Late July is likely the most popular time for taking family holidays and time off, including those who work in government. Yet this summer, much like the preceding two, things continue to be far from “normal” in terms of what is likely to happen with the Government of Ontario’s agenda.  With this in mind, let’s analyze a few things to consider about their approach and priorities as the provincial government undertakes its second 4-year mandate.

Summer Schedule

One week after Ford’s new cabinet was announced, government sources confirmed that a speech from the throne will be tabled August 9th and the spring budget tabled for passage in the days following. This rare summertime session will allow the government to get moving quickly on some of their priorities, earlier than expected.

With parliament resuming early, we do not expect business as usual until September in terms of booking advocacy meetings in-person. Nothing has been formally communicated yet, but word on the street suggests the government could sit until early September and then recess again until late October, following the province-wide municipal elections.

Consistency in Cabinet

When the Ford government was elected in June of 2018, almost everyone, elected MPPs and staff alike, were new to their roles. Premier Doug Ford had previously never sat in the legislature, nor had the majority of his 76 elected MPPs. Four years later, things are very different.

The newly announced cabinet now has 30 ministers, including Premier Ford – two more than the government had prior to the election. Twenty of those cabinet members are assuming their same pre-election roles. Only 6 are rookie ministers while another 4 are taking on different roles than they held prior to the election. With little turnover Premier Ford has clearly shown his desire to hit the ground running. And speaking with many people in and around government since covid restrictions were largely lifted this spring, there is a strong desire to “get things done” after a challenging two years fighting the pandemic.

(For a link to the government’s media release on the new cabinet click here)

Apart from Sylvia Jones taking over the important role as Minister of Health, most of Ford’s senior ministers remain the same including Peter Bethlenfalvy in Finance, Stephen Lecce in Education, and Caroline Mulroney in Transportation. The presence of so many experienced ministers is a bonus for Premier Ford, however a problem the government faces is finding enough staff to fill many job vacancies across the various ministries.

Staff Shortages

The surprising exodus of senior staff both leading up to the election and following must be a concern and priority for the premier’s team. While having so many experienced and returning ministers is a big benefit for the government compared to 2018, not having experienced senior staff to lead the departments may be problematic. Following the announcement of cabinet, and later the parliamentary assistants, word leaked out about Ministry Chiefs of Staff. There are only a handful who remain in the same positions they held pre-election, and the only chief of staff in the same position since 2018 is Tara Barry in Agriculture. Aside from chiefs, many ministries are short on policy advisors, research analysts, and people managing ministerial communications. If you are a recent graduate and helped on a PC campaign this is an exceptional time to submit your resume to government!

From an advocacy standpoint, educating new staff can be a challenge for organizations lobbying government. While progress on files should be somewhat easier compared to 4 years ago, one mustn’t overlook the need to provide background materials, even if you did that before. Repetition and focusing on benefits for government are key to your success.

Understanding the Priorities

Regardless of whether the pandemic is completely behind us or not, the impacts will be felt for years to come. And as a result, Ontario’s government will prioritize what they believe to be most important when it comes to rebuilding Ontario. Last week Premier Ford attended the First Ministers meeting in British Columbia and the single issue that dominated the meeting was Canada’s struggling healthcare system. The provinces will continue to pressure the feds for more money, but the bigger problem is the labour shortage currently impacting almost every region of the country. Expect more announcements from the Ford government on initiatives to recruit and train more healthcare workers where they are most needed.

Aside from healthcare, inflationary pressure will impact the government’s ability to do everything it promised during the provincial campaign. One commitment already made was the 6-month suspension of provincial gas tax, which saves drivers almost 6 cents a litre every time they fill up. Such policies are popular with voters yet costly to the government’s bottom line.

Overall, the Ford government has clearly prioritized the economy and healthcare as they enter the upcoming fall legislative session. Does this mean any unrelated matters can’t be presented? Of course not, but knowing what the government has planned will greatly assist you in making decisions to benefit your advocacy strategies.

Advocacy Assessment

We are Grassroots focus on helping our clients ensure their message is delivered to government with clarity, consistency, and collaboration. One of the most effective tools we have identified is a customized Advocacy Assessment for organizations who are looking to re-evaluate their approach and messaging to decisions makers in government. Interested to learn more? Check out our page of information here.

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