Cutting income tax for Ontarians earning less than $50,000 a year, $1 bus fares until 2024, universal pharmacare, and increased taxes on domestic homebuyers with multiple properties.
Ontarians will head to the polls on June 2 and all the major parties have been fast out of the gate to promise handfuls of goodies to persuade Ontarians ahead of election day. The big issues that should get the most airtime over the coming weeks include housing affordability, cost-of-living issues and the state of Ontario’s healthcare systems, particularly as the province continues to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Without a doubt, if you asked Premier Doug Ford in 2018 if he expected to spend half of his mandate fighting a global pandemic, the answer would have been no and the policy priorities of his first term would have been significantly different. While voters may be fatigued by the pandemic, Ford’s perceived performance will certainly weigh on the minds of voters as they cast their ballot. Ford will hope that his recent budget, which contained nearly $200 billion in spending, contains enough measures to appeal to Ontarians and demonstrate that his Progressive Conservatives deserve a second term.
The opposition New Democratic Party and long-time leader Andrea Horwath have struggled to gain momentum and show themselves as a “government in waiting” while in opposition. Often, the NDP have found themselves trailing the Ontario Liberals and leader Steven Del Duca in opinion polls, despite the fact that Del Duca’s Liberals do not even have official party status in the Legislature with only seven seats, and Del Duca himself not having a seat. Unless they are able to capture the attention of Ontarians, both Horwath and Del Duca have a steep path if they hope to turf Ford and the PCs. In 2018, the Green Party of Ontario made history when leader Mike Schreiner won the first seat in the party’s history, and he will look to hold onto his Guelph seat this time around.
With the PCs tabling a budget as its last act before adjourning legislature and the NDP already having released its platform entirely, all eyes will be on the Liberals and the Greens to release their respective platforms – although both parties have regularly released large platform commitments in the past months. The PCs still intend to release a full platform, though it is expected that most – if not all – of the budget commitments made on April 28 will be in the platform. Ontarians will get their first chance to hear all the major party leaders in a debate on May 10 as they take to the stage in North Bay to discuss issues related to Northern Ontario. A second debate is scheduled for mid-May.