Published: July 18, 2018
BY SHAYLA BRADLEY
Ontario’s Progressive-Conservative government is launching into changes immediately, after Premier Doug Ford was sworn into office June 29, along with 21 members of cabinet.
In the throne speech delivered July 12, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario Elizabeth Dowdeswell read, “The fact is that Ontario is at a critical juncture. We face mounting challenges at home and abroad. These challenges, if left unchecked, threaten livelihoods and imperil public services.
“We cannot afford to dither or delay. To overcome these challenges we must challenge the status quo, reject the old compromises, and embrace change. It will also require us to move past the politics of division.”
Kenora-Rainy River MPP and energy minister Greg Rickford announced the retirement of former Hydro One CEOMayo Schmidt effective July 11, and the resignation of the 14-member board by August 15. “Given the critical importance of Hydro One to our province’s electricity system, our government will be closely engaging in the leadership transition at Hydro One to ensure the stability of the system is preserved and consumers are protected,” he said.
Schmidt will retain stock options and pension benefits as part of his agreement to retire, along with a $400,000 lump payment.
On July 13, Rickford announced the cancellation of 758 renewable energy projects, a move he said would create $790 million in savings, with the government intending to introduce a legislative amendment that, if passed, will protect hydro consumers from any costs incurred from the cancellation.
“We clearly promised we would cancel these unnecessary and wasteful energy projects as part of our plan to cut hydro rates by 12 per cent for families, farmers and small businesses,” said Rickford. “In the past few weeks, we have taken significant steps toward keeping that promise.”
The PCs ended the Green Ontario Fund, which was designed to help make properties more energy efficient. The fund used proceeds from the cap and trade program, which was also revoked.
The cap and trade system cancellation also means the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund is eliminated, meaning schools relying on it for repairs are out of luck if their projects were contracted on or before July 3.
In other areas impacting education, the government will roll back portions of Ontario’s sex ed curriculum, initially saying it would revert to a 1998-era curriculum before education minister Lisa Thompson offered different information in the legislature July 16, saying, “We know they need to learn about consent. We know they need to learn about cyber safety. We know they need to learn about gender identity and appreciation. But we also know that the former Liberal government’s consultation process was completely flawed.”
Thompson said the area of the curriculum addressing “developing sexual relations” will be replaced. Several summer education workshops and writing sessions, including a Truth and Reconciliation Commission curriculum revisions session, were cancelled. OHIP+ changes were an early move, as announced by health minister Christine Elliot June 30.
“Children and youth who are not covered by private benefits would continue to receive their eligible prescriptions free,” she announced. “Those who are covered by private plans would bill those plans first, with the government covering all remaining eligible costs of prescriptions.”
“We have a clear mandate from the people,” stated Ford following the throne speech. “We are ending the deadlocked strike at York University so students can get back to school. We are striking the cap-and-trade carbon tax from the books. And we are cancelling unnecessary renewable energy projects to help lower your electricity bills.”