Premier Doug Ford was re-elected by Ontario voters on June 2.
Ford’s Progressive Conservatives saw their seat count increase by seven, while the NDP came second after losing nine seats, and the Liberals trailed well behind at eight seats. The Green Party elected one member to Queen’s Park and one independent candidate is also headed to the legislature.
The Society’s top priorities in the election reflected members’ concerns and interests:
- Repeal Bill 124, the legislation that caps public sector salaries at 1%
- Invest in electrification and clean energy to put Ontario and Canada on the path to being a net-zero emitter of carbon emissions
- Reverse the $133 million cut to Legal Aid Ontario and improve access to justice
Now that all the votes are counted, where do these priorities stand heading into the 43rd Ontario parliament?
Repeal Bill 124
While Ford stands by his legislation, the day after the election the premier brought a different tone on the question of wages for public servants, telling the media:
“I’m a strong believer when you get inflation, we’ve got to treat people fairly,” he told reporters Friday in Etobicoke, noting the cost of living is rising with the inflation rate at 6.8 per cent.
“We’re going to sit down and negotiate fairly with...no matter what union it is,” the premier said, stressing the government must be “fair with the people who are out there, working hard doing a great job, and we rely upon them.”
Regardless of Ford’s position on wages going forward, the Society and many other unions are continuing to fight Bill 124 in court and continue to be hopeful that a court will force the government to compensate workers for unfairly limiting their right to collective bargaining.
Invest in Electrification and Clean Energy
Just before the election period officially began, Minister of Energy Todd Smith issued direction to the IESO to develop a practical road map to transition Ontario’s energy grid to a net-zero carbon emissions grid. The minister also appointed an expert panel to advise on this transition. These are excellent signs that the government is listening to the Society and other advocates pushing for an environmentally and economically sensible approach to climate action. While these are only first steps, the Society hopes to use these as an opening to build a stronger relationship with the government, and push for the province to reconsider the case for refurbishment of Pickering Nuclear Generating Station’s B units in light of current circumstances and IESO’s recent forecasts. A Pickering refurbishment would likely be the fastest path to reducing Ontario’s increasing reliance on carbon-intensive gas plants.
Though the Society is encouraged by the Ford government’s continued investment in electric vehicle and battery manufacturing, the election results likely mean that there will not be a return to provincial rebates for consumers that buy electric vehicles. These financial incentives have played a key role in growing the share of EVs on the road in other jurisdictions and, unfortunately, became a political football in Ontario.
Reverse Legal Aid Ontario cuts and improve access to justice
While opposition parties promised to restore LAO funding, Ford’s Conservatives did not make any promises that would restore funding or improve access to justice in other ways. The Society will continue to advocate for these measures and place emphasis on the way in which access to justice funding improves the efficiency of the court system as a whole since that seems to be a keen interest on this government.