You may have noticed the headlines dominated by campaign coverage for the upcoming provincial election. And, by now, if you have no clue what’s even happening, it could be a little embarrassing to ask (but, hey, we don’t blame you).
Luckily, we’re here to help fill you in when it comes to the 2018 Ontario election – which will be held on Thursday, June 7, 2018.
You’ll find a general overview here, a breakdown of the Conservative Party here, and an overview of the New Democratic Party here. If you have questions about the Liberal Party, you’re in the right spot.
Here are the basics on the Liberal Party of Ontario.
Kathleen Wynne is the current leader of the Liberal Party, and the Premier of Ontario (we told you this was about the basics). She has led the party since 2013, and is the Member of the Ontario Provincial Parliament, representing the riding of Don Valley West. First elected to public office as a Toronto District School Board Trustee in 2000, and elected to the Provincial Legislature in 2003, Wynne served in various cabinet posts before leading her party to a majority government victory in the 2014 election.
It’s safe to say that Wynne isn’t exactly winning any popularity contests. During Wynne’s time in office, she has inspired a ton of backlash to things like a recent minimum wage hike (which went into effect on January 1), sky-rocketing hydro prices, and accusations of being elitist and out of touch with regular people.
In addressing hydro costs in November 2016, she stated, “I take responsibility as leader for not paying close enough attention to some of the daily stresses in Ontarians’ lives.”
Addressing the current state of high rent and housing costs, earlier this year the Liberal government implemented a handful of policy changes, including 15% tax on home purchases by non-residents of the GTA, rent controls for all private rental units (as opposed to only those occupied before 1991), and a five-year program to encourage the construction of new rental apartment buildings, thanks to a rebate for a portion of the development charges.
Late last month, Wynne and the Liberal Party tabled a budget that has been highly criticized as a massive “spending spree.” This means extra funding for healthcare, daycare, dental care, and a slew of other things.
The Liberals are expanding the OHIP+ program – which provides free prescription drugs to people under the age 25 – to seniors, replacing the Ontario Drug Benefit program. This move comes with a $1 billion price tag.
The government also proposed an additional $822 million on hospitals to aid the province’s ageing population.
Tackling the (overdue) issue of mental health, the province will invest $2.1 billion over four years toward the cause, including publicly funded psychotherapy, and making mental health services available in every high school.
The Liberals also proposed a shiny new “Ontario Drug and Dental Program” that would offer dental and prescription-drug coverage starting this summer. This would cover 80% of drug and dental fees, and cost the province $800 million over two years.
Also making headlines is the Liberals proposed free licensed daycare for kids two-and-a-half-years-old and up beginning in 2020 – an initiative that will cost $2.2 billion over three years.
Under the proposed budget, getting from point A to point B will also be more affordable – if you use your Presto card. Trips within the 416 area code and GO train travel of 10 km or less will cost $3. There’s also talk of the government potentially taking ownership of the TTC.
Wynne’s popularity has decreased in the past year or so, with approval ratings in the teens. To be honest, even Wynne’s former supporters seem to be falling off the wagon. With that said, my newsfeed has been peppered with soon-to-be parents (or current parents who know firsthand how pricey daycare can be) praising Wynne’s free daycare promise.
Although she may seem one of the most hated public figures in provincial politics, Wynne’s most glaringly obvious opponent is PC leader Doug Ford, and the two have engaged in an exchange of ridicule and words throughout the past couple of months.
Wynne’s entire platform centres on themes of fairness and opportunity for all citizens. “We are fighting for you, we will keep fighting for you,” she said at the Liberal general meeting on February 3. “We will never stop fighting for you.”
Since tabling the budget late in March, pundits are concerned with her “spending spree” and “red ink” on the behalf of taxpayers. Most recently, Wynne’s name made headlines when she fired back at New York’s “Buy American” policy, putting up trade barriers that went to effect on April 1. As a result, Ontario will no longer use iron from New York in provincially funded construction projects.
The budget will likely continue to dominate Liberal Party talk, as Wynne presumably makes her rounds throughout the province at various public appearances in the upcoming weeks.