By Connor Lynch
QUEEN’S PARK — After 15 years under the provincial Liberals, Ontario decided it was time to change things in a big way. Last month’s dramatic close to the provincial election saw Doug Ford’s Conservatives take a stunning majority, claiming 76 of the 124 seats, and Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals lose official party status by winning only seven seats. Wynne resigned after the results were announced. The NDP became the official opposition. A remarkable 73 MPP’s are fresh faces to Queen’s Park.
The ruling Liberals were plagued by the gas plant scandal, green energy projects and the extremely generous contracts that went with them, along with soaring hydro bills.
During the campaign, Doug Ford made a number of promises of particular interest to rural Ontario. Here’s a partial list:
• Lower Hydro bills by 12 per cent, saving families $170 per year, and fire the current Hydro One CEO, “the six-million-dollar-man” May Schmidt, whose total earnings of $6.2 million in 2017 outraged many whose hydro bills kept increasing.
• Expand natural gas distribution to rural areas, a big ask from the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, by opening up the sector to private investment: Up to $100-million saved by the government would be invested in improved rural internet.
• Increase the Risk Management Program cap by $50 million.
• Scrap Ontario’s cap-and-trade scheme and fight the federal government in court if the feds impose carbon pricing.
• Uphold a moratorium on school closures and put in a new process.
• Appoint a farmer as the Minister of Agriculture.
• Scrap the Liberal sex-education program and introduce an age-appropriate program based on “real consultation with parents.”
• Order a line-by-line audit of government spending to end “the culture of waste and mismanagement.”
• Mandate universities to uphold free speech on campuses and classrooms.
• Cut regulations, an issue that burdens about 80 per cent of farmers, according to one survey.
• Cut income taxes by 20 per cent for the second income-tax bracket ($46,603 to $93,208), saving those taxpayers up to $786 a year.
• Lower gas taxes by 10 cents a litre.
• Minimum wage workers who earn less than $30,000 a year would not pay any income tax.
• 75 % refundable tax credit for childcare.
• Free dental care for low-income seniors.
• Cancel and renegotiate green energy contracts that have yet to be built.
• Ban cell phones in all primary and secondary school classrooms.
• Scrap discovery math and inquiry-based learning in classrooms and restore proven methods of teaching.
Doug Ford takes office on June 29.