The Ontario Liberal leadership campaign concluded today with a dramatic third ballot showdown between contenders Sandra Pupatello and Kathleen Wynne. Wynne emerged as the victor on the final ballot with 1,150 convention delegates to Pupatello’s 866. The head-to-head final ballot materialized over the course of the afternoon with Eric Hoskins, Charles Sousa and Gerard Kennedy throwing their support behind Wynne, and Harinder Takhar lining up behind Pupatello. With Dalton McGuinty’s successor now chosen, StrategyCorp takes a look at the new Liberal leader and soon-to-be Premier – Kathleen Wynne. Although Kathleen Wynne released policy papers addressing the economy, education and health and social services, her leadership campaign focused on two principal messages. The first centered on fiscal and social responsibility, and stressed that the Progressive Conservatives do not have a corner on fiscal responsibility, and that the NDP do not have a corner on compassion. The second emphasized her perceived ability to achieve consensus and her desire to find ways to govern by working with the opposition. While this message was initially misinterpreted as a signall of a potential coalition with the New Democrats, Wynne clarified that she was prepared to work with either party to find common ground but not at the expense of her principles. At the beginning of the campaign Wynne was generally viewed as being the leading representative of the left faction of the Liberal Party. During the past few months she has tried to broaden her campaign by tying her messages on health care, transportation, education and social issues to the province’s economy. She has stated that she is committed to adopting the deficit reduction targets set out by the McGuinty government. As a former member of the Treasury Board of Cabinet, Wynne has already been part of the many kinds of discussions that will take place in the future, but she has also said that fiscal responsibility is not just about cuts, but also about increasing productivity, including investing in infrastructure, education, and targeted direct investments. It is likely that she will want to demonstrate her economic credentials early on in her mandate but this will need to be balanced with any discussions she may have with the opposition to formulate a budget that will find enough support to be passed. Wynne received significant support from Cabinet and caucus, including:
|Cabinet Supporters||Caucus Supporters|
Immediate Priorities for the Newly-Elected Liberal Leader
Kathleen Wynne made her readiness to govern a cornerstone of her campaign. Her slogan, “Running to Govern, Ready to Win” was designed to highlight the perception she was better-suited to working with the New Democrast and Progressive Conservatives, and that she is also in a better position to win the next general election. She also used her seat in the Legislature and readiness to return to office as a key differentiator with her closest rival, Sandra Pupatello. Wynne will now turn her focus to the business of forming a government. As such, she has several immediate priorities that must be accomplished in little time.
Transition at Queen’s Park
Getting Back to Business at Queen’s Park: The Return of the Legislature
The debate on the Speech from the Throne must last 12 hours. While it has become practice during the past ten years to table a budget before the end of March that timing is not required by law. It is important to note that motions of non-confidence can be introduced at any time, and the first two natural opportunities will be the votes on the Throne Speech and the Budget. Lastly, the government must also introduce a motion to establish the committees of the legislature within 10 sessional days. It is important to note, though, that in the last session, while a motion was introduced within 10 days, it ultimately took close to five months for committees to be operational.
What’s Next for the Official Opposition
- The question of privilege raised by the Progressive Conservatives against Energy Minister Chris Bentley regarding the cancellation of the Mississauga gas plant; and,
- A potential motion to establish a committee to review ORNGE.
Given the nature of questions of privilege, a number of procedural hurdles must be met in order to proceed. First, the Speaker must determine whether or not a prima facie case of privilege has occurred. If the Speaker determines that a case has been met, the matter is then turned back to the members of the legislature to address. Last year, both of these hurdles were satisfied, and we anticipate that the same will occur when the Legislative Assembly returns. In addition, the order from the last session to the government to produce all of the documents did not die on the order paper, so this will not create a delay. Prior to prorogation, the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs was in the midst of reviewing ORNGE. We anticipate that either opposition party will introduce a motion, whether as a question of privilege or otherwise, to establish this review again. If this motion is brought as a question of privilege, the same rules as noted above will apply.
Until any questions of privilege are addressed, they have precedence over all other business, including Question Period, deferred votes, routine proceedings, and private members’ public business. There is no time limit for questions of privilege, so business, including the debate on the Throne Speech and the introduction of the Budget, could be stalled for a significant amount of time.
While the new Liberal Leader will find herself in a sea of political uncertainty associated with a minority government, a prorogued legislature, and a Liberal Party that is approaching 10 years in power, they will be facing a defined set of public policy challenges. Indeed, no matter who the Premier of Ontario is a year from now, he or she will survey a policy landscape marked by several major points of decision. Finances The most significant challenge is, of course, the effort to bring the Province’s finances into balance. Currently, the Liberals have taken some of the difficult decisions required to help eliminate the province’s fiscal gap over the next five years. This means that – beyond the teachers’ wages episode, harness racing close-out and major asset deployment (e.g., OLG’s initiation of a Toronto casino), more tough decisions lie ahead. The Progressive Conservatives appear to be making a genuine effort at aligning their policy program with these fiscal realities. The civil service has prepared for the incoming Premier to begin addressing these decisions on behalf of the Liberal Party. The NDP’s process of coming to grips with these challenges has only been hinted at in a recent speech by Leader Andrea Horwath, where she signaled a willingness to tackle the issue in part through corporate tax increases. Energy The complex energy file remains a serious challenge for any Ontario government. The immediate issue of completing Feed-in-Tariff projects will soon give way to larger challenges. These include major decisions regarding nuclear renewal, uncompetitive rates putting pressure on Ontario manufacturing, the importation of shale gas, and the current government’s plans for emphasizing power storage. Another key area will be electricity conservation technologies. All of these should be placed against the backdrop of the province’s temporary energy surplus, which could easily distort medium- to long-term policy priorities. One other key issue to watch is the future of the province’s fragmented local distribution companies, which have been recommended for consolidation in a report submitted in the last days of the McGuinty administration. Transportation and Land Use The long-running debate over transit in Toronto has now spilled into a wider set of issues regarding the overall transportation situation in the Greater Golden Horseshoe. The province’s ambitious plans for a $50 billion region-wide transit upgrade are now touching directly upon critical questions regarding new revenue tools to fund new developments. As well, some of the larger issues surrounding transit – such as road construction and overall commercial and residential development patterns – are putting pressure on existing policy frameworks, including the forthcoming preparation of the 2015 provincial Growth Plan. Finance Minister Dwight Duncan has gone so far as to flag this issue as the number-one challenge for improving productivity in the province. The quality of response from any of the political parties has not been particularly strong to date, but it appears that the period of being safely able to keep this issue on the political back burner may be drawing to a close. Health Care The sprawling and very politically-sensitive health care file will be one of the critical arenas in which the success or failure of the Liberal government’s fiscal program plays out. One of the major dynamics that is likely to continue under any government scenario is a gathering regionalization of the system. The PCs intend to accelerate this trend with the aim of flattening administration and reducing costs, while the Liberals are so far favouring an apparently less-dramatic shift. The NDP are expected to release a health policy paper shortly that will likely play up issues of access and provider wages. Education While collective bargaining issues in elementary and secondary education have dominated the headlines, other significant pressures are reshaping the education landscape and will confront any Ontario government once established in office. In elementary and secondary education, the streaming in of new technology is a key driver of change. On the capital side, the province’s aging school infrastructure faces a deferred maintenance challenge of near crisis-proportions that must be addressed. In post-secondary education, a significant transformation, begun under the McGuinty government, will continue, although perhaps under a different banner. A movement in higher learning is gaining momentum across the global post-secondary sector, in which digitally-enabled learning is posing a serious cost challenge to the traditional ivy-clad delivery model with its high cost structure. Taken together, the next government’s approach to these challenges may very well amount to a basic restructuring of the Ontario government and its role in the life of the Province. As Ontario seeks to leverage its economic assets and remain one of the world’s premiere regional economies, achieving this restructuring, and getting the role of a restructured government right will be the core task of the province’s leadership. The requirements of leading this change in a very volatile and unsteady political environment will put all of the province’s leaders, especially the Premier, to the test.