Ontario Lieutenant-Governor David Onley outlined Premier Kathleen Wynne’s agenda today in her first Speech from the Throne. The speech focused on a number of policy initiatives the Wynne government will look to pursue this legislative session, placing equal emphasis on fiscal responsibility and social service reforms. The speech also marked the beginning of the legislative session, with regular legislative proceedings including question period, introduction of bills and debate beginning tomorrow. H+K analyzes both government and opposition positioning heading into the new legislative session. In a minority government, opposition perspectives are equally as important as the government’s stated priorities.
Priorities and approach
– Premier Wynne put her mark on the government’s agenda. Despite the state of government finances, Wynne reiterated her plan to create equal opportunities for all, reinforcing the Liberal brand of fiscal responsibility and a commitment to social policy.
– Jobs/Economy: The speech reaffirmed a commitment to balance the budget by 2017-18. The government pledged to move forward with a venture capital fund in partnership with the federal government and to prioritize equal job opportunities for Aboriginal Ontarians, youth and the disabled.
– Energy: Clean energy and smart grid development remain an important priority for the government. Greater local consultation on energy projects was also cited as a focus; however, no details were given regarding specific implementation.
– Transportation: Improving transit and reducing gridlock are key priorities for the government, in an attempt to appeal to both rural and urban voters.
– Labour: Stemming from troubled negotiations over the past year, the government promised to build a sustainable model for wage negotiations.
– A vote on the speech is expected in the coming days. While PC leader Tim Hudak indicated his party will not support the speech, NDP leader Andrea Horwath indicated her party will not vote against it and will allow the Wynne government to pass its first confidence motion.
Perspective on the Speech
– The PC party’s approach remains consistent, focusing on policy proposals emphasized over the past year. These include a public sector wage freeze, wholesale spending reductions and specific job creation targets.
– Hudak expressed his displeasure with the speech immediately. He clearly did not see anything that responded to PC priorities and is positioning his party for a potential spring election.
– The PC party indicated it would reintroduce a contempt motion against the government over cancelled power plants. Whether the matter will be moved to a committee or tie up valuable legislative time as it did last session remains to be seen.
Perspective on the Speech
– The NDP was looking for measures in four policy areas: job creation, increasing affordability for families, strengthening health care and a reasonable approach to balancing the budget.
– Among these four priority areas, the speech made mention of specific NDP proposals including auto insurance relief, increases in home care, corporate tax compliance exemptions, and social assistance reform.
– Horwath indicated her party will support the Speech. However, she refused to offer support for the budget without more specifics.