Stewart Kiff | June 2018
Ontarians woke up this morning to a majority Progressive Conservative government led by populist leader, Doug Ford. That is quite a shift after almost 15 years of Liberals rule and it will require some immediate action on the part of groups and organizations that need to work with the government on an ongoing basis.
At this point, we do not know where exactly Doug Ford wants to take the province. He has promised to make living in Ontario more affordable, cutting taxes, gas prices, hydro costs and even the price of a bottle of beer. He has also promised better health care, cheaper daycare, more services for the elderly and renewed infrastructure. But where the money will come from to finance those promises is not yet clear. He has promised to find enough “efficiencies” to cut 4% of the government’s budget but even that won’t be enough. Could your sector be at risk for cuts? All bets are off for now.
During the campaign, Doug Ford was repeatedly compared to Donald Trump. And certainly, his populist and simple messaging – Ontario is open for business, Help is on the way, Make Ontario affordable again – bears resemblance to the slogans favoured by the American President. We don’t yet know if the resemblance goes deeper.
In his victory speech last night, Doug Ford made it a point to say, more than once, that he intends to govern for ALL Ontarians, including those who did not vote for him. That seems to signal that the more centrist elements in the party are already at work to moderate the Premier elect’s tone in the hopes of making him more palatable to those Ontarians who are uncomfortable with the Ford brand.
Certainly, the PCs have won a strong mandate to govern and will be able to count on a broad caucus across the province. Their weak spot is Northern Ontario, but even there they managed to keep Sault Ste. Marie (held by the Liberals until a by-election a year ago) and snag Kenora-Rainy River from the NDP. They made important gains in the Ottawa area and Amanda Simard’s win in Prescott-Russell is significant in terms of garnering support in the Franco-Ontarian community.
That being said, it’s important for groups and organizations not to forget the Opposition parties. Together, they got almost 60% of the popular vote. With 40 seats in key urban ridings and the North, and under the experienced leadership of Andrea Horwath, the NDP should be effective as the Official Opposition. And even with a decimated caucus, the Liberals have retained some important seats and should continue to be a strong voice for Franco-Ontarians.
What to do?
Now is the time for organizations and groups to start building relationships with the Doug Ford government as well as Opposition MPPs. Send out congratulations to the newly elected or re-elected MPPs in your area as well as to those you may have had contact with in the past or during the election campaign. And don’t forget to reach out to those MPPs you worked with in the past and who lost. Many will remain active in political circles and may continue to be valuable contacts in the future.
There will be more to do in a few weeks when Doug Ford forms his Cabinet and the NPD and Liberal name their critics, and Solstice Public Affairs will be there to guide you. But it’s not too early to get started!
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