Today the new Conservative government laid out a roadmap “For the People”, building on the respect for the taxpayer theme Premier Ford popularized during the campaign. Fittingly, the speech was less than 20 minutes long and reminiscent of the brevity of past federal Conservative speeches under Stephen Harper.
The speech signals a government of action and an approach that will both challenge the status quo and move beyond the “politics of division.” The new government is wasting no time in getting down to business. In only a few short weeks since the swearing in, the Conservative government has taken action on substantial issues including ending cap and trade, accepting the resignation of the Hydro One Board and CEO and scrapping the sex-ed curriculum put in place by the Liberals. This summer’s session of the Legislature is more evidence of the momentum already established by the government: over the next few weeks, urgent legislation will be introduced to deal with resolving the labour dispute at York University, officially striking cap-and-trade from the books, and cancelling a controversial wind turbine project in eastern Ontario.
The central theme of the speech is this: “You should not be forced to pay more and work harder to make life easier for your government. Instead, your government should be working harder, smarter and more efficiently to make life better for you”. This was a not so subtle jab at the Liberals, with the added promise of a Commission of Inquiry into the financial practices of government.
The speech indicates the government will focus on jobs and prosperity, a common theme of most new governments. What sets this government apart is an emphasis on less government moving forward and espousing a classic conservative principle that “people who know best work well outside government walls”.
The Conservative government is signaling early on that it will be on the side of the taxpayer, ushering in a new era of “taxpayer respect”. That was articulated in the campaign and confirmed in the Throne Speech with continued pledges to lower gas prices and hydro rates, and put more money in the pockets of parents, small business people and the working poor.
Notably, the Conservative government, while adamantly confirming it will scrap the cap and trade carbon tax system in Ontario and fight any such tax imposed by Ottawa, also confirmed that it will stand “shoulder to shoulder” with the Trudeau government to protect jobs and the economy. In fact, today’s speech seemed to suggest that a Ford government won’t stand around waiting for Ottawa to act, noting Ontario is the largest trading partner to 28 U.S. states. Time will tell if President Trump will soon be facing the one-two punch of a Trudeau/Ford tag team.
It wasn’t all about jobs and the economy though. The incoming government promised to create 15,000 long-term care beds over the next five years, and make a multi-billion investment in mental health and addiction care.
Schools and education were also top of mind today, with a promise to get back to basics in the classroom by scrapping both the sex-ed and the “Discovery Math” curriculums—measures that are sure to play well to Premier Ford’s base.
Overall, it was a very straightforward, plain-spoken speech—one that perfectly mirrors the new Premier’s style and the tone he set both in the campaign and since coming to office.
FHR will monitor closely as the Legislature reconvenes on Monday for the special summer session.