The mid-way point in any government’s mandate is an interesting point in time. It usually means beginning the transition of focus from strictly governing to thinking strategically about the next election. However, before they can switch to election mode entirely, this provincial government has a number of challenges to address before facing voters in June 2022.
MPPs are returning to the Legislature following their winter break. While this gives the government the chance to propose new legislation, it also gives the opposition parties the chance to challenge the Premier and his Ministers in question period. Dominating the conversations in and around Queen’s Park are labour unrest in education, license plate issues, blockades, and COVID-19 to name a few. The government for its part has offered a bill to aid in delivering on a key priority investment in mass transit in the City of Toronto by streamlining planning processes – including those that involve utilities.
They have a chance to further seize the agenda in the coming weeks when they will table their second budget – the first with Finance Minister Rod Phillips at the helm. The Minister has said, “I think you'll see a balanced document that builds the province and make a clear, clear indication of what this government is about in terms of taking care of the needs of regular families." The budget is expected by mid-March.
The notable file for local hydro utilities is the government’s affordability agenda and drive towards savings in the electricity industry – which remains a cornerstone of the PC Party’s previous election platform. The EDA is also anticipating more details and proposals to enable long-awaited reform at the Ontario Energy Board under the tenure of its new Chair, Richard Dicerni.
These issues will impact the government’s thinking just as the Ontario Liberal Party chooses a new leader, and the NDP and Greens ramp up pressure to be seen as the better alternative to voters.
This legislative session will be one to watch, and the EDA will be watching it on behalf of its members.