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Ontario election guide: What you need to know before you vote

Photo Illustration by The Globe and Mail (Images: Chris Wattie/Reuters, Dave Chan/The Globe and Mail, Chris Donovan/The Canadian Press)


The latest

  • Before he was Progressive Conservative Leader, Doug Ford helped to sell fake party memberships in support of nomination candidate Kinga Surma, the Ontario Liberals alleged Thursday, releasing audio purportedly recorded at a Tim Hortons in Etobicoke in 2016.
  • Mr. Ford denied any impropriety, calling the release of the audio a desperate pre-election move by the Liberals. “This goes back almost two years ago. It went through an appeals process. The claims were dismissed,” he said Thursday.
  • Mr. Ford's party is under scrutiny from Elections Ontario amid allegations that PC candidates used stolen personal data for campaign purposes. The probe was launched at the NDP’s request after a Globe and Mail investigation found signs of interference at the riding level under Mr. Ford's predecessor, Patrick Brown, including alleged ballot-stuffing and procedural manipulation to benefit favoured candidates.
  • Mr. Brown weighed in on the nomination scandal in a Toronto Star opinion piece on Wednesday, saying "In retrospect, I am increasingly of the opinion political parties are ill equipped to handle nominations" and that Elections Ontario should oversee the nominating process. He also rejected Mr. Ford's assertion that he had left the party with a "mess."
  • NDP Leader Andrea Horwath is fighting back against Liberal and Progressive Conservative attacks, telling The Globe's editorial board that she's a real alternative to her two opponents and is ready to be premier of Ontario. Polls suggest Mr. Ford's PCs are tied with Ms. Horwath's NDP for popular support. 
  • Election Day is only two weeks away, and voters in different regions are asking very different questions about the economy and jobs. Ontario can be roughly divided into boom and bust towns, with Toronto and Ottawa benefiting from the past decade's job growth while former industrial centres fell into decline. The Globe's Matt Lundy, Justin Giovannetti and Ian McGugan took an in-depth look at how that economic gap is dividing the province politically.

The leaders

Liberals: Kathleen Wynne

Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail

Age: 65

Riding: Don Valley West

Background: Five years ago, Ms. Wynne was a pioneer when she became Ontario’s first female premier, helping the Liberals to shake off a reputation for mismanagement inherited from her predecessor, Dalton McGuinty, and then regaining a majority government in 2014. But now, Ms. Wynne’s approval rating has waned as the Liberals mark their 15th year in power. The Liberals tried to reassert its progressive credentials in March’s budget, which promised billions in new spending, child-care programs and drug and dental care. That budget’s slogan was “care and opportunity,” and “care” is a word you’ll hear a lot in Ms. Wynne’s campaign as she positions herself against Doug Ford’s cut-happy conservatism.

More reading: Adam Radwanski: The frighteningly high stakes facing Wynne’s Liberals

Progressive Conservatives: Doug Ford

Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

Age: 53

Riding: Seeking election in Etobicoke North

Background: Until January, Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives had expected Patrick Brown to lead them into the election and, perhaps, into power again. But after sexual-misconduct allegations forced Mr. Brown out of office, a last-minute leadership race made Doug Ford the new boss in March. Torontonians may remember him from the tumultuous mayoralty of his younger brother, Rob Ford, whose mantra of “respect for taxpayers” through government cutbacks has found new life in Doug Ford’s provincial campaign. But whereas the Fords’ municipal populism was aimed at loosely defined adversaries (downtown elites and their “gravy train”), Doug Ford’s provincial populism is marshalling popular resentment against a more specific target: Ms. Wynne, whom he accuses of “reckless spending“ and promises to audit if elected.

More reading: John Ibbitson: Doug Ford is a different kind of conservative

New Democrats: Andrea Horwath

Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

Age: 55

Riding: Hamilton Centre

Background: A labour activist and former city councillor in her hometown, Hamilton, Ms. Horwath entered provincial politics in 2004 as the MPP for Hamilton Centre. This is her third election since becoming party leader in 2009. With Ms. Horwath scoring a higher favourability rating than either of her rival leaders in recent polls, the NDP – whose campaign slogan is “change for the better” – is trying to portray Ms. Horwath as an alternative for voters disenchanted with the Wynne government.

More reading: Adam Radwanski: Ontario NDP’s Andrea Horwath is on the brink of her biggest test


The issues

So far, only the NDP has released a full platform, while many of the Liberals’ promises can be gleaned from their March budget. The Tories had a platform under their previous leader, the People’s Guarantee, but it’s not clear yet how Mr. Ford will change that platform on the campaign trail. In the meantime, here are the highlights of major issues in this election.

Spending

Background: Ontario ran steady but shrinking deficits since the late 2000s before it got back in black in 2017. But this year, the Liberal government abandoned a balanced-budget pledge, offering billions in new spending on social programs and infrastructure. But the government has also come under fire for changing accounting practices at the provincial electrical regulator to erase billions of dollars in debt from the books, as documented in a Globe and Mail investigation in April.

  • PCs: For all his promises of spending cuts, Mr. Ford has not given a clear timeline for when a PC government would balance its books, and he has said that it would run a deficit in its first year. Mr. Ford is focusing his attention on Ms. Wynne's fiscal record, promising an independent audit of the Liberals' spending.
  • Liberals: In their 2018 budget, the Wynne Liberals argued that Ontario's economy was doing well enough to focus on social spending and infrastructure to produce greater economic growth later. The plan calls for six consecutive deficits, with a return to balance in 2024-25. 
  • NDP: Ms. Horwath also has no timetable for balancing the budget, and the party platform predicts five consecutive deficits of between $5-billion and $2-billion.

Taxation

Background: During and after Ms. Wynne’s rise to power, progressive taxation was becoming an increasingly hot topic for Canadians: In 2015, Justin Trudeau unseated Stephen Harper promising tax cuts for the middle class and tax hikes for the rich soon after Albertans elected a NDP premier vowing tax hikes for corporations and high-income earners. Now, as Ontarians get used to a host of changes in federal taxes on individuals and corporations, they are faced with widely divergent options about who the province should tax and how much.

  • PCs: Mr. Ford plans to cut corporate income tax from 11.5 per cent to 10.5 per cent and phase out income tax entirely for minimum-wage earners.
  • NDP: The New Democrats have pledged to raise corporate tax rates to 13 per cent. Under the NDP's plan, Ontarians earning more than $300,000 would see their tax rates rise by two percentage points, or one percentage point for those earning more than $220,000.
  • Liberals: The 2018 budget simplified Ontarians' personal-income tax brackets, adding $200 a year in taxes for about 1.8 million taxpayers but cutting $130 for another 680,000. The Liberals also plan to keep corporate taxes at 11.5 per cent.

Someone earning $95,000 in taxable

income would pay…

Surtax

Net impact

$168

Liberals'

proposed

changes

Base personal

income tax

$6,946

in taxes

$7,114

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: LIBERALS' ONTARIO BUDGET 2018

Someone earning $95,000 in taxable

income would pay…

Surtax

Net impact

$168

Liberals'

proposed

changes

Base personal

income tax

$6,946

in taxes

$7,114

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: LIBERALS' ONTARIO BUDGET 2018

Someone earning $95,000 in taxable income would pay…

Base personal income tax

Surtax

$6,946 in personal income taxes

Net impact

$168

Liberals' proposed changes

$7,114

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: LIBERALS' ONTARIO BUDGET 2018

Education

Background: Teachers have long been part of the Liberals’ political base, but their relationship was strained in the 2010s by labour disputes under the McGuinty and Wynne governments. Ontario’s largest education union, the ETFO, has abandoned the Liberals for the first time in a decade, backing Ms. Horwath’s NDP in May. The government has also come under fire from social conservatives over its sex-education curriculum, which was overhauled in 2015 to address consent, gender identity and the risks of posting sexual images online.

  • PCs:  Mr. Ford has vowed to scrap the sex-education curriculum and the province's "discovery" math curriculum, which focuses on creative problem-solving. He also wants to police free speech on Ontario's campuses, threatening to limit postsecondary funding to institutions deemed to be not "respecting free speech." (He has so far been vague on how such determinations would be made, and by whom.)
  • NDP: The NDP platform calls for $16-billion in spending over 10 years on infrastructure and repairs at Ontario's schools, capping kindergarten class sizes at 26 students and getting rid of standardized EQAO testing, which the party argues force teachers to "teach to the test" instead of focusing on children. At the postsecondary level, the NDP wants to give OSAP-qualified students non-repayable grants instead of loans.
  • Liberals: In their budget, the Liberals promised new measures to modernize the curriculum and assessment schools from kindergarten to grade 12, and planned $3-billion in capital grants to postsecondary institutions over 10 years. Ms. Wynne is also defending the Liberals' overhaul of the sex-education curriculum. 

Child care

Background: Child-care rates in Ontario cities have risen rapidly in recent years; in some areas, families can expect to pay $20,000 a year, and Toronto is the most expensive city in the country. But Ontario’s major parties diverge widely about whether some families should pay more than others.

  • NDP: Ms. Horwath proposes an income-based scale for child care: families earning less than $40,000 annually would get child care for free, wealthy families would pay more, and the average for all Ontarians would work out to $12 a day.
  • Liberals: March's budget offered free child care for all Ontarians aged two-and-a-half to junior kindergarten age, regardless of income.
  • PCs: The Progressive Conservatives have promised a sliding scale of tax rebates, providing up to $6,750 per child under 15 and giving low-income families as much as 75 per cent of their child-care costs.

Transit and infrastructure

Background: A Ford brother talking excitedly about subways, subways, subways is a familiar sight for Torontonians, who saw Rob Ford’s administration tear up the previous mayor’s transit policy, scuttle an LRT system to Scarborough and choose a more expensive subway there instead. Keeping up with Toronto’s shifting plans has been a priority for the Ontario government, but it’s not the only one: Ottawa and Kitchener-Waterloo are on track for long-awaited light-rail networks, and Hamilton voted last year to move forward with a divisive $1-billion LRT plan.

  • Liberals: The 2018 budget offers $79-billion for various public-transit projects over 14 years, including a Toronto-to-Windsor high-speed rail line, light-rail expansion in Ottawa and cost reductions for GO Transit users.
  • NDP: An NDP government would cover 50 per cent of municipal transit's operating cost, build the Downtown Relief Line in Toronto and create two-way all-day GO rail service between Toronto and Kitchener-Waterloo.
  • PCs: Mr. Ford has pledged an extra $5-billion for new subways in Toronto, would prioritize the Downtown Relief Line and would revise the planned subway expansion to the Scarborough Town Centre from one stop to three stops.

Hydro

Background: Ontarians’ electricity rates have soared since the province phased out its coal-fired power plants, and Ms. Wynne made bringing the rates down a personal priority. But cutting rates meant Ontario had to borrow billions of dollars to make up for lost revenue, creating debt that it then concealed through new accounting practices.

  • Liberals: Ms. Wynne is standing by the Fair Hydro Plan unveiled in 2017, which uses borrowed money to cut rates by 25 per cent. The Liberals are also sticking to their plan to sell off 60 per cent of Hydro One to private shareholders.
  • PCs: Mr. Ford has promised to cut rates 12 per cent, in addition to the Liberals' 25-per-cent cut, but it’s unclear how the PCs plan to make up the shortfall. He also wants to fire Hydro One’s CEO and board, blaming them for high rates.
  • NDP: The New Democrats would bring Hydro One back into public hands, cut hydro bills by 30 per cent and end time-of-day pricing.

Environment

Background: Ontario emits more greenhouse gases than any province except oil-producing Alberta, and under Ms. Wynne’s government, the province took major steps to change that. In 2015, the province committed to a cap-and-trade system with Quebec and California and vowed to cut emissions to 37 per cent below 1990 levels by 2030. Months later, the newly elected Trudeau government signed on to ambitious reduction targets at the Paris climate conference, but getting provincial premiers to sign on to a national carbon-pricing plan was difficult: Saskatchewan in particular was strongly opposed to new taxes on carbon. After years of political deadlock, the federal government announced a national framework last year and legislation this past January, essentially vowing that any province without its own suitable carbon-pricing scheme would have one imposed on it in 2019.

  • Liberals: In April, the Liberals announced $1.7-billion over three years to give Ontarians rebates and programs to retrofit their homes for energy efficiency.
  • NDP: An NDP government would use at least 25 per cent of the cap-and-trade system's revenue to help northern, rural and low-income Ontarians adapt to a lower-carbon lifestyle, and use $50-million to a home-efficiency retrofit program.
  • PCs: Mr. Ford wants to repeal cap-and-trade and oppose the federally mandated minimum price on emissions. 

Who's trying to persuade you, and why

Elections are a time to think critically about the messages you see in TV ads, at debates and in the news media – but make sure you’re watching your Facebook feed too. The Globe, in partnership with U.S. journalism non-profit ProPublica, has been studying the ways that campaigns and outside political entities are micro-targeting Ontario’s voters. (If you want to help us, learn more here about how to install a browser extension designed by ProPublica and what we’re doing with the information.)

Here are some of the trends emerging so far:

  • Progressive media entities such as North99 targeting controversial Progressive Conservative candidates
  • Social conservatives doing damage control for Tanya Granic Allen, an activist dumped by Mr. Ford as a PC candidate
  • Unions pushing harder for the NDP
  • Older, married and male voters being micro-targeted by the Tories
  • Liberals running hyperlocal ads about riding-level nominees

A sample of one of the targeted Facebook ads gathered in The Globe's investigation with ProPublica.

The Globe and Mail

How to vote

Am I registered? If you’re an 18-year-old Canadian citizen who lives in Ontario, you’re eligible to vote. Check Elections Ontario’s registration website to get on the voters’ list, or update your information if you’ve moved since the last election in 2014.

Who am I voting for? There are 124 ridings in Ontario, and some of them may have changed names and boundaries since the previous election. You can search here by postal code to find your riding and the local candidates.

When do I vote? Election day is June 7, but there are ways to vote in advance between May 26 and June 1, or by special ballot if you’re out of the province. Here’s how to do that.

Where and how do I vote? Registered voters will be sent cards in the mail explaining where their polling stations are on election day. When you go there, you’ll be asked to show your card and a piece of ID. Here are the guidelines for what kinds of identification they’ll accept.

Can I take a selfie of my ballot? No, sorry. Elections Ontario doesn’t allow that.

When do we know who wins? Polls close at 9 p.m. (ET). This is Ontario’s first election to use electronic voting machines, which could considerably speed up the ballot-counting process. Check back at globeandmail.com for up-to-date coverage of the official results.

Ontario in depth: More reporting from The Globe

Ontario divided: Anger, economics and the fault lines that could decide the election

‘The power of the north actually declined’: Ontario’s newest ridings in the north bring some election hope amid harsh realities

Commentary and analysis

Adam Radwanski

Why the usual questions about the Ontario NDP’s competence are being set aside

Doug Ford’s campaign is a mess but it doesn’t seem to matter

If voters aren’t willing to buy what Wynne’s Liberals are selling, none of their advantages matter

Marcus Gee

When it comes to proposed Hydro One solutions, voters must choose between three poor options

Ford’s plan for Toronto transit doesn’t add up

What on earth is the responsible Ontario voter to do?

Wynne is right: Ford is our Trump

John Ibbitson

Want to vote ‘none of the above’ in Ontario’s election? Here’s how you can

Campbell Clark

It appears Ontarians have lost faith in carbon taxes

For Justin Trudeau, a Doug Ford win in Ontario might have a silver lining

Margaret Wente

Ontario’s choice between Doug Ford and Andrea Horwath: Who’s least worst?

David Parkinson

Campaign promises by Doug Ford, Andrea Horwath show they’re no better than Liberals on reining in debt, deficit

Editorials

Ontario politicians should stop coddling car drivers

Doug Ford wants to scrap Ontario’s sex-ed curriculum. Has he read it?

Doug Ford’s housing proposal is the right idea for the wrong place



With reports from Globe staff and The Canadian Press

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