Premier Doug Ford has been working at break-neck speed making changes across Ontario since being sworn in on June 29.
But local MPPs think the changes shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention.
“All these decisions are ones that we ran on. It was all transparent and in our platform. We received a clear mandate from Ontarians and we’re delivering,” says Barrie-Innisfil MPP Andrea Khanjin.
“People are used to the wheels of government turning very slowly, but we have a premier now who’s doing otherwise. We’re trying to provide relief to taxpayers quickly.”
Some of the changes made by Ford over the past two weeks include ending the cap-and-trade program, cancelling $100 million promised to schools for infrastructure repairs, dialing back free prescriptions for children and young adults, cancelling the Truth and Reconciliation Commission curriculum writing, reverting to the old sex-ed curriculum and dismissing the CEO and board of Hydro One.
Khanjin says she has received feedback from constituents on the changes.
“People are surprised at how things are moving, but they’re pleased we have a government for the first time who said they were going to do it, and they are doing it,” says Khanjin.
“Promises were made, promises were kept and promises were delivered,” says Khanjin. “It’s been well-received when I talk to people at (local) events.”
When asked if the local leaders had any direct input in these decisions, Khanjin says these changes came from grassroots members of the PC party.
“The process took place well before the election,” says Khanjin.
Doug Downey, MPP for Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte, agrees with Khanjin that these changes shouldn’t come as a surprise to voters who read the PC platform.
“A lot of the decisions made come out of things we campaigned on. Ending cap and trade... we’ve been running on that for two years,” says Downey.
Downey denies that these decisions have been made unilaterally by Doug Ford.
“In the eight days since we’ve been sworn in, I’ve been in briefings for four days. Everyone’s fully engaged in their areas,” says Downey. “I don’t think any of this is really a surprise to people. Maybe they’re surprised at how fast we’re actually working. We jumped right in, but I think that’s what people want,” says Downey.
Downey concedes that he has received feedback from his constituents, but says that’s par for the course in political work.
“I receive information constantly, both positive and negative,” says Downey.
Downey rests some blame on the school renovation funds being cancelled at the feet of the former government.
“The Liberals embedded some of these things, like school renovations, in the (cap-and-trade system). We were clear we were going to get rid of the (system),” says Downey.
Downey is also quick to clarify that some of the school renovations will still be implemented on a case-by-case basis, and that the government plans to honour arrangements where contracts have already been signed.
Leah Bortolotti, communications officer for Simcoe North MPP Jill Dunlop, declined a request on Dunlop’s behalf to be interviewed for this story.
“If you would like to schedule an interview with MPP Dunlop in a few weeks, please let me know,” said Bortolotti in an email.
Simcoe-Grey MPP Jim Wilson did not return a request for comment by publication time.
The Throne Speech was delivered Thursday by Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell, officially opening the 42nd Parliament. Ford announced that the summer session will build on the achievements the PCs have already made with the goal of reining in government spending. Ford indicated his party’s intention is to get the province back on a healthy financial footing, so it can invest in strengthening public services such as hospitals and schools. Ford also reiterated his intention to send a message to the world that Ontario is open for business, and plans to back it up by lowering taxes and reducing regulatory burdens.
York-Simcoe MPP Caroline Mulroney also did not return a request for comment, however her media contact Jessica Trepanier sent out a press release on Thursday with Mulroney’s comments on the Throne Speech.
“Our government campaigned on a commitment to work for the people of Ontario and make life more affordable in our province. Today’s Throne Speech is a reaffirmation of that commitment,” reads the release.
“We will work every day to lower hydro bills, reduce gas prices, bring jobs back to Ontario, rebuild trust and accountability in government, and provide tax relief to families and small businesses... In the coming days, weeks and months, we will work to ensure that hard-working Ontarians are always at the heart of what we do.”