It was a sombre Speech from the Throne, perhaps marking the fact that the Ford Government does not have to face the voters again for four years. From inflation to healthcare to labour shortages, the Ford PCs ticked off a list of the head winds that the government faces.
The speech acknowledged that Ontarians overwhelmingly rate the increased cost-of-living as their major issue. The Throne Speech mentioned many of the campaign’s core narratives on affordability including the removal of road tolls, and increases to the minimum wage.
As was expected the Throne Speech mentions increasing ODSP (Ontario Disability Support Program) rates to ensure the government meets its mid-campaign pledge, and it goes one step further than that, with a pledge to index ODSP rate increases to inflation.
Around the talk of inflation and interest rates, is the talk of potential adverse economic storm clouds rolling in. “While the full impact of this response is currently unclear, Ontario, like the rest of Canada and North America, must be prepared for the possibility of a near-term economic slowdown.”
With 27 mentions, ‘Health’ carried a lot of weight in this Throne Speech. The Throne Speech punctuates its healthcare section with a final, and direct, mention of the Canada Health Transfer (CHT). The CHT was the subject of considerable attention earlier this summer when the Council of the Federation gathered in British Columbia. Look for that noise to get louder with elections in Quebec and Alberta in the offing.
The Throne Speech goes to lengths to state that healthcare systems are under strain across Canada. While at the same time mentioning previous government investments in everything from more medical school spots, foreign credential recognition for healthcare workers, recruitment, and retention benefits for nurses and PSWs (Personal Support Workers), and, of course, hospital infrastructure.
The Throne Speech talked a lot about the economic opportunities in Ontario. There was considerable attention paid to the Ring of Fire, following the Premier’s mention in his victory speech from Election Night, and his appointing of Mines Minister, George Pirie, with a special mandate for the Northern Ontario mining project.
The government reiterated its pledge to build 1.5 million homes over the next ten years. Tied to that, at least as far as the Ford PCs are concerned, is changes that will give municipalities more ability to get that housing built. That includes additional “strong mayor” powers for the cities of Toronto and Ottawa to start. The province is also planning to make more provincial surplus lands available for housing development. In the end, it circles back to the government’s core economic narrative – keeping life affordable.
In an analysis, Enterprise Canada noted “it’s clear that the Doug Ford who went around the province talking about new highways and hospitals, standing in front of construction sites is still there but has a sense that the economy may have some nasty surprises in store for his plans. No clearer example of that exists than the 413, which got much attention on the campaign trail, but merited only a single paragraph in today’s speech.