Ontario Post-Election Update from Global Public Affairs

Monday, June 11, 2018



AmCham Canada, Toronto-GTA Member, Global Public Affairs, a privately-held Canadian firm providing integrated government relations, strategic communications, and issues management consulting services has a rundown of how the Ontario Election went and insights on what’s next.

 

"We will make sure Ontario is the greatest place on Earth to live, to do business and to raise a family. And we will make Ontario once again the engine of Canada."

- Premier-Designate Doug Ford's victory speech



On June 7, 2018, Doug Ford became the 26th Premier of Ontario as the PCs secured a majority with 76 seats and 40.6% of the popular vote. Ford’s victory is a hefty, blue bookend to a 15-year Liberal storyline. Winning only seven seats, the Liberals failed to secure official party status. The former premier, who has resigned as party leader, won her own riding with a margin of 200 votes and most cabinet members did not survive the brutal referendum on the Liberal government.

With 40 seats, the NDP led by Andrea Horwath will now serve as official opposition, a critical consolation prize for a party that has been consigned to the periphery at Queen’s Park since the 1990s.

Ford, the every-man millionaire and crusader for the little guy ran a campaign built on simplicity and common themes including open for business, less regulation; higher ‘efficiencies’, lower taxes. His anti-downtown elite message was always tailored for a rural and suburban electorate. But it also resonated with his detractors and Wynne-weary Liberals. Ridings that had been staunchly Liberal—including several held by cabinet members and in the GTA—turned blue.





Source: Nathan Denette / The Canadian Press


 

Doug Ford: Ontario’s 26th Premier 

Ford Nation has arrived in Ontario in the form of Doug Ford. Politics runs deep in the Ford family. His father, Doug Ford Sr., served at Queen’s Park from 1995 to 1999 as the MPP for Etobicoke – Humber under former Premier Mike Harris. At City Hall, the late Rob Ford served as Mayor of Toronto from 2010 – 2014 before becoming having to drop out of the 2014 municipal election due to illness.

A fierce supporter of his brother, Doug took over his brother’s bid for Mayor which ended in defeat by Mayor John Tory.

Prior to putting his name on the PC ballot, Doug Ford was a city councillor representing a Ward in north Etobicoke. While at city hall, Doug championed causes such as privatization of garbage collection and reducing operating budgets for city councillor’s. In 2017, Doug Ford announced his intention to run for Mayor in the next municipal election scheduled for October 2018. His municipal aspirations were put on hold when he was elected to lead the PCs in January following an abrupt departure from former leader Patrick Brown. Fast forward to last night and Doug Ford is elected Premier-designate with a majority win in Canada’s largest province.

Having run the Ford family business Deco Labels and Tags, as Premier, he will have a business-friendly approach to policy making.  Based on his campaign Ford is expected to be focused on lowering taxes for everyone including businesses and the middle class, dismantling the cap and trade program, opposing the federal carbon price and advertising to the world that Ontario is “open for business”.  With his “for the people” approach he is expected to be open to ideas from stakeholders to help shape the path forward for Ontario.





Source: Global Public Affairs

 

Ford moves into Queen’s Park 

With a majority government in hand, Premier-designate Ford’s next challenge will be to transition the PC Party from the Official Opposition to government. This process, estimated to take approximately three weeks, involves appointing a transition team, selecting a cabinet, and determining initial policy priorities. Ford met with Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell this afternoon, who asked him to form a government.

Ford announced the following transition team he will work closely with over next few weeks:

  • Dean French – Chief of Staff. Dean French is an Etobicoke businessman who previously ran for Toronto City Council in 2014, has been a long-time supporter of Ford. French also acts as the Chairman for Team Canada Lacrosse.
  • Chris Froggatt – Chair, Transition Team.  Chris Froggatt is a veteran conservative political consultant based in Ottawa with Queen’s Park and Parliament Hill experience.
  • John Baird – Member, Transition Team.  John Baird is former Foreign Affairs Minister and MP for Ottawa West-Nepean under Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party. Baird also spent time as an MPP at Queens Park.
  • Dr. Reuben Devlin – Member, Transition Team.  Dr. Devlin is the former CEO of Humber River Hospital, Ontario’s first fully-digital hospital located in Etobicoke. Dr. Devlin was Ford’s health policy advisor during the election campaign. A former Ontario PC Party president with history in the party.
  • Simone Daniels – Member, Transition Team.  Currently the Director of Government Relations and Marketing for the Ford family company, Deco Labels and Tags. Simone Daniels worked at Toronto City Hall under the Ford administration and more recently played a prominent role in Ford’s leadership campaign earlier this year.
  • Mike Coates - Member, Transition Team.  Coates last ran reality TV star and businessman Kevin O’Leary’s 2016 leadership campaign for the federal Conservative Party.

The transition team will work to set up Premier’s office including naming a Principal Secretary and selecting Cabinet. Ford commented his team will review the province’s current state of finances “line by line” immediately. Ford’s transition team met with the Secretary to Cabinet, Steve Orsini today to begin working through the transition of power.  Ford said this team will work to bring in an outside auditor to assist with the review and also referenced that everything from pencils to newspapers will be “going out for bid” to ensure the lowest cost for the taxpayers.

Outgoing Premier Wynne and the Premier-designate Ford have agreed that the transition of power will take place on June 29, 2018 and cabinet will be sworn in. The legislature will then need to be brought back so Premier Ford can deliver a Speech from the Throne outlining the government’s priorities.



Source: Peter Power / The Canadian Press

 

What Comes Next: NDP

Flanked by 11 of her newly-elected MPPs, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath spoke Friday morning for the first time as the leader of the Official Opposition. Declaring last night’s results as a ‘new beginning for the NDP,’ Horwath pledged to keep fighting for change for the better.

Horwath almost doubled the party’s seat count from the 2014 election and moves her party up to Official Opposition. The 2018 election results represent the largest contingent of NDP MPPs serving as the Official Opposition, second only to the NDP caucus in 1975 which boasted 38 seats at Queens Park.

Addressing supporters last night in her home riding of Hamilton Centre, Horwath declared that she would have no problem holding Doug Ford’s feet to the fire for the next four years, saying, “I'm going to remind him each and every day that the government of Ontario, regardless of who's at the helm, should be for all of the people.”

The NDP’s next step? Horwath will stay on as leader, and ensure stability for the party in an incredibly turbulent time in provincial politics. In terms of the Fall legislative session, expect Horwath and her caucus to continue to champion union issues and press the PCs to ensure any policy directives safeguard working people and public assets. The party will work closely with the federal NDP as we near the upcoming federal election and the party will begin to brand itself as a ‘government-in-waiting’ here in Ontario.



 



Source: Fred Thronhill / Reuters

What’s next for the Ontario Liberal Party?

After trailing in the polls and a rocky campaign the Ontario Liberal Party has emerged with 7 seats. Kathleen Wynne maintains her seat as MPP for Don Valley West but stepped down as party leader last night.  With only 7 seats the Liberals lose official party status (currently require 8 under The Legislative Assembly Act) and are now faced with selecting a new leader to rebuild the party.

The party would have incurred significant debt running this election campaign so the Liberals are expected to examine all re-structuring options available including potential joint operations and fundraising through federal party.

Without official party status the Liberals will not receive public money that is put toward running the party caucus office, organization and research. The Liberals will no longer have any representation on legislative committees and will not be recognized during question period as a party making it challenging for them to ask questions in the house.

However, things can always change.  Premier-elect Doug Ford was asked this morning if he would lower the threshold and he said his party will be reviewing everything over the transition period. It would also take just one by-election win for the Liberals to regain party status.

The Ontario Liberal Party will next have to select an interim leader. Expect the Liberals to re-engage with municipal liberals in a public way to re-enforce the brand and demonstrate they are listening to the roots of the party during the rebuild.

 



Source: Globe & Mail

Key Riding Wins

Ontario Liberal Party

Kathleen Wynne was one of only seven Liberals re-elected, leaving the party without official party status.  The Liberal collapse was felt most in the GTA. The region that had propelled Kathleen Wynn’s party to a majority in 2014 offered little refuge in 2018.  The Liberals only held onto one riding in the north (Michael Gravelle), two in Toronto (Kathleen Wynne and Michael Coteau), one in Scarborough (Mitzie Hunter) and three in Ottawa (John Fraser, Marie France Lalonde and Nathalie Des Rosiers). The seven MPPs will be key in rebuilding the Ontario Liberal Party following its staggering loss of 48 seats.

Progressive Conservative Party

Some key wins for the PCs include, high-profile candidates such as Rod Philips, the former head of OLG and Postmedia, and Mike Harris Jr., son of former PC premier Mike Harris, who were both successful in their electoral campaigns. Further, Doug Ford’s former rivals for the PC Leadership bid, Christine Elliott and Caroline Mulroney, were also elected in the ridings of Newmarket-Aurora and York-Simcoe, respectively. Notable incumbents were also able to claim victory last night. Vic Fedeli, the interim PC Leader following Patrick Brown’s resignation, was re-elected in Nipissing, and Sam Oosterhoff, the youngest MPP in history, was re-elected in Niagara West. These returning MPPs will be an important asset to the many new faces around Queens Park in the Fall.

New Democratic Party

While perhaps not Leader Andrea Horwath’s preferred outcome, the colour of the new Official Opposition at Queens Park will now be orange. Horwath herself was re-elected in Hamilton Centre and led an NDP sweep of all the ‘Steeltown’ ridings. Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh’s brother Gurratan Singh secured his seat in the riding of Brampton East. The ridings within Brampton city limits represent an NDP stronghold in an otherwise Conservative GTA region.

Green Party

History was made for Ontario’s Green Party with the first-ever election of a Green Party MPP to the provincial legislature. Leader Mike Schreiner proved pollsters correct with his firm first-place finish in Guelph although not surprising given the overwhelmingly agricultural economy in the riding. Expect Schreiner’s tenure at Queen’s Park to echo Federal Green Leader Elizabeth May’s parliamentary presence.


 



Source: Nathan Denette / The Candian Press

What to expect from a Ford government

Ford and his team did not provide voters with a fully-costed and comprehensive platform, nor did they provide any direction on how they may execute their platform. While no mention of cabinet size or changes was made, he did make a number of key promises and policy commitments throughout the campaign. We've outlined the most important ones below:

Health

While ‘ending hallway medicine’ was a major theme of the Ford campaign, there has been little detail on how exactly this would be achieved.  The Tories have pledged to end the hallway medicine epidemic by adding long-term care capacity to free up hospital beds, which they say will allow for adequate space in hospitals across the province. They promised 15,000 new LTC beds over five years, and 30,000 over the next decade.

In contrast to the Liberals and the NDP – both of whom promised expanded provincial drug programs in some way – the PCs did not openly discuss the issue. With access to new treatments becoming an important issue and systemic changes being discussed at the federal level, this will require some focus from the incoming government.

On mental health, the PCs kept their commitment made in their previous People’s Guarantee platform, promising an additional $1.9 billion over ten years – which the PCs say will be matched by federal dollars for a total of $3.8 billion over a decade – towards mental health, addictions and housing supports.

Energy

Hydro One will be at the top of Ford’s list of priorities. A hot issue during the campaign, Ford promised to fire Hydro One CEO and Board of Directors, review all compensation packages and lower hydro bills. His team and soon-to-be appointed energy minister will have to take a deep dive into the energy portfolio and see what they are inheriting from the 15-year Liberal government. On nuclear, Ford is supportive. He has pledged to keep Pickering Nuclear Generating Station in operation until 2024 stating that nuclear is a key pillar to the economy generating thousands of jobs in the Durham region and across the province.

Environment and Climate Change       

Though his platform has little details around his plans to protect the environment, Ford has stated that he believes in climate change. One of Ford’s campaign promises was to dismantle the cap and trade program, withdrawing from the Western Climate Initiative (WCI) with Quebec and California. He provided no details on how he plans to do this but as one of his main promises during the campaign, we can expect this to be a top priority for Ontario’s new Environment and Climate Change Minister.

Economic Development

The theme of economic development will be top of mind for the Ford government. In his victory speech, Premier-designate Ford promised to “make Ontario the economic engine of Canada again”. Declaring that Ontario is “open for business”, Ford pledged to bring business back to the province by stabilizing hydro rates and cutting red tape. During the campaign, he committed to maintain regional economic development funds to attract investments to areas in need but would cancel the Jobs and Prosperity Fund, first established by the Liberals in 2013. On corporate taxes, Ford pledges to reduce the corporate income tax from 11.5 to 10.5 per cent and reduce small business taxes by 8.7 per cent. On NAFTA, Ford has already spoken with Prime Minister Trudeau committing his full support and resources as talks around trade continue.

Infrastructure

Throughout the campaign Ford pledged billions in additional capital spending on major highway and subway projects in the GTA, but has been non-committal on LRTs. While he has promised to increase capacity at hospitals, the party’s platform makes no explicit mention of major capital investments. 

Lack of details in the party’s platform also gives him substantial room to maneuver. Although the PCs’ ‘open for business’ philosophy signals a positive environment for public-private partnerships, the new government is likely to rearrange elements of the project pipeline through a rural and suburban lens.

Cannabis

Though Premier-designate Doug Ford has previously voiced his support for a private distribution model for cannabis, he has since softened this stance following pressure from his social conservative supporters. Prominent industry figures have already begun outreach to Ford via Twitter and the media at large. Expect Ford and the PCs to be vocal in their support for law enforcement, particularly in the enhancement of resources and funds as it pertains to drugged driving enforcement. As for the question of consumption spaces, Ford is expected to review places of use regulations with the potential for expansion. 

Arts and Culture

Having not released a full platform, the Premier-designate position on Arts and Culture has not be specifically expressed through campaign announcements.  However, it is an area they are expected to review.

Federal/Provincial Relationship

Prime Minister Trudeau was notably absent from the provincial campaign. Last night’s results will cause a dynamic change in the federal/provincial working relationship moving forward.  Premier-elect spoke with Prime Minister Trudeau last night and Ford offered support for the Prime Minister’s discussions regarding NAFTA and spoke about his open for business plan for Ontario.

Ford is expected to work with current leader Andrew Scheer to build up the Conservative brand leading into the federal election. Many former federal Conservative Party of Canada staff were running and involved in the Ford campaign. With 76 PC MPPs there are hundreds of staff positions to fill and a significant number of them are expected to be from the Harper era.

Official Opposition Leader Andrea Horwath will continue to work with the federal NDP closely as there are a number of close connections between the federal and provincial parties.

The Ontario Liberal Party will need to work with the federal liberals after losing official party status. There will be a shift in staff back to Ottawa with a number of staff now looking for positions. The federal Liberals will be taking a close look at this result as they prepare for the next federal election.



What's next?

As the Ford government completes the transition process and takes office, Global Public Affairs will monitor and provide timely updates and insights.

 

Thank you to Global Public Affairs for allowing us to share their insights of the Ontario Election with you.

For further insights and information on the province's changing political environment, please contact:

Elizabeth Wagdin  |  Vice President and General Manager, Toronto

Global Public Affairs

ewagdin@globalpublic.com​​
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