What to expect from Doug Ford’s government in 2023

For Ontario Premier Doug Ford and his Progressive Conservative government, 2023 will be a year to push forward the “do it” agenda they promised voters during the provincial election campaign.

If the first six months of Ford’s second term are any indication, you can expect his government to act on this agenda with tactics and policies that are highly controversial.

Since forming his new cabinet this summer, Ford ministers have introduced a series of laws ostensibly designed to accelerate the pace of housing construction.

The changes have drawn criticism because they also open up pockets of the Greenbelt to development, weaken the powers of conservation authorities, limit what municipalities can charge developers for infrastructure costs, and give the mayors of Toronto and Ottawa the power to pass by-laws with the support of only one-third of the city council.

One of the government’s most controversial tactics so far in its new mandate has been to invoke the notwithstanding clause of the Charter of Rights to ban education workers from striking.

In the face of widespread anger from trade unions, in particular some who had endorsed his PC partyFord backtracked a few days later, repealed the bill, and finally reached a deal at the bargaining table.

Ford’s victory with 83 seats in 2022 marks the first time since 1955 that an Ontario premier has increased the size of his majority in his second election. (Carlos Osorio/CBC)

CBC News requested a year-end interview with Ford in early December, but the request was not granted.

So to find out what to expect from the Prime Minister and his government in 2023, CBC News interviewed three PC insiders:

  • Kory Teneycke, co-founder and CEO of Rubicon Strategy. He led Ford’s two provincial election campaigns.
  • Karl Baldauf, vice president of McMillian Vantage, a public affairs firm. He served as Chief of Staff to the President of the Treasury Board during Ford’s first term.
  • Shakir Chambers, director at Earnscliffe Strategies and former PC staff member at Queen’s Park.

1. Focus on the economy

The three insiders believe high inflation and the risks of an economic slowdown will preoccupy Ford and its government in the coming year.

« There are a lot of economists who fear that we’re in a recession, and that would be by far the biggest challenge facing not just the Ontario government, but all governments, » Teneycke said.

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With inflation high and Ontario facing the risk of a recession, Progressive Conservative insiders say the economy will be Ford’s top priority in the coming year. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Chambers thinks the government will dole out more « money in your pocket » rebates along the lines of its pre-election scrapping of vehicle registration fees and $200 per child payments to parents of school-age children.

“That little $100 here, $50 there really matters to people and really resonates with the average voter,” Chambers said.

Baldauf warns that overly broad financial measures could fuel inflation rather than fight it.

« If the Ford government is taking action to put money in people’s pockets, it will be in a very targeted way, » Baldauf said. « They need to make sure the money that goes out goes to those who have the hardest time coping with inflationary pressures. »

2. Health care in crisis

Ensuring the sustainability of Ontario’s health care system will be « one of the biggest political challenges » facing the Ford government in 2023, Baldauf said.

« Health care is in people’s faces in a way that few other issues are, » he said. « If someone’s been waiting in an emergency room for a dozen hours straight, you can’t get around that, you can’t sugarcoat that with messages. That’s a problem you have to deal with in changing the system. »

A man in a suit passes a yellow helmet to another.
In October, Ford visited CHEO, the Ottawa Children’s Hospital, and CHEO President and CEO Alex Munter presented him with a custom hard hat. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

He predicts a big government push in 2023 for greater private sector involvement in the delivery of publicly funded health care. If he’s right, you can expect it to get quite controversial.

Chambers notes that the government has yet to present a comprehensive policy to fix the healthcare system, instead offering case-by-case measures, such as trying to recruit more nurses and moving hospitalized patients to care facilities. long-term further from their homes. .

He expects there will be changes in health care because Ford and his government believe the status quo is not acceptable.

An open question is whether Ontario will inject significantly more money into its $75 billion health care budget. Much of that could depend on the decision of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s federal government.

3. Sparring (and partnering) with Trudeau

Ford and other Canadian premiers are engaged in a campaign calling for increased federal transfer payments for health care that would amount to an additional $28 billion a year. Trudeau said he was ready to offer money, but not how much and not without conditions.

Teneycke predicts that the Trudeau government will strike some sort of deal with the provinces on health care funding.

“I think the pressure is enough that you see movement on the federal side,” he said.

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Ford and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau marked the launch of Canada’s first large-scale electric vehicle manufacturing plant in early December at the General Motors CAMI assembly plant in Ingersoll, Ontario. (Nicole Osborne/The Canadian Press)

But if there’s no deal soon, you can expect Ford to slap more and harder on federal funding.

« I think you’ll see the Premier become more discerning in this regard, especially during the winter months when Ontarians grapple with health system challenges, » Baldauf said.

While the issue of health care funding pits Ford against Trudeau as adversaries, there are other issues they and their governments are working on together as partners: establishing an electric vehicle industry, extracting minerals essential for electric vehicle batteries, building mass transit, reducing emissions from steel mills and tackling housing shortages.

Ford and Trudeau are « more than willing to work together to get results because they share many of the same voters in the ridings that decide elections, » Chambers said.

4. Will controversial moves provide housing?

Critics say the Ford government is using the housing crisis as an excuse to make changes that help property developers maximize their profits. The coming year will be a test of whether government measures actually do more than that.

Since 2020, new housing starts in Ontario have reached all-time highs, but have yet to surpass 100,000 per year, according to statistics from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. That means the pace of construction needs to pick up dramatically in order for Ford to deliver on its promise of 1.5 million new homes built in a decade.

doug ford pc ontario election 2022
Ford has promised that 1.5 million new homes will be built in Ontario over the next decade. However, the government’s own recently released economic outlook predicts only 240,000 housing starts over the next three years. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

But with an economic environment of high interest rates, inflation driving up construction costs and a declining real estate market, there are many predictions that new home starts will decline in 2023 rather than n. will increase. Even the government’s own forecast shows that housing starts will total no more than 85,000 a year in each of the next three years.

“I think there are a lot more things the government is going to try to do,” Teneycke said. « But a lot of what needs to happen is more about execution and implementation. »

Teneycke says the government was right to make structural changes to housing development policy at the start of its new term.

“You have to have time for these changes to really take effect and work their way through the system so that you start to see results by the next election,” he said.

Chambers says Ford and his government have talked a lot about housing.

« What they want to see now is progress. Are we building? »

5. Expect the unexpected

Ford’s time as prime minister has shown that it can be difficult to predict the actions of his government with great accuracy. From reducing the size of Toronto City Council in 2018 to raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour in 2021 (after previously freezing it) to breaking its oft-repeated promise not to touching the greenbelt in 2022, Ford did things as premier that he’d not signaled in advance.

So it’s probably safe to expect in 2023 Ford to do something you don’t expect.

purolator national hub toronto
The Ford government introduced legislation to give the mayors of Toronto and Ottawa the power to pass bylaws with the support of only one-third of the city council. (Carlos Osorio/CBC)

When asked what problem they think the government will tackle in the coming year that didn’t make the headlines, Teneycke and Baldauf independently pointed out the workforce qualified.

“We are desperately short of skilled trades workers,” Teneycke said. « These are the people you need to build the highways and dig the subway tunnels and build the new condo towers and the new houses. »

« Making sure people can work in the jobs of the future… will be a big priority, I imagine, for this government, » Baldauf said.

Other elements on the horizon in 2023:


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