With the Ontario legislature resuming Tuesday after the holiday break, the Ford government swiftly introduced significant new legislation, inked important healthcare deals, and announced the release of the 2023 budget. As for the opposition parties, a new leader is in, and a potential new leader is out. Here is what we learned in the first week of the spring 2023 sitting.
On Tuesday, Minister of Health Sylvia Jones introduced Bill 60, the Your Health Act, legislation she promised when introducing a plan of the same name earlier in the month and indicating that the government’s top priority is healthcare. The Act, when passed, will allow additional types of surgeries to be performed at community surgical and diagnostic centres and introduce ‘as-of-right’ rules allowing healthcare professionals from other jurisdictions to practice in Ontario. This is the first step in the government’s vision for a new, innovative approach to fixing what has long ailed Ontario’s healthcare system. Government is also calling for partnerships with industry and signalling a willingness to consider solutions that may have previously been off-limits, creating significant space for stakeholders to influence policy directions.
Next, on Thursday, was the bilateral agreement in principle between the provincial and federal governments. Ontario receives a one-time Canada Health Transfer top-up of $776 million, followed by an additional $8.4 billion over the next three years. Details of what the funding will be used for are still to be determined, which presents an excellent opportunity for stakeholders to have a say in government priorities.
Outside of healthcare, Ontario’s Minister of Finance, Peter Bethlenfalvy, announced he will table Budget 2023 on March 23 and noted to reporters that Ontarians should expect “more of the same”. We anticipate a continued focus on large infrastructure projects that create jobs, reducing the deficit to protect our credit rating, ensuring financial stability in the face of a potential recession, building out Ontario’s energy capacity and ability to mine critical minerals, and increasing the housing supply to help alleviate the cost-of-living crisis.
In 2022, Marit Stiles, the NDP MPP for Davenport, ran uncontested and officially become leader of the New Democratic Party of Ontario in early February, 2023.
Stiles, first elected in 2018, is something of a media darling in downtown Toronto but relatively unknown outside that bubble. She faces an uphill battle to try and build on the successes of her predecessor against a still-popular Ford government that has made inroads with traditional NDP voters in unionized southwestern Ontario communities and the north.
The Ontario Liberal Party, also without a leader, is set to officially declare the rules for their own leadership contest at the party’s Annual General Meeting this coming weekend. Mike Schreiner, of the Greens, turned down a bid to have him to cross the floor and run as Liberal leader earlier this week. What impact his consideration of the Liberal position could have is unclear, but there is likely to be fallout within both parties.
Royal Assent of the Your Health Act, finalization and details of the bilateral health transfer deal, Budget 2023, the NDP under Marit Stiles, a new Liberal leader and much more: it’s been a dynamic first week, signalling important changes that will impact stakeholders while creating opportunities to engage and influence. H+K will be here with updates and insights throughout the session.
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Vice-President + Lead, Toronto Public Affairs
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