Ontario has elected a new majority government and Doug Ford is Premier Designate of Ontario. In the end, Ontario voters have voted out the Liberals and opted for a major change in government. Congratulations to Mr. Ford and his team on their election victory and a thank you to all candidates in this election who chose to run and campaign. Political life is a challenge and one cannot say enough about how important it is to have people willing to run for office and serve the public interest. In the end, any democracy is only as effective as the people who are willing to participate whether as candidates or voters.
It is the day after and as of this morning the PCs hold 76 seats with 40.6 percent of the popular vote. Their share of the popular vote was in the end higher than the polls predicted. The NDP hold 40 seats with 33.7 percent of the popular vote and the Liberals are down to 7 seats with 19.3 percent of the popular vote. The Liberal collapse has reduced them to virtual islands of support - three seats in the GTA, three in Ottawa and 1 in northern Ontario. The Green Party has also managed a positive showing electing 1 – their leader – in Guelph with 4.6 percent of the vote. It is a majority government and for those concerned about uncertainty, a minority government would have created more uncertainty than a majority government. Any concerns about uncertainty with respect to policy direction are now entirely in the hands of the new elected government.
With respect to northern Ontario, the region has diverse representation that includes members of the governing party as well as opposition voices to air issues and concerns. The elected PC members are also spread across the north and include Greg Rickford (Kenora-Rainy River), Vic Fedeli (Nipissing), Norm Miller (Parry Sound-Muskoka) and Ross Romano (Sault Ste. Marie). As mentioned in an earlier post, these are good and effective members of the incoming team with proven talent and the north will be well served by them. Indeed, there is also cabinet material among them. Vic Fedeli is in my opinion a leading candidate for the finance portfolio while Norm Miller and Gred Rickford would make good ministers in portfolios such as northern development, natural resources and transportation.
In terms of the road ahead, the next few weeks will provide some indication of what the actual direction of the new government will be. While many have criticized the lack of specifics of the PC campaign, it should also be noted that as a campaign strategy, presenting fewer targets for criticism can also be effective. However, the campaign is over, and after the new government and cabinet is sworn in one can expect quick movement on a few high-profile platform items such as immediate lowering of the gasoline tax in order to demonstrate action on promises made. However, longer term action will require more methodical work not least of which will be a budget and direction on the province's finances.
With respect to the province's finances, as a start, I would suggest an expenditure growth target of 2+1 (2% inflation and 1% population growth) which would allow provincial expenditures to grow slower than historical revenue growth rates thus bringing the budget into balance sooner rather than later. I would also urge the establishment of a new independent capital expenditure review process to help better assess the approval of the capital projects which have been adding to the provincial debt. I of course as always have a few other ideas and they are available here in more detailed format. I am also looking forward to how things are going to shape up also when it comes to initiatives for northern economic development.
So, there you have it. The election is over and there will now be a few days in which to reflect on what has happened and why, but ultimately there is a province to run and a northern Ontario economy to build. We have been sent a new government and despite the slings and arrows and acrimony of any election campaign, hope is always greatest at the outset of any new government’s mandate. While there are concerns about the new government being a “wild ride”, one should always remember that as important as a party leader is, under our system of government the premier is in the end simply first among equals.