Less than two weeks after taking office, Ontario Premier Doug Ford has already acted on three of his central campaign promises: ending cap and trade, scrapping the sex-ed curriculum and getting rid of the CEO and board of Hydro One.
So, what will he do for an encore?
Ontario will find out more Thursday afternoon in the speech from the throne. The speech will lay out the Ford government’s priorities and kicks off a rare summer sitting of the legislature. It will be delivered by Lt.-Gov. Elizabeth Dowdeswell, starting at 2 p.m. ET.
The speech will be livestreamed here on cbc.ca, or you can listen to it live in Ontario on CBC Radio with host Gill Deacon starting at 2:05 ET.
Typically, a throne speech right after an election echoes the winning party’s campaign promises. Observers will be watching closely to see which promises Ford chooses to highlight in the speech, and whether any fall by the wayside,
“Reducing people’s taxes, reducing business taxes, reducing hydro rates,” Ford said to reporters at Queen’s Park on Wednesday when asked about his plans.
“We’re going to turn the page, we’re going to have lower hydro rates, we’re going to lower taxes,” Ford said. “We`re going to get rid of — as many as we can at least — the 380,000 regulations and get businesses moving so they can go out and they can hire people and again we’re going to be prosperous.”
While Ford’s promises won him the election campaign, making more of those promises a reality — and dealing with the consequences — could prove challenging.
One of the government’s stated priorities is to bring in legislation to cancel a wind farm in Prince Edward County, given its final approval during the election campaign. But construction is nearly completed, and the company involved says scrapping the project could cost Ontarians some $100 million.
“A halt to construction without warning from the ministry would have significant economic consequences for all involved parties,” said Hartmut Broesamle, a board member of wpd, a German wind power firm.
“Like all other investors in Canada, wpd assumes that legally granted and valid approvals will be honoured at any time and also in the event of a change of government,” Broesamle said in a statement on Wednesday. “Anything else would send out a fatal signal to the entire economy.”
For NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, the cancellation has the whiff of gas plants all over again. Scrapping two gas-fired power plants cost Ontario some $1.1 billion, according to the auditor general.
“It’s pretty shocking that this Ford Conservative government is doing exactly what the Liberals did when it comes to the cancelling of energy projects,” Horwath told reporters Wednesday at the legislature. “It’s something that Mr. Ford has to explain to Ontarians why he thinks it’s the right thing to do.”
The legislation to cancel the wind power project will also stop the company from suing the province over the move, said government house leader Todd Smith. Attorney General Caroline Mulroney declined to answer questions about how such a provision would stand up to a court challenge.
Another Ford priority in the legislative session is to repeal Ontario’s cap-and-trade law. Ford has already withdrawn Ontario from the carbon-pricing market it shared with Quebec and California. What remains unclear is whether repealing the legislation will also nix Ontario’s targets for reducing carbon emissions, which are embedded in the law.
Environment Minister Rod Phillips refused to take questions from reporters about the issue when he emerged from a cabinet meeting on Wednesday.
Ontario companies have spent $2.9 billion on carbon allowances that have been rendered worthless by a Ford cabinet order banning any sale or trading of the cap-and-trade permits.