Ontario PC Platform Analysis

When elected PC Leader, Doug Ford made clear the Ontario PC platform adopted in late 2017 by former leader Patrick Brown would be replaced. Since then, Ford has maintained that a PC government would cut spending by four per cent without specifying what those cuts would be; he announced several unfunded spending and tax reduction promises on the campaign trail; and he has spoken of a modest deficit in the first year of his government, moving into balance sometime in the future.

Pressure from media and political rivals to release a costed platform has grown in recent days as other major parties released theirs. With just over a week to go before Election Day, the Tories quietly launched their platform on May 30th. As the NDP overtake the PCs in most polls, Ford’s team chose this time to release a platform while declining to describe their plans in great detail.

Overview 

Compared to the NDP’s 98-page plan and the Liberals’ 64-page platform, the PC platform is more succinct than the other two. Called “For the People: A Plan for Ontario”, it repeats broadly-appealing, voter-focused promises such as reducing hydro rates, cutting taxes, and putting beer and wine in convenience stores. There is a strong emphasis on government accountability and respect for taxpayers, themes that cut a contrast with the Liberals in early stages of the campaign and are just as relevant when juxtaposed with the surging NDP. Areas of greater complexity or where the PCs are on shakier ground, such as health care, receive less attention. Some promises, such as scrapping an increase to minimum wage and restoring “buck-a-beer”, are not included.

The focus throughout is on issues affecting ordinary Ontarians, as opposed to Liberal and NDP platforms, which are full of nuggets for a variety of key stakeholders. The document’s rhetorical framing echoes Ford’s own on the campaign trail, with “the people” invoked eight times in the space of a few pages and “the little guy” appearing on page one. It speaks directly to voters, addressing the reader 37 times. It paints the Liberal government as beholden to corrupt insiders and the NDP as captive to radical special interests. In all, the document fits squarely into the PCs’ core message: that they are the only party on the side of everyday Ontarians, the only party that respects taxpayers.

Unlike the Liberal and NDP documents, the PC platform is not fully-costed. Expect the Conservatives to be attacked by both rival parties for this, as well as for some dubious math – as the NDP was for a similar mistake early in the campaign. Ford has said on the campaign trail that numbers are attached to all PC promises, and while the document is short on detail, the PCs will counter that (as the platform notes) this is because Doug Ford “won’t make reckless promises.”

Key Commitments

The PCs highlighted some commitments, all of which have been previously announced:

  • Scrap cap-and-trade and challenge any attempt by the federal government to impose a carbon tax ($1.9 billion per year, plus $30 million for legal challenge)
  • Reduce gas tax by 10 cents per litre ($1.19 billion per year)
  • Cut taxes by 20% for second income-tax bracket ($2.26 billion per year) and introduce tax credit so minimum-wage earners pay no tax ($558 million per year)
  • Fire the Board and CEO of Hydro One
  • Lower hydro bills by 12 per cent (described below)
  • Lower business taxes from 11.5% to 10.5% ($1.3 billion per year); cut red tape
  • Order a line-by-line audit of government spending ($1 million)
  • Build 30,000 new long-term care beds over 10 years, with first 15,000 in five years ($62,000 per bed per year amortized)
  • $3.8 billion more for mental health, addictions and housing over 10 years

Other Commitments

The platform includes several additional promises, most of which were previously announced. Some of the commitments are:

Health and education

  • Free dental care for low-income seniors ($98 million per year)
  • $38 million new funding for children with autism ($100 million total over mandate)
  • Scrap discovery math and inquiry-based learning, restore previous sex-ed curriculum until consultation and replacement with “age-appropriate” one
  • Uphold moratorium on school closures until review process is reformed

Energy

  • Scrap the Green Energy Act and stabilize industrial hydro rates with “reforms”
  • Cut hydro rates by:
    • returning Hydro One dividend payments to families ($300-400 million per year)
    • paying for conservation programs out of general revenue ($433 million per year)
    • canceling pre-construction energy contracts, renegotiating other energy contracts and declaring a moratorium on new contracts

Business supports

  • Increase agricultural Risk Management Program cap by $50 million annually
  • Eliminate the Jobs and Prosperity Fund (savings of $270 million per year)
  • Maintain current funding for Regional Economic Development Funds
  • Increase access to apprenticeships and reform foreign credential recognition
  • Expand sales of beer and wine into convenience, grocery and big box stores while maintaining the LCBO’s role in wholesale, distribution and retail

Infrastructure

  • Retain promised Liberal Go and regional transit project funding
  • Upload subway construction and maintenance from the TTC with $5 billion more for construction and $160 million per year for existing lines
  • Explore potential for high-speed rail and highway projects ($20 million for studies and $10 million annually over 50 years to widen two highways)
  • Return passenger rail service to the north ($45 million)
  • Enable private sector participation in natural gas distribution ($100 million in savings to be invested in cellular and broadband expansion)

Revenue, spending and accountability

  • Centralize government purchasing
  • Prevent government agencies, boards and commissions from buying tables at political speeches and events
  • Create a 75% refundable tax credit for child care costs for children aged 0-15 ($389 million per year)
  • Cut small business taxes by 8.7% ($60 million per year)
  • Move forward with resource revenue sharing to help northern towns and indigenous communities ($30 million per year)

Other

  • Increase affordable housing, preserve rent controls and protect the Greenbelt
  • Several environmental initiatives including protecting waterways, increasing policing of polluters, and reducing garbage in neighbourhoods ($500 million)
  • More resources to fight organized crime and domestic violence ($35 million total)
  • More corrections, probation and parole officers ($30 million per year)

Response

The PCs have so far done little to push the platform’s release into the public eye, but Liberals and the NDP were quick to pounce on math errors and the fact that the platform isn’t costed, with little detail on how the PCs would achieve savings. Media attention has focused on some of the key platform planks and its lack of costing, giving the other parties space to characterize the PCs as continuing to hide cuts from voters.

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