Ontario’s next Premier, Doug Ford
After a lively, fractious and unpredictable election, the people of Ontario have spoken. And as all politicians love to say, the people are always right. So considering the outcome of the 2018 Ontario election, what exactly is it that we can expect for the next four years?
At the time of writing, the Progressive Conservatives looked secure in 74 ridings, with 40 for the NDP, 7 for the Liberals and a first-ever seat for the Green Party. This majority PC victory means a significant change in direction for the province with their overall objectives of reducing taxes on individuals and businesses, unwinding the destructive and costly impacts of the Green Energy Plan, working to reduce the cost of and increase the efficiency of government, eliminating “hallway healthcare”, reducing hydro costs and lowering gasoline taxes, among other things. These objectives are music to the ears of the vast majority of the business community and anyone who believes in a smaller and more efficient government than we have seen in the last 15 years in Ontario.
But it won’t be easy, and the expectations of Ontarians will understandably be high. Every one of the promises made by the PCs is massive in and of itself, and will take considerable time and effort to implement successfully. Another challenge will be provincial finances. The provincial Auditor-General and the Financial Accountability Officer have already issued many scathing reports, basically calling the Liberals liars in terms of how the government has presented the fiscal state of the province in recent years. Considering the Liberals’ dishonesty when in power, it is probable that there are many ugly surprises to be discovered when the books are finally opened post-election. The good news is that Ontario is blessed with highly competent people in the Auditor-General’s office and elsewhere that can be counted on to pitch in and start to repair the financial damage that has been a long time in the making.
Although there are many seasoned professionals among the PC ranks who were elected, a good first step for the new government would be to form advisory bodies of experts in a number of policy areas that are very complex – hydro, health care and “green energy” come to mind. One unfortunate trait of the Wynne government was that they frequently convened panels of experts on a number of key policies, then promptly ignored everything they said when actually formulating policy. The new PC government should ensure it is receptive to expert advice if the serious problems of the past are to be avoided.
In some other areas, the action needed is obvious and can be accomplished fairly quickly – things such as cancelling further increases in the minimum wage for the moment and eliminating the rest of the terrible anti-business Bill 148 with its many provisions that hamstring job creation and load more costly and unnecessary regulation and red tape on to the business community.
All of these challenges would be daunting enough if Ontario was financially and economically healthy. But of course the province is already deeply in the red and the economy is currently slowing. There is a serious probability of recession in the next couple of years, and if that happens our debt and deficit issues today will look like child’s play. The new government would be well-advised to act very quickly in strategically slowing spending in non-essential areas, implement measures to boost job creation and the economy and bring some confidence back to consumers and the business sector. Given the high stakes, everyone in Ontario and Canada should wish them well.