Here’s our daily look at what’s making news in the lead-up to the next provincial election.
Update: 12:10 p.m.
- A video obtained by the Liberal party shows Doug Ford saying he would open up “a big chunk” of the Greenbelt to developers. Ford made the comments on February 12 while he was running for the Progressive Conservative leadership. “I’ve already talked to some of the biggest developers in the country, and, again, I wish I could say it’s my idea, but it was their idea, as well,” he said. Ontario Environment Minister Chris Ballard said the video shows that Doug Ford “has made secret promises to big developers.” In response to questions about the comments, Ford confirmed that he was looking at opening up the Greenbelt to development. “I support the Greenbelt in a big way. Anything we may look at to reduce housing costs — because everyone knows housing costs [are] through the roof, and there’s no more property available to build housing in Toronto or the GTA — it will be replaced,” he said. Environmental Defence has slammed Ford’s comments. “The Greenbelt does not constrain housing supply or cause high house prices,” executive director Tim Gray said in a statement. “Municipal data shows that there is enough land available to provide for housing development within the existing Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) urban boundaries until 2031.”
- Ford announced this morning in Whitby that the Tories would invest $1.9 billion in mental-health services over 10 years — a promise originally made in the People’s Guarantee, the now-defunct party platform written under former leader Patrick Brown.
- NDP leader Andrea Horwath announced this morning that her party would guarantee free and universal access to take-home cancer drugs. “Our current system forces patients to jump through hoops to access the latest, most appropriate treatments,” Horwath said in a statement. “And for all too many patients, it means unnecessary hospital visits and long, stressful waits.”
- Premier Kathleen Wynne announced in Ottawa today that the government would spend $120 million over the next three years to add more than 450 new guidance teachers across the province.
- A new Mainstreet Research poll shows that the PCs continue to hold a decisive lead but that the gap between them and the other parties has narrowed.
- Doug Ford won the Tory leadership partly by trashing former leader Patrick Brown. But policy pronouncements from the Progressive Conservatives in recent days bear more than a passing resemblance to the People’s Guarantee, the party platform authored under Brown. For example, over the weekend, the party promised a tax rebate for up to three-quarters of all child-care costs, up to a maximum of 75 per cent for lower-income families. The percentage would shrink as family income increases, bottoming out at 26 per cent for households earning $150,000 or more. It’s a proposal similar to one in the People’s Guarantee, minus Brown’s commitment to create 100,000 new child-care spaces. Linda White, a child-care policy expert at the University of Toronto, said the revised Tory promise of a tax rebate without funding for new spaces could end up making child care more costly. “If it increases demand, without addressing the scarcity of supply, then what in fact it could do is drive up prices,” she told the Canadian Press.
- The PCs have also recycled Brown’s promise to cut electricity bills by 12 per cent over and above the 25 per cent cut already achieved under the Liberals. Although they’ve heavily criticized the government’s Fair Hydro Plan, the Tories would leave it in place. They also promise to return to ratepayers the $350 million dividend the province gets every year from Hydro One. The same strategy was outlined in the People’s Guarantee under Brown.
- In Hamilton on Sunday, NDP leader Andrea Horwath officially kicked off what is being billed as “the biggest campaign” in the party’s history. Horwath, who was also formally nominated as the NDP candidate in Hamilton Centre, reiterated many of the promises the party has already put before voters, including free child care for families earning less than $40,000, the return of Hydro One to public hands, and a significant increase in funding for hospitals.
- And, according to a new poll, Horwath is the top challenger to front-runner Doug Ford in the minds of Ontario voters. The survey, conducted online by the research firm Leger earlier this month, found that 25 per cent of respondents thought the Tory leader would make the best premier, while 20 per cent chose Horwath. Twelve per cent picked current Premier Kathleen Wynne. The poll also found that Horwath rated higher than both her rivals on characteristics such as competence, trustworthiness, and sharing the same values as average voters. Leger found that 43 per cent of respondents intended to vote PC, with the Liberals and NDP tied at 26 per cent.
- Polling analyst Éric Grenier took his own look at the numbers and found that the voters supporting the PCs today are very similar to those who elected the PCs under Mike Harris in 1995. Just like the Harris Tories, those planning to vote for the Ford-led PCs are disproportionately male, older, and wealthier. Grenier also found that today’s Tories have roughly the same level of support as the 1995 PCs and that they are most popular in the same areas of the province: southern Ontario, most of the urban centres in southwestern Ontario, and the 905 area code around Toronto.
- Not only are the Progressive Conservatives leading the polls — they’re also well ahead of their rivals in terms of fundraising. Data from Elections Ontario compiled by CBC News show that the PCs have reported $945,970 in donations this year, more than the Liberals ($488,542), the NDP ($317,305), and the Green party ($128,376) combined.
- Despite their lead in the polls and in the money count, some Tories are disaffected and checking out of the PC party, Steve Paikin reports.
- The auditor general’s latest indictment of the government’s accounting is damning, but a commission of inquiry — something Ford is promising — won’t solve anything, writes John Michael McGrath.
- A $500 million lawsuit against the Ontario government over the cancellation of an offshore wind project alleges that documents were destroyed by the office of former premier Dalton McGuinty and by the Ministry of Energy in order to prevent the company, Trillium Power, from making its argument in court.
What to watch for
- Wynne is in eastern Ontario and focused on the Franco-Ontarian community today. She’ll make an announcement at Louis-Riel, a French public high school, in Ottawa at 10:30 a.m. She’ll make a second announcement at La Résidence Prescott et Russell, a long-term care home, in Hawkesbury at 2:45 p.m.
- Ford will make an announcement in Whitby at 10:30 a.m. He’ll then spend the rest of his day in Oshawa, with a visit to the Canadian Mental Health Association at 3 p.m., a visit to the Oshawa Military and Industrial Museum at 3:45 p.m., and a rally at Tosca Banquet and Conference Centre at 6 p.m.
- Horwath will make a campaign announcement regarding cancer care this morning at Gilda's Club in Toronto.
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