2018 Ontario Political Situation

Top Line

On Thursday June 7, 2018, the people of Ontario gave the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario a strong mandate for change with a dominant majority government. There will only be two recognized parties in the legislature with the Liberal Party losing official party status, having claimed only 7 seats (8 seats are required).

The results were decisive and has realigned the Legislature as follows:

PC Party of Ontario            76 seats

NDP                                           40 seats

Liberals                                       7 seats

Green                                           1 seat

The Transition Team

Premier-designate Doug Ford has announced a Transition team that consists of the following:

  • Chris Froggatt, Chair – Chris was a long-time Chief of Staff to the Hon. John Baird and government relations executive.
  • John Baird – former Minister in Ontario, under Premier Harris, and former federal Minister, under Prime Minister Harper.
  • Dean French – already announced as Chief of Staff to the Premier-designate; Campaign Chair; consultant and former member of the PC Party of Ontario executive.
  • Reuben Devlin – former CEO at Humber River Hospital and former President, PC Party of Ontario.
  • Michael Coates – former government relations consultant.
  • Simone Daniels – long-time advisor to Doug Ford

The Challenges for the Transition Team

The Transition team will be challenged with many tasks.

  • To open a dialogue with the senior civil service.
  • To look at the financial books of the province.
  • To determine priorities.
  • To make adjustments to any campaign platform issues and commitments.
  • To determine and recommend the structure of Cabinet.
  • To suggest and recommend members of Cabinet.
  • Government Agenda.
  • Timing of government initiatives over the summer.
  • Suggest political actions.

A new Cabinet will be sworn in on Friday June 29, 2018. Typically, all other members of the legislature, elected on June 7th, will be sworn in over a two or three-week period in July.

The New Ministry

Premier-designate Doug Ford has no IOU’s. He was supported by only 2 sitting members of the legislature, Toby Barrett MPP and Raymond Cho MPP. Neither would be expected to play significant roles in Cabinet but rather may be rewarded with other roles in caucus or the PC Party. The new Ministry may well be made up of all Rookie Ministers. Only incumbent MPPs Jim Wilson and Ernie Hardeman have provincial Cabinet experience and neither is an obvious choice for the new Ford Cabinet.

The new Ministry is likely to be smaller than the outgoing Wynne Ministry. Premier-designate Ford has talked repeatedly about reducing the size and cost of government and this would be a showcase piece. Look for some Ministries to be combined or altered to achieve these goals.

It is also likely that the Executive Committee or Operations Committee of the Cabinet will be the powerful tool that will set the tone for the government. The Premier-designate tipped his hat on May 28th when he held a round table discussion with some of his key candidates. This group included: Christine Elliott, Caroline Mulroney, Vic Fedeli, Lisa MacLeod, Peter Bethlenfalvy, Greg Rickford, Doug Downey, Donna Skelly and Michael Parsa. In addition, the following incumbents also will receive some consideration: Todd Smith, Lisa Thompson, John Yakabuski, Sylvia Jones, Steve Clark, Monte McNaughton, Laurie Scott and Jeff Yurek.

Typically, the new Ministers take time to learn their portfolios. This is likely 2-4 weeks where they will make limited appearances in safe settings. In short, they have a steep learning curve and will focus on events and announcements that are not sensitive or challenging in the early stages.

The state of the provincial finances is very likely to dictate the immediate course of action and Ministerial appointments. If there is a desire to move quickly, the Premier-elect is more likely to appoint Queen’s Park incumbents to the sensitive portfolios such as finance, health and education. Look for Vic Fedeli and Christine Elliott to play key roles in this regard. By appointing experienced hands to these portfolios, Premier-designate Ford will have a range of talent to distribute across the remaining portfolios who would have more time to learn their responsibilities coupled with the operation of the Legislature.

The Issues

Premier-designate Ford has made it very clear where he will place his focus in the initial days of his government

Establish the Provinces Finances: Ford has said repeatedly he doesn’t believe the government numbers on the deficit, especially given that the Auditor General has publicly stated that she believes the deficit has been “low-balled”.

Hydro One Changes: Ford has said he will fire the CEO of Hydro One and replace the Board, all of whom he considers over-paid. Given the current public-private ownership structure, this will take time but there are ways to do it.

Challenge the Carbon Tax: Ford has stated he will fight the federal Liberal government’s policy of imposing a carbon tax on any province that fails to bring in its own carbon pricing.

Re-write the Sex-Ed Curriculum: Ford has said he will repeal the current Liberal plan and replace it. This will be a very hotly debated issue.

Lower Gas Prices: Ford has said he will lower gas prices by 10 cents a litre. This change – linked to dropping the carbon tax – will be expected early.

York University Strike: Allowed to drag on under the previous government, there will be mounting public pressure to resolve the strike.

The Political Calendar

The state of provincial finances may also dictate a need/desire to bring the Legislature back early to make adjustments to the budget plan of the previous government. Premier Mike Harris did this in 1995 returning the House just 3 weeks after the election and issuing a financial statement. The House then returned to its regular sitting schedule in September. This scenario could very well play out again in 2018.