doug Ford returning from his trip to the National Governors Association meetings in Washington, our Public Affairs experts at NATIONAL Toronto note three key areas Queen’s Park watchers should pay attention to, especially related to how it could affect the new, balanced tone we saw from the Ford government over the latter half of 2019.
1. Teacher strike
Unmissable if you have school-aged children, live near a school, or simply walk past one from time to time is the Ford government’s current labour dispute with Ontario teachers. For the first time in recent memory, all four major teachers’ unions are engaging in strikes at the same time. Those active in the public sector space should pay close attention to how Ford and his Education Minister, Stephen Lecce, tackle this challenge. While back-to-work legislation remains an option for the province, the unions’ use of rotating walkouts as opposed to a general strike may prove challenging in terms of justification for a government mandate to quell the unrest. Minister Lecce, a rising star in Ford’s cabinet, has his work cut out for him if the unrest lingers. We’ll be watching to see whether this issue is resolved shortly or continues to carry on, which may have an impact on other provincial business, including our next item.
2. Budget season
Slushy walk to work and alternating cold and very cold days? Must be budget season! With both the federal and provincial budgets expected in the next 6 to 8 weeks, Ontario’s businesses would be wise to pay close attention to the signals being sent by Premier Ford and his ministers. While cross-border trade has been top of mind in the last few weeks, pending developments on environmental files, next steps on the healthcare reform and, of course, further efficiencies and red tape reduction should gain traction in the weeks to come. With the next provincial election scheduled to occur by June 2022, Ford is reaching the halfway mark of his mandate, and that can mean a pivot to the pre-election cycle spending that becomes the basis for a re-election bid. Savvy business leaders will have been engaging to help shape the agenda, which will continue on through the year. Keep an eye on sector winners to get a sense of where the 2022 campaign will be fought. And now for the opponent.
3. Ontario Liberals set to name new leader
Following the Ontario Liberal Party’s (OLP) delegate selection process for their upcoming leadership convention next month, it seems exceedingly likely that former Wynne-era Transportation and Economic Development and Growth Minister Steven Del Duca will be taking on the mantle of leadership. While the leaderless Ontario Liberals had been polling well, it remains to be seen what impact a new chief will have, especially without a seat in the legislature. That said, Del Duca demonstrated impressive political organization and fundraising talent during the OLP leadership race, and will attempt to bring those strengths into his new role. We’ll be watching to see if Premier Ford turns his focus to his new opponent—either by battling him on policy issues or undercutting him with a more centrist approach, both of which can impact businesses in Ontario.
Contact our Public Affairs experts at NATIONAL to discuss how these trends could impact your business or organization.