- Polls opened in Ontario on Thursday morning as voters decide who will lead the province. If you haven’t voted yet and are still undecided, this guide offers background on the leaders, reality checks of the platforms and information about the voting process.
- If you're planning not to vote at all, Globe and Mail columnist Marcus Gee has exhausted the list of usual excuses for staying home – it's too much trouble, I don't like any of the candidates, my vote doesn't count – and written rebuttals for each. Please go vote, Ontarians.
- Non-Ontarians haven't usually paid close attention to the politics of a province known for its stable, dependable leaders, Globe columnist Gary Mason writes. But this time it's different: The election has shown a decline of Ontario's political class that has mirrored the province’s diminishing influence within Canada, he argues, and the rest of the country is watching closely to see how it turns out.
- If you're wondering which leader The Globe’s editorial board endorses, the answer is: None of them. Instead, it advises voters to pick local candidates they trust and let the chips fall where they may: “The electorate cannot vote for leadership where it does not exist, or for platforms that are wrong for the times.”
Liberals: Kathleen Wynne
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 plummeted as the Liberals mark their 15th year in power. The Liberals tried to reassert their 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” has been a much-used word in Ms. Wynne’s campaign. But by Ms. Wynne’s own admission, the chances of her coming back to Queen’s Park as premier are slim: On June 2, she conceded in a tearful speech that “after Thursday, I will no longer be Ontario’s Premier. And I’m okay with that.” Ms. Wynne’s stated goal now is to win as many seats as possible to keep majority government out of the NDP and PCs’ grasp.
Progressive Conservatives: Doug Ford
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.
New Democrats: Andrea Horwath
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.
Reality checks on the hot issues
Through the campaign, Globe reporters have worked hard to separate fact from fiction on the contentious issues. Here’s some essential reading.
Sex ed: In 2015, the Wynne government’s new sexual-education curriculum – which introduces pupils to concepts of consent, digital safety and same-sex relationships – met fierce criticism from social conservatives. Mr. Ford promises to get rid of it if a PC government is elected. But many parents don’t understand what’s being taught, or which grade levels get which lessons. Here, education reporter Caroline Alphonso explores who’s learning what and how it compares with other provinces’ curriculums.
Child care: For those Ontarians who manage to get through the long waiting list for child care, fees are some of the highest in Canada. Let’s assume, for instance, that you have a family of three children: One infant, one preschooler and one school-aged. According to the Education Ministry’s estimates, their child-care needs would cost $1,764 to $4,431 a month. All three of Ontario’s major parties are promising different measures to lighten that burden, but money isn’t the only issue: Experts say we should pay close attention to how each plan addresses child-care supply and quality of care. Here, Wency Leung weighs the different options.
Mental health: Each of the three parties are promising close to $2-billion in new funding for mental health and addiction care, which advocates and policy experts say is a breakthrough in putting mental health care on the political agenda. Wency Leung takes a closer look at what each party says it’ll do.
The Ford years: Doug Ford has made some exaggerated claims about his days in municipal government with his late brother Rob, including how much they saved taxpayers (he says $1.16-billion) and how many people lost their jobs due to cost-cutting (he says none). City hall reporter Jeff Gray fact-checks Mr. Ford’s recollections.
Public transit: Mr. Ford says a PC government would buy Toronto’s subway network and pour billions of new money into it. The Liberals want to discuss that idea, but haven’t committed to do it, and the NDP has categorically ruled out buying the subway network. The idea itself is more complicated than it sounds, transportation reporter Oliver Moore explains: It would raise thorny political questions about whether Queen’s Park or city councillors elected by Torontonians would have the final say over expansions to the network.
The NDP and Liberals have each released fully costed platforms, and additional Liberal priorities were identified in their March budget. The Tories quietly issued a list of promises on May 30, but it doesn’t give a detailed fiscal plan, and the party says it will not deliver one before election day. Here are some of the major promises and the backstory behind them. You can also check out Tim Kiladze’s detailed breakdown of what the PC and NDP promises would cost.
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 and election platform, the Wynne Liberals argue 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.
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…
THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: LIBERALS' ONTARIO BUDGET 2018
Someone earning $95,000 in taxable
income would pay…
THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: LIBERALS' ONTARIO BUDGET 2018
Someone earning $95,000 in taxable income would pay…
Base personal income tax
$6,946 in personal income taxes
Liberals' proposed changes
THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: LIBERALS' ONTARIO BUDGET 2018
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: Ms. Wynne has 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.
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. The platform also calls for 100,000 new licensed child-care spaces over five years.
- 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 and light-rail expansion in Ottawa. The party platform emphasizes fare reductions for transit users, particularly on the GO network.
- 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.
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.
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 phone and your Facebook feed too.
For example, you may have recently received unsolicited texts or robocalls from “Olivia from Ontario Proud,” asking which party you plan to vote for. These messages are from a conservative advocacy group whose main mission is posting anti-Liberal and anti-NDP memes on Facebook.
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
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, and the period for advance voting passed on June 1. Polls on Thursday open at 9 a.m. (ET).
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. 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
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With reports from Globe staff and The Canadian Press