Even though Doug Ford doesn't take control of office until tomorrow, he's already set the wheels in motion on a number of his plans. In the weeks superseding the Progressive Conservatives victory at the polls, Ford has vowed to dismantle the province's cap-and-trade program that funded green energy initiatives like free smart thermostats and energy efficient windows.
He has also put the public sector under a hiring freeze, excluding essential frontline staff — correctional workers, police and firefighters — and ordered that discretionary spending be put on hold.
Warren Thomas, president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, said the freeze will cause delays for most government services in the coming months as vacant positions remain unfilled.
“We look after you from birth to death and everything in between,” Thomas said, regarding the 34,000 staff in the public sector. “Everything you can imagine that affects your life is included in this freeze. I hope it doesn’t go on forever.”
The PC government has reached out to the group representing doctors in Ontario to reopen contract negotiations instead of proceeding to arbitration. He's appealed to the masses by promising the creation of 15,000 new long-term beds in the next five years and to add $3.8 billion in support for mental health, addictions and housing.
Though the quickness of Ford's actions shows just how serious he is about enacting these changes, it's dangerous to move quickly when it comes to complex policies with far-reaching implications.
The Toronto-born politician campaigned on a promise of being financially responsible but has not released a cost breakdown of his platform and pledged a line-by-line audit of the government's spending by an outside party. He has promised to return the budget to balanced during the second half of his term, saying he'll find billions (six billion to be specific) in inefficiencies without cutting jobs.
During former Toronto mayor Rob Ford's tenure, he hired consulting firm KPMG to recommend cuts, but all they found was a few libraries to consider closing. Residents didn't like that idea so instead the mayor forced each department cut 10 percent of their budget, even though the KPMG said this would cause cuts to core services — such as homeless shelters, infrastructure projects and economic initiatives. There wasn't enough inefficiencies to cut, and we're not sure if this is the same case here.
The financial consequences of Ford's platform will be his biggest challenges and he'll need to pass through legislation to roll back initiatives he agrees with, including the minimum wage increase to $15 which is scheduled for January. It has also been suggested that he will decrease the size of his cabinet, possibly including cutting the Minister of Indigenous Relations, with much of the remaining ones coming from the business sector.
With violence in Toronto rising, the Ford administration has promised to restore funding to the Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy unit and similar units in other cities, which was disbanded last year because of claims of racism and high numbers of random carding incidents. Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders warned against this and said in an interview that over-policing is a failed approach. He suggested that, instead, there be longer sentences for gang-related crimes.
It's clear that Doug Ford has big plans for the province and with them already beginning to materialize, it's only a matter of time before we find out which ones stick.