Canada’s most populous province heads to the polls on June 7th to elect the next provincial leader. This election sees three main candidates face off against each other, whose histories, platforms and performances we will review below. Kathleen Wynne, the current Premier and leader of the Liberal party is trailing her rivals in the polls at the time of writing. Her main challenger and Progressive Conservative (PC) leader, Doug Ford, (yes, that Doug Ford, brother of former Mayor Rob Ford) is in the lead, with NDP leader Andrea Horwath closing the gap in second (Global News).
For those of us voting from abroad, the vote is already very top of mind, as ballots must be mailed in and received by June 7 to be counted. For the rest of Ontarians, the next few weeks leading up to the election are sure to be exciting as the polls change and the candidates shift strategies accordingly. (PS. If you were an Ontario resident less than two years ago, you have until June 1 to register here and be sent a ballot for voting.)
In case you missed it, this election cycle has already been mired in controversy. First, the sexual misconduct allegations against previous PC leader Patrick Brown, as we wrote about here. Then, the leadership race that saw Doug Ford beat out more moderate candidates Christine Elliot and Caroline Mulroney with his populist rhetoric, as we wrote about here. To add to the drama, the Wynne government has been criticized heavily in the last year on their spending decisions, which to many reflect “vote buying”, and partially explains their rivals success.
For our millennial audience, we assess the positives and negatives of the different candidates and their platforms below:
Doug Ford, Progressive Conservative Leader
Doug Ford has taken the municipal Ford-nation approach provincial with a focus on putting money back into taxpayers pockets. Torontonians might remember him from his stint as a City Councillor while his brother Rob was mayor. While his “For The People” platform may sound great in theory, the PC’s have so far presented no concrete plan on how they would balance budgets amid government cutbacks, reduced corporate income tax and phasing out income tax for minimum wage earners. His spending plans include funding for Toronto transit, some funding for additional hospital beds and some for mental health support, but again the plans are low on details (Global News). On education, Ford has vowed to scrap the sex-ed curriculum introduced by the Liberals, and to police and potentially pull funding for post-secondary educations that do not uphold free speech (Ottawa Matters). On the environment, he has also stated his intention to repeal Ontario’s existing cap-and-trade system and oppose the federally-mandated minimum price on carbon emissions (Macleans).
For a party with progressive in the name, the majority of the platform is the opposite. It would be a shame to repeal some of the most progressive and positive actions taken by the Liberal government, namely the sex-ed curriculum, and cap-and-trade plan. Moreover, the lack of details may be partially due to the turnover in leadership, but it leaves us with many questions and a lack of confidence in the governance of Ontario over the next four years, should the PCs win. And while the Ford campaign does not yet have a full platform, they do have a campaign song, as heard here (CBC). This might give you an indication of their #priorities.
Andrea Horwath, Ontario New Democratic Party Leader
With nearly ten years experience at the head of the Ontario NDP, Horwath’s campaign slogan this election is “change for the better”. The NDP has a comprehensive platform covering all areas, which you can view here. Like the Liberals, they put forth spending deficits for the next five years of between $2 and $5 billion – slightly less than the proposed Liberal plan (Globe and Mail). Some of their promises and major areas of spending include (Toronto Star):
- Province-wide plan for drug and dental coverage for 125 of the most commonly prescribed drugs for people of all ages
- Investments in hospital beds and seniors care
- Converting student loans to grants
On taxes, the NDP plans to increase taxes on the wealthiest Ontarians as well as corporations, but protect the middle class. On the environment, the NDP will maintain the cap-and-trade system, and use the revenues to invest in further environmental programs, specifically in rural, northern and lower-income homes and trade-exposed industries (Macleans).
No plan is perfect, and we aren’t sure about the sustainability of the education grants, nor the financial feasibility of all the NDP’s promises. But, if you are looking for an improvement on some of the key policies from the Liberal government on pharmaceuticals, childcare and education for a slightly lower price tag, the NDP’s “change for the better” may suit you.
Kathleen Wynne, Ontario Liberal Party Leader
Wynne has been Ontario’s Premier for the last five years, but the Liberal Party has been in power since 2003. This has a lot of voters thinking it is time for a change, as is reflected in the Liberals current third place ranking in the polls (Macleans). The party is not oblivious to their falling popularity, and has taken many actions in the last few years to try and woo voters. These include increasing minimum wage to $15, the pharmacare program that provides free drugs to those under 24, and a promise to provide free child care (Toronto Star). Their 2018 budget reflects additional investments into childcare and healthcare programs, with spending equating to deficits of over $6 billion in each of the first three years, and smaller deficits continuing to 2024-25. On education, the party has put forth a commitment to offer OSAP grants to lower-income students. While on the environment, the party has pledged to protect green space, and invest in technologies and energy-saving programs (Macleans).
In addition to the issues mentioned above, hydro and childcare are also major topics in this election. All three candidates have different proposals on how to reduce the cost of childcare for parents. You can read more about this and other promises at the following links: Globe and Mail, Macleans, Toronto Star, Toronto Star 2
To learn more about the Hydro One drama and why Ontario has such high electricity costs, see this explanation from the Globe and Mail. In response to the Wynne governments past 60% privatization and future intended 25% cost cut, Ford has promised to ‘fire’ the CEO for his large bonus (although this is outside his power), and reduce hydro bills by an additional 12%. Alternatively, Horwath has put forward a plan to bring Hydro One back into public hands, claiming it would reduce hydro bills by 30% (Macleans).
So what is the millennial voter to do given the stances above? Many voters do not feel enamored with any of the candidates; a feeling we too recognize. But there is a clear distinction between more progressive and less progressive platforms. With the PCs in the lead, one could lend a strategic vote to the NDP in hope of turning the tide. If you plan to vote strategically, it may also be useful to check the history and polling in your specific riding to see which parties are in the lead. Happy voting!