Ontario has been governed by the same party for quite some time. Leader of the Liberal Party Kathleen Wynne has been Premier since 2013, and the Liberals have been in power since the general election in 2003 when Dalton McGuinty was elected. Approaching a 15—year leadership, the Liberal’s run has only been matched in three provinces since the 1980s: The NDP led both Saskatchewan and Manitoba for 16 year periods, ending in 2007 and 2016 respectively, and in 2015 in Alberta the Conservative’s did not get the majority vote for the first time in 44 years.
Unfortunately for Wynne, her socially progressive image as Ontario’s first female and openly gay Premier has been lost among her controversial decisions ranging from the economy to education. She seems to have lost the trust of many,despite her work on climate change, economic growth and retirement security.
One of Wynne’s most controversial changes as Premier was the privatization of Hydro One, a major utility company. Her proposal in 2015 was met with disapproval, but her motivation was more money in the budget. However, as a result, hydro costs for Ontarians rose, something Wynne has been accused of being ignorant of prior to and during the sales. Although she later realized and admitted her mistake and promised to try and fix it, much of the damage had been done and proved difficult to reverse, particularly of her reputation with residents of Ontario.
Wynne also faced criticism for her new sex-ed program which starts with kids learning about body parts and terminology in grade one. The main criticism of the program was that it started unnecessarily young and that the curriculum prescribed subjects at each grade level that some considered not to be age appropriate. The PC Party has made it clear that should they be elected to majority government, they will reopen, review and revise the curriculum.
More recently, Wynne and her government have been under fire for the steep increase to minimum wage. People are divided on the issue, because while a minimum wage $11.60 per hour was not an adequate living wage for all Ontarians, small businesses complain that they cannot afford the 21 per cent increase that came into effect on January 1.
Furthermore, it is an issue of trust in a leader: in 2014, Wynne promised to raise minimum wage steadily with inflation. She did this up until the increase from $11.40 per hour to $11.60 per hour in October 2017. Raising the wage to $14 on Jan. 1 was the first major step in her plan to bring it up to $15 per hour in 2019, which some economists predict could cost thousands of jobs.
In January, Ontario saw its greatest job losses in one month since January 2009, during the recession. After an increase of 6,100 jobs in December 2017, Ontario lost a net 50,900 jobs in January 2018.
The flip side of this issue, however, is potential long term gains. Sustained increase in income translates into more spending, which means that businesses will actually bring in a bigger profit. Additionally, while Ontario has so far seen a trend of increasing job losses in 2018, most of them were part time jobs and Ontario did create 8,500 full time jobs in January as well. Furthermore, a broader look shows that Ontario unemployment rates are still on a downward trend from where they were five years ago, and are below the national average.
While Wynne has made controversial decisions for Ontario during her Premiership, she believes she is the right person to continue leading the province into further development, growth, and improvement.
“We are fighting for the people of Ontario — and that’s what this election is about,” said Wynne in response to the PC leadership election results.
Doug Ford, previous Toronto city councillor and brother of late Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, will be leading the Conservative charge against the Liberal Party in the provincial election set to take place on June 7. He was elected as the party’s new leader on March 10, winning the vote over Christine Elliott. Ford replaces previous PC party leader Patrick Brown after he stepped down from the role in response to sexual assault allegations in January.
Initially, Elliott did not concede the win, saying that there were “serious irregularities” in the process. By numbers, Elliott won both the popular vote and the most ridings. The election process for PC leaders is complicated. For each one, an individual receives points based on the percentage of Tories they receive votes from in that riding. In a riding with less than 100 party members, each vote counts as one point. This system translates into Elliott winning the popular vote, yet losing the leadership campaign, similar to Hillary Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump in the American presidential race.
After thoroughly reviewing the results, Elliott released a statement on the evening of March 11, saying, “The pace of this Ontario PC leadership race has been rapid and there have been a number of unexpected turns along the way. That is why our team took the last 24 hours to review the results of an election that was incredibly close … After completing my review, I am confident in the results. I extend my congratulations to Doug Ford on a hard-fought campaign.”
Before the vote, Elliott had appeared to be the favourite. This was her third time running for the position of party leader, after one campaign in 2009 and another in 2014. She served as the MP of Whitby-Oshawa for three terms, and was also appointed as Ontario’s first Patient Ombudsman by Kathleen Wynne effective July 1, 2016; she resigned the position in February when she announced that she would once again run as the PC party leader.
Ford faces an uphill battle, becoming leader with only three months until the provincial election in June. The party’s number one priority rests in their provincial election campaign. Ford will run against Liberal leader and current Premier Kathleen Wynne and NDP leader Andrea Horwath. Ford has already said that he would like to revoke the changes Wynne made to Ontario’s sex-ed program, and he has alluded to changes in abortion laws.
His success has been met with significant criticism, as some of his controversial actions during his time as Toronto City Councillor are remembered. As a Toronto City Councillor, Ford was accused of buying votes in 2013 when he handed out $20 bills at a social housing complex and pledged to donate $50,000 to city parks. Ford was also under fire in 2011 for a comment he made in response to Canadian author Margaret Atwood’s criticism of his proposed library cuts, when he said “If she walked by me, I wouldn’t have a clue who she is.” Unprofessional comments have been made by Ford in a variety of other situations. Ford has also been very critical of media and news outlets, claiming that reporters are liars or elitists.
A report from The Globe and Mail in 2013 included interviews with individuals who knew Ford growing up. The report claimed that Ford had been a hashish dealer in his teen years during the 1980s. Ford denied the claim, calling it “an outright lie.”
“The people of this province are ready for change,” said Ford in his speech after winning the vote. “They want Kathleen Wynne out. I will not take this responsibility lightly. I will never forget the trust the people have put in me … To the people of Ontario, I say ‘relief is on it’s way,’ and to Kathleen Wynne, I say ‘your days as Premier are numbered.’”
A poll taken on March 11 by Forum Poll of nearly 1,000 Ontarians suggests that although many are not happy with Ford as the new PC leader, Ontario may lean conservative in the upcoming election. While 48 per cent of those surveyed said they were less likely to vote Conservative on June 7 with Ford as leader, the poll suggested that the PC party would secure 44 per cent of the votes, followed by NDP with 27 per cent, making NDP official opposition. Liberals would receive 23 per cent of the votes, according to the poll.
In response to the results, Lorne Bozinoff, president of Forum Research, proposed that Ontarians are merely choosing between the lesser of two evils.
“It seems that Ontarians are not so much accepting Doug Ford and his leadership as they are rejecting the other alternatives,” said Bozinoff.
This is where Andrea Horwath, leader of the NDP could be hoping to get Ontario’s attention. It has been suggested that their election campaign slogan should be, “You don’t have to choose between bad and worse, there is a better alternative.”
NDP has only been the majority party for one term in Ontario. Bob Rae was elected as Premier in 1990 and served one term, being replaced by PC leader Mike Harris in 1995. It has most often been Third Party, and occasionally they have been the Official Opposition.
While official campaigns have not really picked up yet, early polls and surveys suggest that NDP may see a boost in votes this year. Andrea Horwath, leader of the party since 2009, revealed some platform points in a speech on Saturday, including full dental coverage for every Ontarian in addition to OHIP and Pharmacare. NDP also plans to convert more OSAP loans into grants, to “give young people a much better start in life.” Other key points of their platform include Indigenous rights as well as cutting hydro rates through buying back Hydro One.
Official election campaigns are set to start in May. Wynne, Ford and Horwath are each generating platforms they believe will bring Ontario into the next five years with positive growth and development.