|The Top Line
This afternoon, Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell delivered the 42nd Parliament’s opening Speech from the Throne, laying out the policy-making agenda of Premier Doug Ford’s newly-minted Progressive Conservative Government of Ontario. Customarily, the Speech from the Throne is one of the first formal post-election statements on a new Government’s priorities.
Today’s speech continued the Progressive Conservative Party’s focus on setting a new tone in government, stating that the Party was “given a clear mandate directly from Ontarians” to advance different policies and conduct itself differently than the prior Government. To that end, the Speech detailed four main policy areas in which the new Government intends to take a new approach, specifically: Energy and carbon pricing, taxes and trade, accountability and spending, and social policy. The Speech also announced that the Government will focus on developing transportation infrastructure with municipal government partners.
In the opening of the speech, the Government outlined the significant headwinds that it believes Ontario is facing, stating that the Province is subject to “mounting challenges at home and abroad” that “threaten livelihoods and imperil public services”. In response, the Government intends to reduce government spending, lower taxation on consumers and businesses, and focus the scope of government more narrowly on economic and ‘pocketbook’ issues. Notably, the Speech did not commit the Government to a specific date for returning to a balanced budget, saying only that would be done on a “responsible, modest, and pragmatic” timetable.
Overall, the philosophy of Premier Ford’s government was made clear by today’s speech: Less government drives economic growth and less taxes and regulation are essential to Ontario’s economic competitiveness.
| Policy Priorities
The Speech from the Throne presented a set of clear and consistent policy priorities that are focused on practical deliverables rather than aspirational outcomes. Those priority initiatives were well-telegraphed by the Progressive Conservative Party’s Election 2018 platform, and stakeholders can expect the below issues to dominate the Government’s agenda for at least the first six months of its mandate.
Energy and Carbon Pricing: The Government will act to lower gas and hydro prices and committed to supporting the Pickering Nuclear Power Plant. Meanwhile, the Government will eliminate green energy contracts and the Provincial carbon cap-and-trade program while opposing carbon pricing in all forms – a clear reference to the looming legal challenge to the Federal Carbon Pricing Backstop.
Taxes and Trade: The Government promises to lower taxes on “parents, businesses, and the working poor”, and also to reduce business sector regulations. Those measures are positioned by the Government as a way to grow Ontario’s economy. Meanwhile, Premier Ford’s team will support the Federal government on NAFTA negotiations and U.S. trade tariffs; but plans to be proactive in making sure Ontario’s voice is heard in trade negotiations with the U.S. – suggesting that the Provincial government won’t be afraid to express different views than the Federal government on the NAFTA file.
Transit and Transportation Infrastructure: The Government will collaborate with municipal partners to expand transportation infrastructure. In Toronto and the GTA, this will be focused on public transit initiatives.
Accountability and Spending: The Government will launch a Commission of Inquiry into Provincial spending and accounting – a reference to Premier Ford’s campaign promise to “investigate” the budgeting practices of the Wynne Liberals – and initiate a line-by-line review of government expenditures that will identify opportunities to cut “duplication and waste”.
Social Policy: The Government will prioritize the creation of 15,000 new long-term healthcare beds, an autism treatment strategy, and a $3.8 billion investment in mental health and addictions treatment. The new administration will revise the current ‘Discovery Math’ and sexual education curricula, expand the private sale of beer and wine, and expand policing powers while emphasizing respect for uniformed personnel.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, the Leader of the Official Opposition, characterized the Government’s plan as a “race to the bottom” and a “withdrawal from public services”. She expressed particular concern over the decision to scrap the new sexual education curriculum and the cancellation of the carbon cap-and-trade program.
Interim Liberal Party Leader John Fraser criticized the Government for not having a plan to address climate change and lamented the repeal of the new sexual education curriculum.
What This Means for You
As a thematic document, Speeches from the Throne are not meant to present highly-detailed policy measures. Ministers, officials, and political staff will now begin to plan and execute the legislation and regulation that will bring the themes of today’s speech to fruition. In many cases, Ministerial offices are still hiring staff, and that process will extend into late summer.
For stakeholders whose issues were addressed in the Speech, engagement at the political and departmental level will be crucial to ensuring their voices are heard during that policy development process. For stakeholders with issues that were not specifically referenced in the Speech, now is the time to re-frame arguments and messaging in order to better align with the Government’s language and priorities.
TSA stands ready to assist your organization in successfully navigating those processes. Possessing a strong network with the Ministerial and senior staff levels of the new government, TSA is your ideal Ontario government relations provider. Please contact us if you have any questions.