Ontario Speech from the Throne

The Top Line

Last week, Premier Kathleen Wynne prorogued the Legislature and announced that it would reconvene today for a new Parliamentary session.  The surprise prorogation allowed the Liberal Government to use a Throne Speech – and media coverage of the speech – to publicize policy proposals and messaging for Election 2018.  The maneuver is the latest in a string of attempts by the three major parties and their leaders to set the agenda of their choice for the Election.

The Throne Speech continued the Liberal Party’s longstanding tactic of positioning Election 2018 as a two-horse race.  Especially since Doug Ford was elected Progressive Conservative (PC) Party Leader, the Liberals have framed the election as a choice between their ‘activist-centre’ approach to government and Mr. Ford’s pledge to reduce government spending.  To that end, the Throne Speech portrayed the Liberals’ record in Government as one of making essential investments in social justice and economic opportunity.  In particular, new and expanded programs and services in the areas of healthcare, childcare, and education were highlighted.  The Liberals will seek to make those programs the election ballot question – suggesting that they will be eliminated by a Conservative Government.

Earlier this month, Doug Ford’s initial statements as PC Leader also looked to frame the coming election as a choice – but one between a wasteful and spendthrift Liberal Government and a Conservative Party focused on tax cuts and reduced spending.  That messaging will not change now or going forward.  Mr. Ford labelled the Throne Speech a stunt and tonight he will address supporters at a rally in West Toronto that was specifically positioned as a populist, everyman’s alternative to the Throne Speech.

Last week, the NDP executed its attempt to set the topics of debate for Election 2018, by announcing a set of left-leaning policy proposals, including converting post-secondary school loans into grants, expanding OHIP to cover pharmacare and dental care, and raising corporate taxes.  NDP Leader Andrea Horwath responded to the Throne Speech by saying that the Liberal Government is past its best before date, and that voters wanting change for the better should vote NDP.  That change for the better messaging seeks to attract voters that feel tired of the Liberals but may be turned off by Mr. Ford’s style.

What’s Next

Budget 2018 will be presented in the Legislature on March 28. The Liberals will also use the Budget as an election-framing event.  The Throne Speech was in part a ‘taster’ for the Budget, specifying that it will focus on healthcare – particularly mental health and expanded pharmacare coverage – and childcare spending.  Such progressive measures are meant to attract centre-left leaning voters and will be portrayed by the Liberals during the coming campaign as at-risk for elimination by a Conservative Government.

Due to the prorogation, the legislative docket is reset.  However, the Government committed to re-introducing all Government legislation and motions that were on the Order Paper prior to prorogation – specifically including on the topics of the gender pay gap, pay transparency, and consumer protection.