Toronto, ON – On June 7th, Ontarians voted for Doug Ford, on July 12th, Ontario got a new governing doctrine.
“Change will not be easy, the road ahead will not be easy but the path is clear,” so sayeth Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell in her Throne Speech last week to open Ontario’s new parliament.
In the nine page throne speech, Premier Doug Ford’s Tory government said it cannot afford to dither or delay. “To overcome these challenges, we must challenge the status quo, reject the old compromises and embrace change,” said the speech. The speech, Dowdeswell was required to read since she is the representative of the Crown, was not so much a path for the way forward as it was a reaffirmation of election doctrine. Much like Donald Trump south of the border, Ford appears to traveling the road of governing through disruption as well as distraction.
Days before the throne speech. Ford made headlines for arranging the ousting of Hydro One CEO Mayo Schmidt and the entire board of directors of the utility. Schmidt, an election target whom Ford dubbed the $6 million man because of his annual salary, seems to have had the last laugh. Earlier in the week, Ford bragged Schmidt got zero severance and only a $400,000.00 lump sum payout in lieu of post –retirement benefits.
On the day of throne speech, the truth leaked out. Ford couldn’t fire Schmidt or force him to resign as he had promised during the election. Schmidt chose to retire rather than resign and will walk away with close to the $10.7 million he would have received in severance. Seeking damage control before the speech, a spokesman for the premier issued a statement saying, “Ford made a promise that the former CEO of Hydro One would be gone; and he kept his promise.” This prompted opposition leader Andrea Horwath to quip, “Apparently, what Mr. Ford has succeeded in doing is turning a six million dollar man into a nine million dollar man.”
What exactly has this Ford-imposed shake-up at Hydro One accomplished? Ford made an election promise to reduce everyone’s hydro bills. Ousting the CEO and Board of Directors of Hydro One was his first step but reducing executive salaries will only impact your hydro bill by a few pennies. However, while this action may be seen to appease the voters, it sent an entirely different signal to the business community. Hydro One stock dropped $ 0.65 a share and it could fall even further. Is this a portent of things to come? What about plans to bar a wind farm company from suing the Ford government over scrapping its White Pines wind turbine project in Prince Edward County? What does this do to confidence in the government? The reaction was swift to say the least.
Within a day of Schmidt’s departure, the Chairman of Metrolinx (the regional transportation agency created by the province in 2006), Robert Pritchard, resigned his position immediately, citing a change in leadership was needed in light of the election of a new government in Ontario. Yes, Ontario is open for business!
The throne speech also stated an updated health curriculum that brought sex education into the next millennium when introduced to the classroom three years ago, will be cancelled. It will be replaced with older curriculum backdated to the 1990’s. A time-tested cap and trade system will be stopped, as will an alliance with Québec and California resulting in $1.9 billion less to environmental programs and Ford has told Prime Minister Trudeau in private talks earlier this month, Ontario will not support a carbon tax. During the election, Ford promised beer sales in the corner store, an expansion of the Liberal policy which allows supermarkets to sell six-packs. Considering the 10-year agreement signed by the Wynne Liberal government in 2015 with the Beer Store – owned by the major breweries, to restrict six-pack sales to 450 supermarkets, any breach has severe penalties. Yes Ontario is open for business!
Still to come are six billion dollars in savings through operating efficiencies and ten cents a liter savings at the gas pumps and if the Mayo Schmidt removal is an example of how it will be done, then Ontarians may be in for a rough ride. But fear not, hope has been provided, Ontarians need only look to the Throne Speech for answers…..Titled, ‘A government for people’, the speech ended with a Trumpesque statement….’Help is here.”