On April 25, with 10 days to go before Ontario’s next election is expected to start, the Ontario NDP has become the first of the major parties to release their platform. The 192-page document, titled Strong. Ready. Working for You. lays out the party’s commitments for the coming campaign divided into 13 different sections covering everything from the affordability of everyday life to the environment and healthcare.
With the launch of their platform for the coming election, the Ontario NDP and Leader Andrea Horwath have laid the groundwork for the key policy planks and messages their campaign believes may lead them to victory. There are two primary policy areas that the platform seeks to address and two important themes this messaging helps us uncover.
The first priority is the affordability of everyday life, which both leads the document as the first chapter of commitments and is raised repeatedly throughout other sections which emphasize each promise’s impact on Ontarians’ pocketbooks.
The next clear policy priority is health care. With commitments to universal mental health care, universal dental care, and a provincial pharmacare program as well as a promise to hire up to 55,000 new health care workers, it is clear the Ontario NDP feels now is the time to campaign on a massive overhaul of our provincial health system.
Whether it’s the commitment to universal mental health care under OHIP, the Green New Democratic Deal, the Homes you Can Afford plan, or moving to an entirely public and non-profit long-term care system, many of these policies have been public for months and in some cases longer.
The platform does, however, contain several new proposals that will draw the attention of voters, including an end to exclusionary zoning and return of ‘real’ rent control, a freeze on taxes for low- and middle-income families, the creation of a mixed member proportional voting system, and a commitment to start a pharmacare program before the federal effort to do the same.
The platform lacks a costing document to accompany the new spending commitments. The NDP has stated that they are waiting on the provincial budget later this week and subsequent reports from auditors before issuing their own costing. No doubt they are also taking the time to double check the math in hopes of avoiding a similar misstep to the 2018 platform costing which had a $3 billion error. The NDP understands that the perception of them as ‘bad financial managers’ is a key a hurdle to overcome when positioning themselves as ready to govern. A full and detailed costing can be expected in short order to help blunt those concerns.
There are two themes for the NDP in this election: they broke it – we’ll fix it.
For the PCs, the message is straightforward: Doug Ford is in it for ‘his buddies’, not for you and your family; while most people across the province have seen life get harder over the last four years, the wealthy and well-connected haven’t paid their fair share.
The NDP’s view of the Liberal Party is similar: Leader Steven Del Duca and his party had 15 years in power where they made your life worse, so you can’t trust them to make it better now.
The NDP is styling themselves as the only party ready to be form government who can be trusted to make life easier for Ontarians and their families. From the very first words in the platform’s opening letter from Andrea Horwath – “I’m running for premier” – the NDP stakes their claim: this election is winnable.
To get to that goal the party believes they need to make three things clear:
- Doug Ford has made life harder
- The NDP will make life easier
- Ontarians can’t trust Steven Del Duca to make things better
These arguments are specifically crafted to start the discussion of “strategic voting”. Horwath and the senior staff around her believe that the ballot box question that wins the NDP this election is ‘who do you trust to undo the damage that Doug Ford has done?’. To help voters conclude that the answer to that question is the NDP, expect to see the party making every effort to tie Steven Del Duca back to previous Liberal governments while offering big solutions to the problems Ontarians face every day.
With the release of the NDP’s platform, the unofficial campaign period is officially underway. When the governing PCs release their Budget on Thursday, April 28 – which will serve as their de facto campaign platform – only the Liberals will be left to release their policy commitments. Steven Del Duca has been making announcements almost daily and will be looking to ensure he can distinguish himself and his party from the NDP. Expect to see those efforts ramp up we get closer to an anticipated writ drop on May 4, officially launching Ontario’s 43rd general election.
The Ontario NDP Platform lays out its commitments divided into 13 chapters. We have gone through the document in detail to share with you the major commitments from each chapter.
Making Life Affordable
- Ending exclusionary zoning and introducing an annual speculation and vacancy tax on residential property that will apply to those who own houses they don’t live in and be levied at a rate of 2% of the assessed value of a property.
- Reintroducing unit-based rent control to eliminate the vacancy decontrols that allow landlords to raise rents at their discretion between tenants.
- Creating a portable housing benefit to assist tenants who can’t afford rent and the necessities for their families.
- Ending the practice of postal code discrimination in auto insurance rate setting.
- Increasing wages for Registered Early Childhood Educators (RECEs) to $25/hour as part of efforts to get to $10/day childcare faster than currently planned.
- Offering funding for licensed home childcare providers that includes the ability for them to contribute to a pension and benefits plan while also funding home childcare agencies to increase the support and training they provide.
- Reducing fees for before and after school childcare.
- Creating a province-wide strategy to guarantee expansion of childcare by ensuring that all government-funded expansion is exclusively provided through public or non-profit providers.
- Directing the Ontario Energy board to regulate the retail price and wholesale mark-up of gas prices to stop ‘gouging’ at the pumps.
- Banning predatory payday loans by creating a Borrower’s Bill of Rights and a taskforce to recommend alternative financial products.
Fixing our Health Care System
- Launching a universal, publicly funded mental health care system that would bring therapy services into OHIP.
- Creating Mental Health Ontario to lead on identifying mental health needs across the province then taking action to address them.
- Investing $130 million over the next three years to reduce the waitlist for children’s mental health services to 30 days.
- Introducing an immediate 8% funding boost for mental health and addictions agencies and offering additional targeted funding to increase Tier 5 treatment beds in hospitals.
- Investing $10 million into mobile mental health crisis services and working towards the establishment of 24-hour civilian community mobile teams across the province.
- Addressing the opioid crisis by ensuring there are more supervised consumption sites and working with the Government of Canada to decriminalize personal drug use.
- Investing in the hospital system to eliminate the backlog of surgeries and diagnostic procedures caused by COVID prevention measures.
- Hiring 10,000 new personal support workers (PSWs) and increasing their pay by $5 above pre-pandemic levels.
- Hiring 30,000 new nurses while also expediting credential recognition for 15,000 internationally trained nurses.
- Eliminating Bill 124, which caps health care workers’ wages.
- Addressing health equity challenges in Northern Ontario by hiring 300 doctors including 100 specialists and 40 mental health practitioners, funding travel for medical residents to the north and creating a specific strategy to recruit and retain nurses in Northern Ontario.
- Immediately beginning work on a Universal Pharmacare plan for Ontarians that will work to complement existing drug plans to ensure no one loses their current coverage.
- Eliminating user fees in health care.
- Prioritizing hospital capital funding for projects in Brampton, Niagara Falls, Windsor-Essex, and Kitchener Waterloo and increasing hospital funding.
- Immediately making take-home cancer drugs free and opening new cancer treatment centres to ensure people don’t have to travel so far for care.
- Addressing health equity by collecting race-based data in health care, treating anti-black racism as a public health crisis, and expanding access to Francophone care and care for Indigenous peoples.
- Addressing 2SLGBTQIA+ concerns with health care by improving access to gender affirming surgeries and procedures and covering transition drugs, by making PrEP free, and by making long-care a safe space for LGBTQ people.
Fixing Home Care and Long-Term Care, and Helping Ontarians Age in Place
- Establishing provincial standards for home and community care services and ensuring services align with community needs, particularly in cultural communities.
- Introducing a caregiver benefit that will be means-tested and provide $400/month to those who qualify.
- Building a new public, non-profit home and community care and long-term care system including 50,000 new beds.
Good Jobs that Pay the Bills
- Raising the minimum wage to $20/hour by 2026 through annual $1/hour increases.
- Legislating 10 days of personal emergency leave that will be permanent.
- Creating Ontario Benefits that will provide benefits, including dental and vision coverage, for all part-time, casual, app based, and contract workers so that benefits follow the person, not the job.
- Bringing card-check certification to Ontario to enable workers to unionize a workplace by having 55% of workers sign a union card and legislating first-contract arbitration rights to make the first contract negotiation process fairer and easier.
- Ending the practice of classifying gig and contract workers as independent contractors when they should be considered employees.
- Enacting a four-day work week pilot project in Ontario to be established for one year.
- Enacting ‘anti-scab’ legislation to encourage swift resolution of workplace job actions.
- Ensuring that tradespeople and workers hold a majority of seats on the Board of the new Skilled Trades Ontario.
- Creating Ontario’s first cleantech bank, funded by the proceeds of cap-and-trade, by partnering with the Ontario Clean Technology Industry Association to facilitate the export and adoption of products and ideas that lower emissions and protect the environment while creating jobs and GDP growth.
- Introducing strategies for manufacturing and labour force growth that aim to place Ontario’s manufacturers and manufacturing jobs in the best possible position to succeed in the transition to a low-carbon economy.
- Engaging in strategic procurement from small and medium-sized Ontario businesses to help them compete with multi-national firms.
- Bringing in two new rounds of the Small Business Recovery Grant, one in 2022 and one in 2023.
- Providing financial support to non-profits and charities disproportionately impacted by the pandemic
- Creating Ontario’s first Zero Emissions Vehicles (ZEVs) Strategy to support the auto sector to shift its production to ZEVs including by offering an incentive of up to $10,000 for the purchase of a ZEV, excluding luxury vehicles.
- Providing a second round of the grants in the Tourism Recovery Program.
- Extend the Ontario Staycation Tax Credit for an additional two years, then considering whether to make the credit permanent.
- Launching a Provincial Arts Strategy including increased funding for the Ontario Arts Council, Indigenous Culture Fund, community Museum Operating Grant, and brick-and-mortar libraries and digital library services.
- Improving Ontario’s tax credit for film and TV production and the Ontario Computer Animation and Special Effects Tax Credit.
- Allocating investments from the Green New Democratic Deal to green-mining innovation in consultation with the mining sector.
Fixing Education and Schools
- Hiring 20,000 teachers and education workers.
- Capping class sizes at 24 students for grades 4-8 and capping kindergarten class sizes at 26 students.
- Clearing the school repair backlog of $16.8 billion within ten years.
- Ensuring that all schools have up-to-date ventilation systems.
- Ending EQAO testing.
- Scrapping the mandatory two online courses introduced by the current government as well as ensuring any online curricula are developed and certified by Ontario teachers rather than private companies.
- Ensuring all students who choose to take out an OSAP loan graduate debt-free by converting loans to grants, and for those who have already graduated, wiping out student loan interest.
Climate, Jobs, Justice: The Green New Democratic Deal
- Reducing Ontario’s GHG emissions by at least 50% below 2005 levels by 2030 and achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 by legislating reduction targets.
- Implementing a new cap-and-trade system that is designed to make big, corporate polluters pay for their emissions while ensuring rural Ontarians and those in the trades are not penalized unfairly.
- Creating one million jobs to ensure a just transition to net-zero through recruitment and retraining.
- Creating a building retrofit program that aims to retrofit 5% of Ontario buildings each year to meet international energy efficiency standards.
- Expanding the Greenbelt and expanding access to green spaces across the province.
- Creating a Youth Climate Corps that will give young Ontarians the opportunity to get hands-on skills and experience restoring Ontario’s natural landscapes including by planting one billion trees by 2030.
- Introducing a provincial water strategy that includes commitments to end drinking water advisories on reserves and to review all water-taking permits, especially those being used for bottled water.
- Expanding the producer responsibility model of waste diversion.
- Banning single-use plastics, except for those needed for medical purposes, by 2024.
Honouring the Inherent Rights, Treaties, and Ways of Life of Indigenous Peoples
- Implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
- Establishing a Treaty Commission of Ontario with a mandate to settle land claims independently and impartially.
- Cleaning up the mercury in the English-Wabigoon River system.
- Expanding primary health care services to meet the unique needs of Indigenous people and honour the commitments in the plan for health transformation in Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) communities.
- Establishing the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation as a provincial statutory holiday.
- Creating a mandatory Indigenous curriculum for Ontario classrooms.
- Implementing the recommendations of the National Inquiry in to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
- Appointing a minister responsible for anti-racism while also implementing a provincial anti-racism strategy and introducing mandatory anti-oppression and anti-bias training for all public employees and legislators.
- Erecting a holocaust memorial on the grounds of Queen’s Park.
- Establishing May 10 as an annual Day of Action on Anti-Asian racism in Ontario.
- Launching a 2SLGBTQIA+ Inclusion Action Plan to ensure that government services like health care, education, and long-term care are inclusive and welcoming of the community.
- Making contraceptive products available for free to the Ontarians who need them.
- Increasing funding by 30% for Ontario’s sexual assault and rape crisis centres while also setting aside a portion of the 100,000 units of affordable housing that will be built for women and their families escaping violence
Fixing Ontario’s Social Safety Net, and Ensuring People with Disabilities Live a Great Life
- Fixing the Ontario Autism Program (OAP) by ensuring that clinicians and parents decide what services children receive while also removing age caps and funding caps from the OAP to provide services on an as-needed basis.
- Implementing an immediate 20% increase to Ontario Works (OW) and Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) rates and legislating that rate increases must be indexed to inflation, at minimum, moving forward.
- Ending the privatization of social assistance employment program delivery.
- Restarting Ontario’s basic income pilot project.
- Working with the Government of Canada to deliver a Canada Disability Benefit that does not result in loss of services or income for Ontarians with disabilities.
- Build 100,000 units of social housing over the next decade while also updating 260,000 social housing units to extend their lifespan.
- Working to end chronic homelessness within 10 years by implementing a housing first strategy, building 60,000 new homes with supports for people living with mental health and addictions challenges, and funding temporary housing while permanent solutions are being built.
Quality Public Services You Can Count On
- Restoring provincial funding for municipal public transit systems to 50% of their net operating costs.
- Improving fare integration so that people can move seamlessly across municipal borders and implementing a 2-hour flat rate across municipal transit systems in the GTHA.
- Improving two-way all-day GO service between Kitchener-Waterloo and Toronto and expanding year-round, daily service to the Niagara Region.
- Extending the Hurontario LRT to downtown Brampton.
- Restoring the Ontario Northlander as part of Ontario’s Northern Rail Strategy.
- Developing an Intercommunity Transportation Strategy to better connect communities across Ontario.
- Requiring Metrolinx to make surplus lands available for social and affordable housing.
- Getting vital road construction projects built, including the four-laning of Highway 69, Highway 11/17 and Highway 3, the Morriston bypass, the Thunder Bay Expressway Interchange Project, and the expansion of Highway 7 between Kitchener and Guelph.
- Ensuring that police oversight bodies are effective, responsive, independent, and transparent.
- Funding and implementing alternative first responders in cases of mental health and addictions crises, homelessness, and school discipline calls.
- Creating a provincial strategy to address gun violence.
- Strengthening fire protections in First Nations and remote communities.
- Increasing funding to Legal Aid and ensuring more people qualify for legal assistance.
Strengthening Our Democracy
- Replacing Ontario’s current electoral system with a Mixed Member Proportional Voting system, designed by an independent group of experts.
- Capping the limit on political donations at $1,600 and requiring donors to declare that they’re donating their own money.
- Asking Elections Ontario to review political finance limits and rules.
- Increasing the transparency of lobbying activity by implementing expanded “cooling off” periods for lobbyists and strengthening Ontario’s lobbyist registry.
- Passing legislation to require the provincial government to give public notice, conduct consultations, and obtain municipal approval before making changes to municipal councils or wards.
- Looking for ways to strengthen municipal decision-making, including city charters.
- Working in full partnership with the Prime Minister to improve health care, education, jobs, and sustainability in Ontario.
- Freezing taxes for low- and middle-income families.
- Raising revenue by ensuring that the wealthiest Ontarians and corporations pay their fair share of taxes.
- Cancelling Highway 413 and the Bradford Bypass.
Recovering from COVID-19
- Launching an independent judicial public inquiry into Ontario’s COVID-19 response to prepare for future health crises.
- Introducing legislation, including a new Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, to strengthen Ontario’s ability to respond to crises.
- Preparing Ontario for future public health emergencies through measures including expanded paid sick days, retention pay, enhanced personal protective equipment (PPE) stockpiles, suspension of evictions, and protection of health workers from harassment.
- Investing in research to better understand the causes, symptoms, and treatment of Long Covid.