The latest polls show Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives way ahead of the opposition in the run up to the Provincial Election on 2 June.
The respected polling aggregator 338canada.com regularly shows the PCs getting over 35% support with the Liberals and the NDP jockeying for second place getting support around the 26% mark. Because of our First-Past-the-Post system this translates into a majority Ford government. But, of course, a lot can happen during the campaign which doesn’t officially start until 4 May 2022.
Bribing the voters
For the moment, Ford is hard at work bribing the voters, targetting motorists. Ford's decision to abolish the license plate fee and send out refunds (costing the Province $1.1B in lost revenue) was a taste of things to come. We’ve seen the abolition of road tolls on Highways 412 and 418 and go-aheads for construction of Highway 413 and the Bradford Bypass. Then there’s the cut in gas duty and raising the speed limits on some 400 series highways.
We can expect more eye-popping announcements in the Provincial budget which has been postponed until later this month to get closer to the election. The PCs passed a new law in 2019 requiring the delivery of budgets by March 31 – described by the then Finance Minister, Vic Fedeli, as “an ironclad guarantee”.
So much for that.
Ford has promised the health sector millions. Bringing down the deficit used to be the standard war-cry of the Progressive Conservatives. But it doesn’t seem to matter these days. Ontario’s budget deficit amounted to $1,597 per person in 2020, the fifth highest in the country.
A new Southlake
Here in Newmarket, we are promised a new Southlake. Like everyone else in Town I want to see a new hospital. The one we have is overcrowded and there is no room to expand. So, we are told the solution lies in two sites: the current one at Davis Drive is to become a walk-in centre with the acute facilities going to a new – as yet unidentified – greenfield site, ideally within 10km of the Davis Drive site.
Personally, I think the two-site solution is a second best. There are synergies when medical facilities are clustered together. But the land simply isn’t available for Southlake to grow on its present site – and over the years no-one took the trouble - nor had the insight - to acquire it.
In the bag
The PCs talk about the new hospital as if it’s in the bag. The back-slapping and whoops of congratulation have been deafening. But, in reality, all Southlake is getting is a cheque from the Province for $5M to help it work up its plans. The hospital’s January 2020 Master Plan is not publicly available nor is the Province’s response. We don’t know where the promised acute hospital will be located nor when it will be built. Not even a provisional date.
The same formulation (promising a new hospital but giving a few million dollars to work up the plans) is used elsewhere – for example, in Barrie and Brant – coupled with gushing quotes from local PC MPPs.
We need to spend more on health. Not just talk about it.
Ontario has lowest health spending in Canada
Last week the Financial Accountability Office of Ontario published a report comparing Ontario’s fiscal results with the other provinces after the first year of the COVID-19 Pandemic. It shows that, on a per person basis, Ontario’s total program spending in 2020 was the lowest in the country, with the least amount in health spending.
“Health spending per person in Ontario was $4,800 in 2020, the lowest in Canada and $536 (10.0 per cent) below the average of the other provinces… Since 2008 when the data is first available, Ontario has consistently had among the lowest levels of per person health spending in the country.”
Buck-a-Beer certainly knows how to spin a tale.
And, for the moment, it looks like the voters will buy it.