Premier Doug Ford’s election victory ushered in a year of change for Ontario.
“We’re moving at lightning speed. I think we’re going to continue moving forward, fulfilling promises we made,” Ford told reporters earlier this week.
House leader Todd Smith said in a statement Thursday that the PCs did good on their promise to “clean up 15 years of scandal, waste and mismanagement at Queen’s Park,” in reference to the Liberal party.
However, Ford’s critics say his priorities are wrong, axing social services and environmental protections, while loosening gambling and liquor laws.
“Doug Ford’s priorities are out of whack,” said MPP John Fraser, interim Liberal party leader at a news conference Thursday. “He can hire a special advisor for alcohol, and then axe the child advocate … He can send all his MPPs out over a weekend to hock beer and wine in the corner store when their time would be better spent listening to parents of children with autism and special needs.”
Green Party leader Mike Schreiner called it “the year that’s taking us backwards.”
June 7 is the one-year anniversary of Ford coming into office, and to mark it we’ve compiled an inexhaustive list of his government’s accomplishments and blunders.
Ontarians vote in a majority PC government led by Ford. He’s perhaps best known for his time as a Toronto city councillor, and as brother to the late mayor Rob Ford.
In the weeks following the June 7 election, and before he was sworn in, Ford set about change:
- Ontario’s public service faces a hiring freeze and is no longer allowed subscription-based services and out-of-province travel for government workers.
- Greg Rickford Minister of Indigenous Affairs is also put in charge of energy, northern development, mines and Indigenous affairs, combining the ministries.
Ford calls a rare summer session and his government gets to work cancelling and rolling back Liberal legislation and promises:
- The province’s first chief of science is fired.
- Ontario’s cap-and-trade program is cancelled and along with it other programs that relied on expected cap-and-trade revenue including a fund for school repairs, cycling infrastructure and energy efficient renovation rebates. The province withdraws from an agreement with Quebec and California to establish a carbon market to buy and sell pollution credits. The province’s financial watchdog estimates the loss of the program will cost the province $3 billion in lost revenue over four years.
- The basic income pilot project is cancelled. It was supposed to last three years and experts say it could’ve lifted thousands of people out of poverty.
- The Hydro One CEO, who rose to infamy when he earned $6.2 million in 2017, retires and the board of directors is replaced. The next CEO’s salary is capped at $1.5 million.
- The rebate program for electric car owners is cancelled as the funding is no longer available from cap and trade, and initially Tesla owners aren’t entitled to receive the promised $14,000 rebate. Tesla goes on to sue the province and wins
- The 2015 sex-ed curriculum is reverted back to its 1998 predeccesor while the Ministry of Education does consultations. It later determines it wouldn’t scrap any topics in the new sex-ed curriculum, but that they’d be taught in later grades than the Liberals had planned.
- Cannabis rules are changed so that it can be sold by private retailers, rather than the Liquor Control Board, and online.
- Toronto city council will be cut almost in half in the middle of its municipal election, the province unexpectedly announces, and some elections for regional chairs are cancelled, including in Peel — where former PC leader Patrick Brown, and Ford’s political rival, had planned to run.
- The province launches a constitutional challenge against the federal government’s carbon tax and says it’s prepared to pay $30 million in legal costs to do it.
- The buck-a-beer plan is launched.It includes offering brewers non-financial incentives, such as products being displayed in prime locations in LCBOs, to sell beer for $1. Few brewers take Ford up on the offer.
- Ontario News Now is launched, paid for with taxpayer money, to spread Ford’s messages through TV-news style videos.
- The province creates a snitch line, encouraging parents to tattle on teachers who use the 2015 sex-ed curriculum.
- Ford requires colleges and universities create and make public free speech policies.
- The province faces a growing number of legal challenges, including by the teacher’s union over the sex-ed curriculum, Greenpeace over the cap-and-trade cancellation, and the City of Toronto over the council cuts.
- Ford says he will use the notwithstanding clause following a superior court ruling that the council cuts are unconstitutional. The notwithstanding clause gives the province the ability to override parts of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, including court rulings.
- Protesters gather at Queen’s Park during a question period to protest the province’s planned use of the notwithstanding clause, and some senior citizens causing a disturbance are escorted out by security. The province also faces criticism from groups like Amnesty International who decry the use of notwithstanding clause.
- Toronto council cuts are pushed through by the province without using the notwithstanding clause after it secures a ruling in its favour from the court of appeal.
- The Drive Clean program is cancelled.
- Ford vows to scrap the Liberal government’s labour reform bill that gave workers two mandatory sick days and pledged to increase minimum wage from $14 to $15 an hour in 2019.
- Signs reading “Open for Business” are put up at 18 border crossings with the U.S.
- Funding for three university expansions, in Markham, Brampton and Milton, is cancelled.
- Spirits are dampened in the house after the PCs learn complaints have been made about their repeated standing ovations, when they stand and clap after the premier or MPPs speak, sometimes as often as 22 times in 45 minutes.
Watch: Are we headed to a Ford fiesta? Story continues below.
- Three independent officers of the legislature are closed and responsibilities absorbed by the ombudsman or auditor general. This means the elimination of a children’s advocate, environmental commissioner and French language services commissioner.
- Ford faces backlash to cuts to French services, including cancelling a planned French language university. He concedes by creating a commissioner role in the ombudsman’s office, but PC MPP Amanda Simard, who represents a largely Francophone riding, still leaves caucus to sit as an independent.
- Ron Taverner, Ford’s friend, is appointed as OPP commissioner despite not meeting the initial job requirements, raising suspicion from the opposition parties. Taverner eventually withdraws and an integrity commissioner investigation finds Ford’s staffer Dean French played a role in the appointment.
- A new climate strategy is announced (to replace the cap-and-trade program) and includes charging some companies if they emit too many greenhouse gases, although Ford refuses to call it a tax. The plan is criticized by some experts as being weak and ineffective.
- The College of Midwives of Ontario is informed it will no longer receive funding from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.
- Tuition grants for low-income students are cancelled, and tuition fees overall are cut by 10 per cent, leaving post-secondary institutions short hundreds of millions of dollars. Student fees for organizations, newspapers and clubs are made optional, a change student unions are now challenging in court.
- Ford offers ex-Mayor of Mississauga Hazel McCallion, 97, a $150,000-a-year advisory position, which she turns down.
- Word gets out through the Taverner scandal that Ford had requested from the OPP a camper van equipped with $50,000 worth of customizations, including a mini-fridge, swivel chairs and TV. His government defends the van as “perfectly reasonable,” although it is never actually purchased.
- The province begins talks to takeover Toronto’s subway system which it says will get more lines built faster.
- An overhaul of the health-care system — merging 14 health networks into one — which the premier admitted will result in layoffs, an outcome Ford said throughout his election campaign wouldn’t happen.
- A funding increase promised by the Liberal governemnt for rape crisis centres is cut back from a permanent 33 per cent increase to a one-time 6.7 per cent increase.
- Autism funding changes are announced, but fall short of what parents need to ensure their children can access therapy and lead to widespread protests and backlash. The province later walks back the plan, extending current therapy funding and agreeing to do consultations with parents and service providers before rolling out changes.
- Education changes are announced including larger class sizes, mandatory e-learning courses and axing thousands of teacher positions by not filling vacancies. It remains unclear how many teachers will be laid off. Education Minister Lisa Thompson continues to insist that there will be no “involuntary” job losses and that school boards and unions talking about layoffs are “fear-mongering” and playing politics.
- Six overdose prevention sites key to addressing the opioid crisis lose their licence under the province’s new model, including three in Toronto and three in Ottawa. A total of 15 across Ontario remain open.
- Province repeals toxin tracking legislation that requires companies to report their use of chemicals and pollutants.
- Provincial social programs will collectively face $1 billion in cuts over the next three years, including cuts to Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program, and the government said it will review its supportive housing programs.
- The province passes alcohol and gambling reforms including legalizing online gambling, and allowing bars to serve liquor at 9 a.m., letting casinos give out alcohol for free and municipalities to permit drinking in parks.
- The Indigenous Affairs budget is cut by nine per cent.
- Provincial Health coverage for people travelling outside of Canada could end, the government announced.
- Gas stations will be required to display Ontario’s anti-carbon tax stickers on pumps.
Watch: Winners and losers of the 2019 budget. Story continues below.
- Health research funding is axed by $52 million and digital health programs by $70 million.
- The province ends a program that would’ve planted 50 million trees in Ontario. Later, the federal government pledges to cover the funding gap and keep the program afloat.
- Legal Aid Ontario’s budget is cut by $133 million, with more clawbacks in coming years
- The province says it will change how juries are selected so its based on Ministry of Health data rather than property ownership, resulting in more jurors from marginalized and Indigenous communities.
- The province announces cuts for municipalities, including $200 million a year to public health and $50 million for subsidized child care. Caving to pressure from municipalities, former health ministers and voters, the province says it will cancel retroactive cuts, although the funding changes are still likely to go ahead in 2020.
- A new housing bill is introduced that reintroduces the old Ontario Municipal Board (previously criticized for undermining local authority and concerns and causing years-long delays), changes some development charge rules and limits protections for endangered species and powers of conservation authorities.
- Indigenous courses in high schools won’t be mandatory as the Liberals had promised.
- The province says it will end its 10-year deal with the Beer Store so that alcohol can be sold in convenience stores.
- Speed limits are raised on three provincial 400-series highways.
- The province announces it will allow taller buildings in parts of Toronto in order to increase density and, it says, address the affordable housing crisis.
More than one million public sector employees, including teachers and nurses, face a wage increase cap.