Doug Ford’s resounding victory in the Ontario election will undoubtedly give him and his progressive conservative government a strong mandate for the next four years. The big questions now are what he will do with it.
1. How will Ford rule?
With an even larger majority than last time, a weakened leaderless NDP and a leaderless Liberal party in tatters, will Ford believe he has carte blanche to pursue any agenda? Will he return to the bull-in-a-china-shop way he operated during his first year in office?
“Every leader, when you first come in, you grow in the position,” Ford said at his post-victory press conference on Friday when asked what he plans to do differently in his second term.
“I’ve learned a lot in the past four years.”
Jaskaran Sandhu, a political strategist who has worked as a consultant to several parties, says Ford and the team around him have changed since he came to power.
“They were very aggressive out the gate to the point where they alienated a lot of people,” Sandhu said during the CBC News Ontario Votes 2022 election night special.
“For next time, Doug Ford will learn from that mistake.”
With the opposition parties preoccupied with their own leadership races, Sandhu believes Ford can operate as “a leader in full control of Queen’s Park” and not have to engage in a combative style of politics.
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2. What will happen if the pandemic subsides?
COVID-19 has messed up the plans of governments around the world and Ontario was no exception. Throughout 2020 and much of 2021, Ford had to focus most of its attention on fighting the pandemic.
Will Ford feel liberated from the constraints of his first term and eager to make up for lost time in his second term as it no longer takes up so much of his focus as prime minister?
There are plenty of tough issues facing the PC government in its second term, particularly fiscal and economic, said Jaime Watt, executive chairman of Navigator, a Toronto-based strategic communications firm and longtime conservative organizer.
“People will expect them to take off, especially as an experienced government,” Watt told CBC Radios Metro morning on Friday. “I think he’ll have a short honeymoon.”
3. How does inflation play a role?
Affordability and the cost of living topped nearly every published poll that polled voters about their top election issues. Ford offered three key things to make life more affordable, all aimed at making a car cheap: scrapping the $120/year fee for registering a vehicle, eliminating tolls on state highways 412 and 418 and knocking 5.7 cents a year liter off the gas tax from July 1.
But those cost savings are more than offset by rampant inflation, which has reached a three-decade high of 6.8 percent, severely hurting the wages of Ontario workers.
It will certainly make things interesting at the negotiating table. The Ford administration will soon be faced with contract negotiations with teachers’ unions and other educators, and with inflation so high, wage increases will undoubtedly become a major sticking point.
Ford said during those negotiations he wants to get “the best deal for taxpayers, number one, but the best deal for primary school teachers.”
“We call on Prime Minister Ford to change his administration’s approach during this second term,” Karen Brown, president of the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario, the province’s largest teachers’ union, said in a statement released Friday.
Brown said teachers have not been consulted about critical decisions about education in the past four years.
Together we can ensure a public education system that supports, uplifts and celebrates every student. “Let’s get it That done,” Brown said, clearly pointing to Ford’s campaign slogan “Get It Done.”
4. Will Ford ‘make it happen?’
Speaking of which, Ontarians will be looking at what the Ford government will actually do over the next four years.
Progress on some of the “it” will be easy enough to measure, especially building things: subways, highways, hospitals, long-term care facilities, and schools.
Oh, and that road to the Ring of Fire mining deposit in northern Ontario (something Ford had promised to build in the previous election, if he had to jump the bulldozer himself).
“We have a big agenda to deliver on and deliver on our promises,” Ford said Friday. “We’re going to make sure we keep every promise.”
In the flurry of pre-campaign announcements promising to build things across Ontario, the government has been vague about timelines for many of the projects and sometimes even costs, with Highway 413 being the best example.
With their “Get It Done” posts about building things, the PCs took maximum political advantage of the capital construction plan that the provincial government routinely submits each year by spotlighting projects just about anywhere in the 10-year pipeline.
If projects announced by the government in the run-up to this election don’t kick off the next election, people will wonder if “Get It Done” was anything more than a catchy slogan.
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5. Are budget cuts on the way?
Outgoing NDP leader Andrea Horwath had some parting advice for Ford about what the election results did and didn’t mean.
“Doug Ford needs to realize that the Ontarians didn’t vote for more austerity and privatization of the things that matter most,” Horwath said in her concession speech on election night.
Ford once said that listening to Horwath was “like listening to nails on a blackboard”. Is there any chance he would take her advice?
Asked about the potential for budget cuts on Friday, Ford spoke of what he called efficiencies.
“There are better ways to deliver services more efficiently at a lower cost,” Ford said.
“We’re going to make sure we respect taxpayers’ money. And that money that we save can go straight to health care, to education.”