On October 16th, H+K hosted a luncheon event at our Toronto office featuring two senior members of Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne’s team for a discussion on the Liberal government’s priorities for the year ahead.  Tom Teahen, chief of staff to the Premier and Karim Bardeesy, executive director of policy to the Premier addressed a crowd of 50 guests representing large and mid-sized companies, trade associations, and not-for-profit organizations from a variety of sectors.
Both speakers provided valuable insights into the government’s policy priorities as well as its approach to policy-making. Teahen highlighted some of the challenges that Premier Wynne’s team faced during its first eight months in government, while Bardeesy focused on outlining its objectives for the coming months.

A few key themes emerged from the presentation and the discussion that followed:
The economy is the government’s key priority

  • The government has a broad view of the economy, one that goes beyond the traditional, though important, pillars of job creation, deficit reduction, and export promotion.  Premier Wynne articulated this perspective in her September speech at the Canadian Club:

“The realities of our economic climate are writ large on the lives of women in this province – in the jobs prospects of their children; in their ability to care for their parents; in their retirement savings; in the amount of time it takes them to get to and from work. “All of these issues are apparent to women as economic issues, not social issues, not women’s issues. And if we address these challenges, we will create jobs, feed our economy and ensure Ontario’s continued success. So you’re going to hear me talk about this a lot.”

  • Central to the government’s economic plan will be investments in three key areas: people, infrastructure and a dynamic business climate.

Implementing an agenda can be challenging but it is possible

  • Though a minority government creates a challenging environment in the Legislature and though there is a distinct chance of a spring 2014 election for Ontario, the government is optimistic that it can find common ground with one or both opposition parties when it comes to pushing legislation forward.
  • The government will also pursue its agenda outside of the Legislature, through negotiations with other levels of governments, targeted investments and regulatory changes among the other tools available to it.

The government will consult broadly with Ontarians

  • The government will pursue a consultative approach to policy-making, actively seeking input and new ideas from stakeholders and relying less on top-down prescriptions.
  • Business stakeholders are encouraged to approach government with solutions that will lower spending while achieving more effective outcomes in healthcare, education and other sectors.
  • Premier Wynne will continue her hectic, nearly unprecedented, schedule of events all across the province, both to listen to Ontarians and communicate her agenda.

Overall, the session was a unique opportunity for guests to hear from and interact directly with key government decision makers and influencers. It will be interesting to see how these mandates play out in the coming months and accordingly, what the reaction from the opposition and the citizens of Ontario will be during this time.