Since the Progressive Conservative government won a majority in the spring election, the summer and fall sessions at the provincial legislature have been exceptionally busy.
Here’s what Premier Doug Ford has accomplished in his first 100 days.
1. Cut Toronto’s city council
Just a couple of months after taking power, Doug Ford announced his plans to shrink the number of Toronto city councillors from 47 to 25. On Sept. 10, Justice Edward Belobaba ruled against Bill 5, declaring the move unconstitutional.
But then Ford caused a nationwide ruckus by threatening to invoke the notwithstanding clause. The province also filed an appeal with Ontario’s highest court asking for a stay on Belobaba’s judgment, which the court eventually granted.
The issue was wildly polarizing, with protesters filling the public gallery at the Legislature. Critics accused Ford, a former Toronto city councillor, of having a vendetta against his former colleagues.
The interim Liberal leader accused Ford of wasting time. “There are things more important to Ontarians that aren’t getting the time and attention the government should be spending,” said John Fraser.
2. Rolled back 2015 sex-ed curriculum
The curriculum, which had not been updated since 1998, included warnings about online bullying and sexting, but social conservatives protested against lessons addressing same-sex relationships, gender identity and masturbation.
The change prompted student protests and some teachers vowed to ignore it.
The government says it’s consulting with parents. In the meantime, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) have both taken the province to court.
University of Windsor political scientist Lydia Miljan said it’s a smart political move to make controversial decisions early, but said the government fell short in other ways. “They didn’t always have a clearly articulated reason for the changes they made,” she said, referencing the sex-ed curriculum.
3. Investigating province’s $15B deficit
The premier called it “the biggest government scandal in a generation” and called a special committee to investigate the Liberals’ handling of the province’s finances, which could call witnesses, compel documents and gather evidence for a final report expected in December.
Ford promised to hold his predecessors accountable days after Finance Minister Vic Fedeli announced an independent inquiry found the province faces a $15-billion deficit, which was $8-billion higher than the Liberals said it was in the spring budget.
“They do not just get to walk away from this,” said Ford.
Critics say these steps are paving the way for cuts.
4. Cancelled cap-and-trade & Green Energy Act
Ford’s first act as premier was winding down Ontario’s cap-and-trade program, which caps greenhouse emissions while allowing major polluters to buy and trade exemptions in the form of carbon credits.
The PCs also cancelled programs funded by cap-and-trade’s proceeds, which gave rebates to people for making their homes more energy efficient and buying electric cars.
As a result, a $100-million school repair fund was also cancelled.
Green Party leader Mike Schreiner called cancelling cap-and-trade “reckless and irresponsible” though the government argued it saved taxpayers’ money. Greenpeace Canada has since taken the government to court, claiming it denied Ontarians the right to be consulted before it decided to scrap the program.
This fall, the PCs announced it will introduce legislation to kill the Green Energy Act.
5. Halted opening of safe-injection sites
During the election campaign, Ford said he was opposed to safe injection and overdose prevention sites.
In mid-August, Ontario’s health minister Christine Elliott said the province would freeze the opening of three new overdose-prevention sites in Thunder Bay, St. Catharines and Toronto. Elliott said the province would review whether they “have merit.”
Critics strongly condemned the move. “To put it bluntly, we’ll have a lot more dead people,” said Nick Boyce, director of the Ontario HIV & Substance Use Training Program.
6. Cancelled Ontario’s basic income pilot
In a bid to find new ways to tackle poverty, the Liberal government set up the basic income pilot.
Set to run for three years, it gave grants to 4,000 low-income people in communities like Hamilton, Thunder Bay, Lindsay and Brantford. Individuals were eligible for up to $16,989 a year.
This summer, the province announced it was winding the program down by March 2019, promising a complete review of the province’s social assistance programs by Nov. 8.
“We’ve seen this government make some pretty serious decisions that have moved our province backwards,” said NDP leader Andrea Horwath.
7. Fired CEO of Hydro One and board
On the campaign trail, Ford made headlines when he declared he would fire the “six million dollar man,” referring to Hydro One’s CEO Mayo Schmidt.
While there were questions around whether the province had the power to do that, Schmidt and the utility’s entire board resigned amid pressure from the government just weeks after the election.
Schmidt was earning about $6.2 million a year.
“He has been very clear on ‘promises made, promises kept’,” said Miljan, referencing the party’s oft-repeated slogan. “No one could call Doug Ford Mr. Dithers. It’s just unusual because we’re not used to governments moving so quickly.”
8. Reviewing Fair Workplace and Better Jobs Act
In late September, Labour Minister Laurie Scott confirmed the PCs would keep the minimum wage at $14 an hour but would cancel the increase to $15 an hour, scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, as the rest of the Fair Workplace and Better Jobs Act was being reviewed.
The legislation, which passed in 2017 under the Liberals, also guarantees part-time workers the same rate of pay as full-time workers doing the same job, guarantees workers three hours of work if their shifts is cancelled with less than 48 hours notice and gives workers three weeks of vacation after working for five years, and 10 personal days a year, two of which must be paid.
Labour Minister Laurie Scott said she is reviewing the law, but Doug Ford announced his government would be “getting rid” of it.
9. Rolled back Pharmacare
As part of its cost-saving plan, the PCs decided to roll back the Liberal’s pharmacare program. Under OHIP+, all people under 25 could get free prescriptions for drugs covered under the Ontario Drug Benefit Program. Under Ford, it would only apply to those under 25 who don’t have private health benefits.
“Everything you’ve seen us do is moving forward with an aggressive agenda to bring relief to families,” said Finance Minister Vic Fedeli.
10. Opened door to private weed sales
Under a federal mandate, the government announced how it would regulate cannabis sales in the province and scrapped the previous Liberal plan for government-run stores.
Instead, it will allow licensed private companies to run retail locations. Online sales would be limited to the government agency, the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corp., which will also be the wholesaler to private stores. There’s no cap on pot shops and municipalities will have until the new year to opt out of having brick-and-mortar stores.
Come Oct. 17, residents will be able to smoke weed wherever cigarette smoking is allowed.
Other changes in the first 100 days
- Scrapped Indigenous curriculum review
- Invested part of $1.9 million for mental health care into training police & first responders in managing interactions with people with mental issues and addictions
- Created council on “Improving Healthcare and Ending Hallway Medicine”
- Scrapped Drive Clean program
- Implemented buck-a-beer, to limited interest from brewers
- Fired Ontario’s chief scientist Molly Shoichet
- No longer helping with federal refugee resettlement
- Delayed police oversight law
- Delayed stricter anti-vaping law
- Delayed doctors’ vaccine reporting requirements
- Delayed implementing resale concert tickets price cap
- Changed provincial ministry structures
- Froze hiring in public sector