Originally published: July 11. Latest update: Oct. 19
Before he was elected premier of Ontario, Doug Ford made an array of ambitious campaign promises—from middle-class income tax cuts to repealing the cap-and-trade program to scrapping the discovery math curriculum in public schools. He vowed to create a “government for the people,” and part of that would mean cracking down on spending.
In his first weeks in office, Ford’s government acted quickly—announcing several cuts across different sectors. These decisions are raising concern throughout the province about what the next four years under Ford could look like. The Official Opposition, a role now held by the NDP, has criticized his opening acts as premier as a “series of closed-door, back-room decisions hidden from the public.”
Here’s a look at the cost-cutting measures Ford has taken so far.
- Ford has cancelled three summer curriculum-writing sessions for educators throughout the province, including one that fulfills recommendations by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and two others related to American sign language and Indigenous languages for kindergarteners. The TRC’s calls to action urged schools to make the history of Indigenous people, residential schools and treaties a mandatory part of their curriculums.
School building repairs
- The province has cancelled a $100 million fund meant to fix dilapidated school infrastructure—this coming after the cancellation of the cap-and-trade program, part of which helped pay for energy-efficient renovations in schools. Ontario schools currently face a repair backlog of nearly $16 billion.
- The Ford government will no longer allow food and coffee—and other drinks, like alcohol—to be served at staff meetings or events attended by provincial government employees. Government workplaces throughout the province will also be required to cancel all paper-based newspaper and magazine subscriptions. Most travel outside of the province is now restricted; Ontario says it expects to have a “reduced attendance at intergovernmental meetings.”
- It turns out that the province’s cutbacks come in all shapes and sizes. The office of Finance Minister Victor Fedeli has removed 24 telephone landlines and two fax lines. Robert Gibson, Fedeli’s press secretary, says the move will save taxpayers $11,582.40 per year, adding that they will be keeping “three landlines for conference calling purposes.”
- Under changes enacted in 2017 by the Liberals, the pharmacare program offered free prescription medication to people under 25. The day after Ford was sworn in, his government announced that youth with private coverage will no longer be able to access these benefits.
Renewable energy/energy conservation
- Tory house leader Todd Smith has said that the government plans to end the White Pines Wind Project in his own riding of Bay of Quinte, a wind turbine venture that has been in development for the past 10 years. It has been staunchly opposed by several local groups in Prince Edward County, but Ian MacRae, the president of WPD Canada, the company behind the project, warned that its cancellation would cost ratepayers more than $100 million.
- Ford has axed the Green Ontario Fund, a $377 million non-for-profit agency that was financed by proceeds generated from the cap-and-trade program. The fund was launched last August and was meant to help homeowners, renters and businesses make their properties more energy-efficient, in an effort to reduce both residents’ carbon footprints and their hydro bills. Ford quietly ended the fund before he took office.
- Another such casualty is the rebate program for buyers of electric and hydrogen vehicles. Also funded by the cap-and-trade program, the program’s cancellation, province says, is part of its commitment to bring gas prices down by 10 cents a litre. It comes at a time when Canadian electric vehicle sales have soared in recent years.
Employment and social services
- Ford has scrapped social-assistance changes made by the former Liberal government. In her pre-election budget, Kathleen Wynne approved three per cent welfare increases over the next three years, but social services minister Lisa MacLeod has said the number will be reduced to 1.5 per cent—describing the move as “compassionate.” It’s unclear how much this change is expected to save.
- On the same day, the government ended Ontario’s basic income pilot project after Ford promised it would go untouched. Launched in 2017, the program set aside $150 million over three years and was meant to provide financial support to 4,000 low-income people in three Ontario locations. MacLeod said the project was “quite expensive,” adding that it’s “clearly not the answer for Ontario families.”
- Ford has also put an end to the Roundtable on Violence Against Women, a panel of experts that provided advice to Ontario on the issue. It was founded under the previous Liberal government in 2015, and with the exception of the group’s co-chairs, was made up entirely of volunteers. Last year, the group successfully advocated for paid leave for people experiencing domestic or sexual violence, or the threat of it, to be included in the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act (better known as Bill 148). Ford has said he will scrap that legislation.