PCs sweep to power in Ontario: What Doug Ford means for construction across the province
The premier-designate has committed to a series of infrastructure investments and vowed to close the province's skills gap
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TORONTO—After more than a decade as the official opposition, Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives swept to a resounding victory in Ontario’s bitterly-fought election June 7.
Premier-designate Doug Ford and the PCs won 76 of the legislature’s 124 seats, capturing 40.5 per cent of the popular vote.
Andrea Horwath and the NDP will form the opposition with 40 seats, while the Liberal Party, which had held onto power for 15 years, lost official party status, retaining just seven seats. Premier Kathleen Wynne held onto her place in the legislature in a close race, but said she would step down as head of the Ontario Liberals after the defeat. Meanwhile, the Green Party of Ontario captured its first-ever foothold at Queen’s Park as leader Mike Schreiner came out on top in the Guelph, Ont. riding.
Across the province, 58 per cent of eligible voters turned out to cast their ballots, according to Elections Ontario.
With the majority secured, Ford and the PCs will now turn their focus toward governing. The rookie MPP and party leader, who served a somewhat tumultuous term on Toronto’s City Council, faced significant criticism throughout the campaign for a lack of clarity in his platform. He promised to replace the entrenched Liberals with a practical, affordable and responsible government.
“A new day has dawned in Ontario—a day of opportunity, a day of prosperity and a day of growth,” he told a crowd after securing the election win.
Among his list of promises were bringing back dollar beer, scrapping the Green Energy Act and reducing the small business tax rate.
Much of Ford’s talk of the construction industry has focused on bolstering Ontario’s infrastructure. Already a major component of provincial spending under the Liberals, the province’s long term infrastructure plan committed a whopping $190 billion to building or repairing transit, roads, bridges, hospitals and schools between 2014 and 2028.
In the official PC platform, Ford identified a number of projects—some vague, others more specific—the party will pursue.
- An additional $5 billion to fund subway projects in the Toronto area, including the the so-called Downtown Relief Line, the Yonge Extension and the Sheppard Loop
- Exploring the potential of six-laning all of Highway 401 and Highway 416 between Toronto and Ottawa
- Completing the assessment of the GTA West Corridor, which the current government recently abandoned
- Actively pursuing high-speed rail networks
- Investing in four-laning projects along Highway 17 in eastern Ontario and Highway 3 in Southwestern Ontario
“The Progressive Conservatives ran on a platform of infrastructure investment, including incremental funding for subways, regional transit, and broadband,” said Mark Romoff the president and CEO of the Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships (CCPPP), adding that he looks forward to working with the incoming government on ensuring Ontarians are getting the most out of their infrastructure spending.
On the jobs file, Ford has committed to helping to fill the skills gap and cutting red tape to help businesses create more positions.
It’s one of the areas the construction industry says its hoping to collaborate with the new government on creative solutions.
“Our goal is to help close the skills gap by addressing issues such as apprenticeship ratios in order to open up more opportunities for young people in the skilled trades,” said Karen Renkema, public affairs manager at the Progressive Contractors Association of Canada (PCA).
The Ontario Construction Secretariat also congratulated Ford and the PCs on their election win and said it would work with the new government to keep construction in the commercial, industrial and institutional segments strong.
The PC’s promise to scrap the Ontario cap-and-trade program is also likely to have an impact on the construction industry through fuel savings.
Ford is scheduled to take the reins from Wynne and be sworn in as Ontario’s 26th premier June 29.
—With a file from the Canadian Press