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Taking It To The Street

THRONE SPEECH, BUDGET BIG TEST OF WYNNE'S CONSENSUS POLITICS


By Susanna Kelley

The new Ontario Throne Speech, meant to outline in broad strokes the Wynne government's vision for Ontario, reflects the consensus style of the province's first female premier, including ideas from the Opposition leaders to her former leadership rivals to individuals and groups across the political spectrum, as well as her own notions.

Ontario's Lieutenant Governor David Onley, as is the tradition, read the Speech from the Throne Tuesday afternoon as the Legislature re-opened for the first time since former Premier Dalton McGuinty prorogued it over four months ago.

Kathleen Wynne's wish to preserve her minority government and avoid an election was evident from the get-go:


 

The Speech confirmed Ms. Wynne's plans to follow through with a number of promises she made during the Liberal leadership race, including a balanced budget.

"The central objectives of your new government will be fiscal responsibility, economic growth and increased employment - the bedrocks on which it will build," read the Speech.

But true to her party's centrist position on the political spectrum, she indicated cutting costs would not be the only method she would use.

"Your new government understands that Ontario's true potential cannot be reached through austerity alone" the speech said, pledging Ontario would use innovation and job creation to achieve growth.

Borrowing a page from the report on delivering government services by economist Don Drummond, (Mr. Drummond is part of her transition team) the Liberals plan to work on corporate tax compliance.

And saying job creation is at the heart of the government's plans, the government promised to work with education partners to ensure Ontario's youth received training that better match job opportunities through internships, co-op programs and placements.

The new Premier also seems intent on making good on her leadership campaign promises for improved rural roads and bridges as well as better transportation networks in Northern Ontario, including that feeding the mining bonanza expected from the so-called Ring of Fire area.

The Speech echoed Wynne's call for a "fair society," and pledged welfare reforms that the PC'S and the NDP have both called for:



And the government said there is also common ground amongst the three parties to expand home care.

A number of other policy ideas put forward by NDP leader Andrea Horwath and PC leader Tim Hudak were included in the Speech with the obvious intention of attracting enough votes to ensure its passage, and that of the upcoming budget.

(Both the Speech and the budget are confidence matters and should either not pass, the government would fall.)

Mr. Hudak has been looking for action on what he calls the Liberal government's "debt and deficit crisis," and the speech talked about both.

The Speech promised to restrain program spending to reduce the province's debt-to-GDP ratio, and reiterated Ms. Wynne's promise to balance the budget by 2017-18.

Still, that did not win over Mr. Hudak, who commented afterwards that his party would not support the Throne Speech:

"Today was a moment of truth for Ontario. The Speech from the Throne presented an opportunity for this government to make the necessary and urgent decisions to put Ontario on the right track" he said.

"Regrettably for Ontario," said Mr. Hudak, "Premier Wynne appears to have chosen to entrench the McGuinty agenda that led Ontario to the biggest jobs and debt crisis of our lifetime."

"The only way to ... change the direction of the province is to change the team that leads it."

In another attempt to lure the NDP votes it will need to pass the speech and budget, the Liberals plan to help small businesses create jobs.

Ms. Horwath, while promising her party would vote in favour of the Throne Speech, would not commit to supporting the second upcoming confidence vote, the budget.

"We’ll vote in favour of the Throne Speech because there are some lip service being paid to some of our ideas, but lip service is not enough for the people of this province – it’s not good enough. We need some real action, some real deliverables (in order to vote for the budget.)

Still, Ms. Wynne appeared optimistic that she would be able to pull together the votes she needs to keep her minority government in power.

Ms. Wynne also reached out to teachers and other public servants angry with former Premier Dalton McGuinty's attempts to impose wage freezes as the government struggles with an $11.9 deficit - a hangover from infrastructure spending launched, along with most of the western world, to stave off an economic collapse in 2008-2009. 

"The government will create a better process to ensure that all its partners, including those within the public sector, are treated with respect," read the speech.

Several teachers' unions, including the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario, welcomed the overtures by the new government.

In another example of the new Premier's Wynne "team" approach to governing, ideas put forward by her fellow leadership rivals were also included in the government's agenda:

Gerard Kennedy - a pledge to improve the employment situation for disabled Ontarians.

Eric Hoskins - will oversee the jobs for the disabled file as Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Employment. Mr. Hoskins had stressed the need for help for the most vulnerable during his leadership campaign.

Glenn Murray - $50 million to leverage a new $300 million venture capital fund to fund small and medium sized businesses (Mr. Murray's plan was more ambitious, saying during the campaign his would leverage $2 billion.)

And a major idea from Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion, one of Wynne's leadership convention supporters, made its way into the Speech.

Ms. McCallion has long called for a separate revenue stream to pay for improved public transit, one that would not involve the municipal property tax.

Finally, the Speech said its time for a serious discussion about transit funding."

The new government is confident that the people of Ontario are willing to participate in a practical discussion of these costs if they can be guaranteed measurable results."

Those results will be better productivity, reduced time spent in gridlock and a cleaner environment, the Speech said.

Ms. Wynne said as she launched her leadership campaign months ago that her consensus politics could achieve much for Ontario, and she is practicing what she preaches.



The Throne Speech and the budget votes will be the real tests of her consensus politics.


You can find Susanna here: @susannakelley


About Susanna Kelley

Susanna Kelley is Editor-in-Chief and Queen’s Park Bureau Chief for Ontario News Watch. A veteran political and investigative reporter, documentary-maker, host and media commentator, Susanna oversees and has final editorial control over all news production at Ontario News Watch. Susanna has reported for the CBC, the Canadian Press and served as Queen’s Park Bureau Chief for TVOntario for 13 years. She has also hosted a number of documentaries for CBC’s The Current, CBC Radio News and TVOntario’s Studio 2. Passionately dedicated to excellence in political journalism, and having covered both Parliament Hill and Queen’s Park, Susanna believes quality political reporting is essential to a healthy democracy. You can find Susanna here: @susannakelley
Posted date : February 20, 2013

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