The first FES tabled by the new PC government was rather unique this time around, in that, journalists and members of the Press Gallery underwent a media lockup and embargo. They were forbidden to publish content in the statement before it was read in the house. Media lockups are very common during federal and provincial budgets, but it is hard to recall a time when a lockup took place for a FES.
It may be argued that the broad overall theme of the FES could be distilled into the concept of “fiscal discipline and belt-tightening”, an about-face from the previous Liberal government’s provincial budget, tabled earlier this year, that focused on “care not cuts”. The Finance Minister was not shy to say that the new PC government will approach the province’s finances the same way a household would manage their budget.
Since elected, the PCs have spent a great deal of political capital pointing out the fiscal mismanagement of the previous Liberal government, and have pledged to reverse many incumbent policies. This will not come as a surprise to many, considering Doug Ford announced during his campaign that he would be cutting $6bn in provincial expenditures.
The FES is also an important time for the government to influence the media channel. Polling has shown that while the PCs maintain the greatest share of public support in the province, many of the announcements and actions have reduced support for the government.
- Minister Fedeli announced that the actions of the government have created $3.2bn in savings while reducing the province’s deficit to $14.5B (a reduction of $500m).
- The government announced it will be implementing the Low-income Individuals and Families Tax (LIFT) Credit that will affect 1.1m low-income earners in the province. Starting in 2019, workers earning <$30,000.00 will be exempt from paying provincial income tax while those earning up to $38,000.00 will be taxed at a lower rate.
- In addition to shutting down the College of Trades, the PC government has also axed funding for 3 post-secondary campus Expansions in the GTA.
- In an attempt to make efficiencies in government, the PCs will merge the independent offices of the Ontario Child Advocate (established in 2007) with the Ombudsman and merge the office of the Environmental Commissioner (established in 1993) with the Auditor General.
- Twice during his speech, Minister Fedeli stated that the Green Energy Act is being repealed – a statement that drew both cheers and jeers across the aisles.
- The government announced $90M in funding for 1,100 hospital beds across the province.
- According to Minister Fedeli, home heating bills have been lowered and gas prices are down 4 cents a litre.
- As part of the Open for Business Act, the PCs plan to eliminate red tape by 25% by 2022 (no clear definition of ‘red tape’ was provided).
- Although not much was mentioned on the policy area, Minister Fedeli announced that the PC gov will implement a housing supply action plan to help address the problems in the province’s housing market.
- The government also announced that it will take a laissez-faire approach to cross-provincial energy infrastructure.
Grassroots will be continuously monitoring the hustle and bustle taking place at the Ontario Legislature in the months to come. Stay tuned for more information and analysis!
Adrian Macaulay, Director of Research & Polling