A couple months ago, Yahoo Canada News asked readers what issues are most important leading up to the provincial election. The results are in and we put NDP leader Andrea Horwath, Liberal premier Kathleen Wynne and Green Party leader Mike Schreiner to the test on your key priorities in this election.
Health care was the issue of most importance, a topic that has also been top of mind for the Ontario party leaders.
Investment in healthcare for seniors was an aspect that both Horwath and Wynne spoke about specifically, indicating that more work needs to be done to keep seniors at home, or in effective long-term care facilities.
“The long-term care system is not working, people don’t get the hands-on care that they need,” Horwath said.
“There are more and more seniors that want to stay at home,” Wynne said. “That has meant that over the last few years, we’ve been investing billions more in home care.”
Aside from health care for seniors, the NDP plan to increase hospital funding by 5.3 per cent in the first year, while also working to implement a universal pharmacare program. The Liberals have pledged to introduce a drug and dental program that will cover 80 per cent of various expenses.
Schreiner’s provincial Green Party and the Conservatives led by Doug Ford have both promised significant investment in mental health service across the province.
2. Government accountability
Government accountability was the second most selected issue leading up to the Ontario election. The Liberals in particular have been scrutinized during the campaign for a lack of transparency with regards to the selling off of Hydro One, in addition to the Ontario gas plant scandal.
“We just need honest government,” Schreiner said. “You have two parties, the Liberals and the NDP, promising a lot without being honest with you about how they’re going to pay for it, and you have the Conservatives promising lots of tax cuts without being honest with you about how they’re going to pay for it.”
Horwath mentioned the implementation of Ontario’s Financial Accountability Officer, a role the NDP leader described as analyzing government plans to “weed out the untruths.” Horwath says the lack of financial accountability has made Ontarians upset with Kathleen Wynne in the Liberals.
“We actually are the government that put in place legislation that requires that before an election there’s a full public airing of the finances of the province,” Wynne said. “That I think is a real area where there wasn’t transparency previously.”
Accountability is also addressed in the provincial PC’s plan, vowing to expand the Auditor General’s authority and “opening the books” to an external audit.
3. Provincial debt
The third issue, one of the most heavily debated issues in the 2018 provincial election campaign, is provincial debt. With the provincial deficit increasing, Ontarians are concerned about when the government will balance the budget.
“I am deeply concerned that the three status quo parties in Ontario are not fiscally responsible,” Schreiner said.
Horwath explained that although she plans to run a deficit if elected into power on Thursday, increasing to $5 billion in their third year in power, the party plans to move towards a balanced budget in 2021-2022.
“Our plan is a lot more fiscally responsible frankly, because not only do we try to help families with the things that they need in a very changing economy, but we also show how we’re going to pay for it,” Horwath said.
Wynne highlights the province’s economic prosperity, including low unemployment, as a success for their investments for economic growth.
“The majority of our provincial debt is debt that has been accrued because of investments in long-term assets,” Wynne said.
One of Ford’s main campaign promises is to reduce government spending, with plans for an outside audit of Wynne’s “reckless management” of provincial finances. The PC leader also plans to cut several provincial taxes, including eliminating the carbon tax.