Skip to Content
Sign up for Grass Roots Public Affairs Quarterly Newsletter Twitter Facebook

Ontario's political leaders are going to go for it hammer and tong this legislative session. Here is what you need to know.

Mon 11th Sep 2017
The summer recess has finally ended and provincial legislators have returned to Queens Park and soon the newspapers will be full of commentaries and stories focused on government and opposition promises and accusations.

Despite what you may have heard, there are actually three notable trials taking place this fall. The first trial pertains to allegations of bribery directed against Senior Liberal Advisor Patricia Sorbara and local organizer Gerry Lougheed. It should be noted that Premier Wynne is going to testify in this trial this week.

The second trial pertains to the charges of breach of trust, mischief and unlawful use of a computer directed at two former Senior Liberal advisors Laura Miller and David Livingston – key staffers in the former McGuinty government who are believed to be involved in the mismanaged cancellation of gas plants in two key Liberal ridings.

The third trial pertains to the court of public opinion – the ultimate judge, jury and executioner in a democracy. The Liberals will use every opportunity they can to change the channel this fall and they are likely to do so with major policy announcements such as this past spring’s big announcement on  minimum wage or taking advantage of a growing economy. Late last week, while the Sudbury bribery trial was underway, the government announced it will be opening up to 150 government-run marijuana retail outlets by 2020.

The Liberals know that the media beast can only chew on one ankle at a time and major policy announcements serve as somewhat meaningful distraction. A policy-driven strategy allows for the media and the public to chew on ideas, facts and figures (and hopefully not the trials) while putting into the minds of voters that the party has a plan for the future. 

Premier Wynne has a very talented research team that understands that on a personal level the Premier is only approved of by roughly three-in-every twenty voters, however, the policies that she has put forth are well-liked and support the party’s overall messaging of Fairness.  Alternatively phrased the Liberal Party strategy could be interpreted as “Substance over Character”.

Last week Premier Wynne sat down with TVO host Steve Paikin to discuss a number of key issues facing the province. All things considered the premier demonstrated a high degree of certainty and conviction in her plan and is very well aware of the opposition she faces both in the legislature and in the public forum.

If there is ever a time to step up to the plate it’s now-or-never for the leaders of the opposition. Patrick Brown and Andrea Horwath have a wide array of options at their disposal to use against the government. Polling has shown that Patrick Brown is not very well known as leader of the opposition, but his party has maintained a consistent lead in the polls for some time. The NDP are third in the polls and struggle to break 25% of vote, however, Andrea Horwath enjoys relatively high levels of awareness and is often seen as the most well-liked of the three major party leaders.

What is really important for both opposition parties to keep in mind to propose and not just oppose.  The Ontario NDP have dedicated resources to two major policy areas: Hydro and Pharmacare. The problem is that the Liberals have also offered their own alternatives to those exact policy areas with their introduction of a ~25% reduction on energy bills (up to 40% in rural areas where delivery costs are greater – as well as an area the OLP fails to make inroads with), and free pharmacare for Ontarians under the age of 25.

The same cannot be said for the Progressive Conservatives. Patrick Brown has been playing his cards close to his chest to date with respects to major policy commitments. Having said that, there is no doubt that the PCs are researching policy ideas that are both distinguishable from the other two parties and of importance to voters at-large.

The PCs have a policy conference scheduled for late November where ideas will likely be hashed out and made public. Many experts anticipate the party will be doing what they can to learn from the Million Jobs Plan that was poorly communicated by previous PC campaign in 2014

With the OLP fighting the NDP over centre-left voters – a constituency large enough to guarantee a minority government, the PCs must do what they can to not only maintain discipline within the many segments of the conservative base but also attract disenfranchised Liberals and centrist voters to their camp.

A lot will happen this fall session and each party has their work cut out for them. Timing is very important in politics and the Liberals may have time on their side: had these two trials taken place in the beginning of 2018 or non-simultaneously, the OLP would run an extremely high risk of losing in the court of public opinion.

Grassroots will be maintaining a high presence at Queens Park over the next few months leading into next spring’s election. It will be an interesting and memorable ending to 2018 for more reasons than one.