TORONTO – Ontario Premier Doug Ford and his Progressive Conservative government have backtracked on a number a commitments since winning the provincial election in 2018.
Here is a list of some decisions they have walked back:
Hamilton LRT: The Progressive Conservatives promised during the election to fund the light-rail transit project, but in December the transportation minister announced that would no longer happen, citing rising cost estimates.
Legal aid: The 2019 budget cut that year’s funding for Legal Aid Ontario by $133 million – or 30 per cent – and planned $31 million in further cuts over the next two years. Eight months later, the government announced it was cancelling those future cuts.
E-learning and class sizes: The government angered teachers in March when it announced it was increasing average high school class sizes from 22 to 28, and mandating that students take four online courses to graduate. In the context of difficult negotiations with the education unions, the education minister has offered to walk that class size target back to 25, and announced that students will now instead be required to take two online courses to graduate.
Subway upload: Ford promised during the 2018 election to upload Toronto’s subway system to help leverage the province’s financial and planning powers to build transit infrastructure faster. The province has now announced it will not take control of the subway system, in exchange for the city’s support of the province’s transit plan.
Transition Child Benefit: The government had planned to stop the benefit as of Nov. 1, but has now decided to continue it as the province reviews its social assistance programs. The benefit provides up to $230 a month for low-income families not receiving other child benefits.
Children’s aid society funding: The government’s spending estimates for this fiscal year had showed a $28 million cut to funding for children’s aid societies, but has now decided to maintain the same funding model as last year.
Autism: In February, the government announced a revamp of the Ontario Autism Program. It was framed as a way to clear a massive waiting list for services, but would have given families a relatively small amount of money based on their income, not the needs of their child. It also would have effectively cut off thousands of kids currently in government-funded therapy. After a loud and sustained outcry, the government announced a reversal, saying it was going back to the drawing board on a needs-based program and would double the current budget.
Public health: Mayors across the province banded together to fight retroactive cuts to public health funding, and the government ultimately relented. The cuts, in the form of a new cost-sharing arrangement, will mostly go ahead in 2020, but the mid-year cuts that would have taken effect after municipalities had already passed their budgets were cancelled.
Child care: Municipalities will still have to pay 20 per cent of the cost of creating new child care spaces – which the province previously fully funded – as announced at the same time as the public health cuts. But the government backed off somewhat on other elements of child-care funding cuts, delaying some to 2021 and others to 2022.
French university: As part of the government’s efforts to balance the books, it announced last fall that it was cancelling plans for a French-language university. The move sparked an outcry among Franco-Ontarians and prompted a Progressive Conservative caucus member to quit. In September, Ontario and the federal government announced they had reached an agreement on jointly funding a French-language university.
Appointments: Ford revoked two appointments for agents-general positions in London and New York City. One person was reported to be related to Ford’s then-chief of staff, Dean French, and it emerged that the other played lacrosse with French’s son.
Greenbelt: Ontario announced in January that it would not move forward with a controversial element of proposed legislation that could have opened up the province’s protected Greenbelt to development.
Size of cabinet: When Doug Ford came to power he cut the size of the cabinet to 21 people, down from 29 under former premier Kathleen Wynne. In a cabinet shuffle this summer, he added several new portfolios, bringing the size to 28.