Ontario’s election meter is running high on promises we shouldn’t believe

By Sabrina Almeida

With the June 2 election just around a fortnight away, Ontarians are being flooded with promises of a vastly better life by all political parties.

Affordable housing, improved transit, better health care, free dental treatment for low income households, more jobs, crackdown on gun crimes, better education – who wouldn’t want all of that, right?

But we know from experience that several of these campaign pledges are unlikely to get off the paper.

While some are just not viable, others are not intended to go beyond being election promises.

So with proposed reforms ranging from the bizarre to expensive, each of the parties is simply looking to capture our imagination momentarily. Politicians have short memories and they’re hoping the same is true of voters because that’s what will keep them in office. It’s how elections work!

Doug Ford campaigned on the promise to rid Ontario of the wasteful ways of the previous Liberal governments. Ontarians believed him. But four years later, the province is no better off than it was under Kathleen Wynne or her predecessor Dalton McGuinty. Meanwhile nepotism continues and some government decisions (like the controversial highway 413) are said to be benefitting Ford’s cronies. It’s an allegation that is not hard to believe because that’s how politics works. And no party is above it!

So is Ford’s heart still bleeding for the common man or vested interests? The truth is his rising popularity during the initial days of the pandemic wore off because his actions didn’t quite match his words. He also sounded less sincere each time he pretended to know what struggling Ontarians were experiencing because he is not one of them. The photo ops didn’t quite cut it for him. And the postponement of this year’s budget was yet another reminder of how politicians can tweak the system to suit themselves.

But the critical question here is whether a Steven Del Duca-led Liberal government or an Andrea Horwath-led NDP one is the better choice for Ontarians. The answer will guide your vote.

With the rising cost of living being uppermost in everyone’s mind, it makes sense to view election campaigns through the affordability lens.

Del Duca’s promise of a buck-a-ride until 2024 seems to be going in the right direction but only insofar as it is financially sustainable. With most transit agencies suffering shortfalls from the lack of ridership during the pandemic, how much money is a Liberal government willing to spend to keep them afloat? Also, after working from home for almost two years, most Ontarians are very protective of their virtual work status. Will this fare reprieve make a difference to them then? What will it mean for the future of public transit?

Andrea Horwath seems to have done well with promises of free dental care for low income families, interest-free loans on green home upgrades that will lower energy bills and an offer of government help with down payment for first time homebuyers. But with polls putting the NDP in third place, it does appear that the party can make whatever promises it wants without the fear of having to deliver on them. Unless Ontarians are really willing to give them a chance…

Ford, on the other hand, has offered reprieve to drivers by eliminating the vehicle registration fee (which contributed to around $1 billion in revenue), scrapping tolls and promising to remove the provincial gas tax for six months. Most of his campaign pledges are a reiteration of the proposed budget and previous announcements. That’s an advantage and disadvantage for him!

All parties are also trying to outdo one another on minimum wage increases. But the catch here is what it will mean for business owners and the inevitability of the increased cost being passed on to consumers. Ford cancelled the Wynne government’s proposed hike only to raise them when it suited him. After all, waffling back and forth is a politician’s privilege.

So voters must be able to sift through the truckloads of promises being thrown in our direction and evaluate politicians based on their conduct off the campaign trail. We can almost be sure that is the behaviour and policies they will revert to once the votes are cast!

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