In Ontario, the newly-elected government of Conservative premier Doug Ford has moved quickly to dismantle policies and programs supported by the previous government. In political terms, those changes are coming at a breakneck pace, and with some predictable fallout. Some of the changes have come as a surprise to critics and supporters alike.
Doug Ford was sworn in as premier of Ontario on June 26. He pledged to blaze a new trail for the province, and he appears to be doing just that.
His first major step, almost a week later, was to announce his government would pull out of the cap-and-trade program, a market-based approach to controlling pollution. And that’s not all.
“We will officially challenge the federal government carbon tax on Ontario families because the cap-and-trade and carbon tax does nothing for the environment,” Ford said.
Ottawa’s program puts a cap on greenhouse gas emissions and is designed to help fight climate change as well as reward companies that reduce greenhouse gas pollution.
Ending that program had some leaders, such as the federal environment minister, questioning whether Ontario has any plan to fight climate change. Ontario was now on a collision course with the federal Liberal government in Ottawa.
Then came the issue of housing and services for the influx of asylum seekers illegally entering Canada from the U.S. Lisa MacLeod, Ford’s minister of children community and social services, wants Ottawa to foot the bill.
"The message that I delivered to the federal government, it was very simple and very clear. If you want to continue welcoming people who cross illegally into our country and into the province of Ontario, then they, and they alone, should be responsible for the housing and settlement costs,” Ford said.
In the throne speech, laying out its political agenda, the Ford government also talked about expanding alcohol sales and eliminating the recently introduced sex education curriculum, returning to the curriculum of 1998. Ford also announced an inquiry into the previous government’s spending and he legislated an end to a months-long strike at York Unviersity.
And in a stunning move, Ford said he would cut the size of the city council in Toronto almost in half. Ontario has that power, but it sparked chaos as municipal election campaigns are about to get underway.
"Our estimates show that having fewer politicians at city hall will save Toronto taxpayers $25 million. And I think Toronto taxpayers will be happy to trade a bunch of politicians at city hall for millions of dollars that can be reinvested in the city’s pressing priorities,” Ford said.
That led to an uproar in city council with the Mayor fighting back, calling for a referendum and a plan to fight the move.
Some analysts called Ford’s announcement vindictive and malicious, stemming from his days as a city councilor.
“It’s not up to Mr. Ford to make this decision by edict, as though he were a dictator, and not engage the people who it’s going to affect. He is taking vengeance on his former political opponents. He’s behaving in a very mean-spiritied way and his bullying approach to politics is odious,” said the leader of the opposition in the Ontario legislature.
Ford’s latest decision has sent ripples through other municipalities who might suffer the same fate. It also drew sharp criticism from Ottawa, where political leaders say they will work around his government where possible. Many of his governing tactics have drawn comparisons to U.S. President Donald Trump.
But some analysts say Ford has only scratched the surface of his powers and there’s more to come. They believe Ontario, if not all of Canada, is in for a wild ride for the next four years.