With only 10 weeks to go until the June 7th provincial election, the Ontario Liberals have introduced an election-ready budget. The budget is intended to draw voter support by committing to new social policy initiatives that underscores the Liberals’ campaign theme, “Fairness and Opportunity.”
Consistently behind in the polls over the last year, the party views this is a chance to re-build the Liberal base by investing in traditional Liberal policies including health care, mental health, seniors’ care, education, child care and transit.
While there’s no doubt this is an election budget, the budget itself speaks to the Liberal party’s priorities and that of Premier Kathleen Wynne, to build the province up by investing in the programs and services that Ontarians need to succeed.
Premier Wynne has called the 2018 election a “stark choice” for voters between a Liberal government that will invest in new social programs, and a PC government under Doug Ford that is likely to focus on reducing government spending.
Using the message “care not cuts,” the Liberals’ platform will emphasize how the PC’s plan to find government “efficiencies” that the Liberals say will result in massive cuts to health care, child care, education and civil service jobs.
At the same time, the new PC platform remains a wild card ahead of the election, and whether Doug Ford will choose to adopt any of the populist policies from former leader Patrick Brown’s, “People’s Guarantee.” Doug Ford’s simple message of strengthening government accountability and affordability for Ontarians has been resonating with voters in recent polls, creating a serious threat for the Liberals.
The Liberal budget is also borrowing directly from some of the NDP’s proposals, including the expansion of pharmacare, free dental care, and affordable child care, which threatens the NDP’s base. As a result, the NDP will compete to be seen as the more “progressive” party, while criticizing the Liberals’ record of government waste and privatization of Hydro One.
Over the next two months, the goal of the three main parties will be to influence public opinion and sway voters with a rollout of their election platforms that will set the agenda for the next government.
While the Liberals’ Something for everyone” election budget makes a lot of promises, it remains to be seen if it will be enough to increase voter support. Some observers believe that the Liberals’ approach of investing in the things that matter to Ontarians could be enough to secure another election victory, especially over an unpredictable PC government led by Doug Ford.
Many Ontarians will be waiting to see what the other parties have to offer before making their decision, and as we’ve seen with other elections, anything can happen before June 7th.
Kelly Baker is a Consultant at StrategyCorp and a former Press Secretary to Premier Kathleen Wynne.