No big idea during election campaign? Au contraire – The Ontario election campaign produced some unexpected and innovative proposals.
This doesn’t happen often, mostly because politicians don’t dare to dream. And, as Kim Campbell infamously said during her brief tenure as prime minister, the election period is too short to discuss serious issues.
The good ideas we focused on during the election should be implemented by the victorious PC government of Doug Ford and then extended to the rest of the country.
The Ontario Liberals proposed an optional Grade 13 start for at least four years, to allow children who missed a significant proportion of their school experience because of COVID-19. Other smart education ideas raised during the campaign:
• Reduce class size, with the best suggestion from the Liberals, who proposed capping classes at 20 students across the board.
• Hire more teachers. The promises ranged from 10,000 for the Liberals to between 20,000 for the NDP and more special education teachers.
Ontario had the worst track record in Canada on classroom closures and reliance on virtual learning during the pandemic, and Canada had the worst track record in the world. It is clear that as the pandemic subsides, we will need to help children recover.
Affordable housing is needed everywhere and the whole country is in a dire straits, although no government has any plan of action of any magnitude that will help.
Most Ontario parties promised a large amount of new housing, with the common number being at least 1.5 million homes. And while more attention needs to be paid to how, when and for whom these homes will be built, promising numbers are at least a start.
The “buck a ride” public transit promise, even from liberals, is a really good idea. It tackles a whole raft of policy issues at once.
It gives priority to public transport at a time when gas prices are rising and people are under stress due to general price hike.
This could make more people accustomed to using public transport, which would have a positive impact on greenhouse gas emissions.
It specifically targets those who need it the most. Low-wage workers often spend a lot of time on transit because the cost of accommodation near their work is so high.
The proposal will also put money in the pockets of those who need it the most, especially the poorest and most vulnerable such as people with disabilities, the unemployed, students and seniors.
Public Sector Bargaining, Labor
Somewhere, limiting public sector salaries to very small increments over the long term seemed like a good idea. Governments across the country put restrictions on wages. This resulted in a catastrophic labor shortage in the critical care industries.
In Ontario, Bill 124 raises public sector wages by one percent a year, targeting jobs primarily held by women. With this kind of government directive, there is no real public sector wage bargaining and it serves to increase wage inequality within the sector.
Ontario’s Bill 106 also affects women because of its limitations on wage equity bargaining in the public sector.
good thought? All three opposition parties – the Liberals, the NDP and the Greens – promised to repeal both bills.
It would be a smart move for the whole of Canada. Governments across the country need to plan for labor in the care sector, but unless strong bargaining rights are made possible due to government directives, shortages will remain.
Read more: More long-term care beds in Ontario won’t help without well-paid, well-trained staff
Looking to the post-pandemic era
The problems arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic are almost universal across the country, so progressive ideas must be broadcast from anywhere.
So the surprisingly good ideas that have emerged from the Ontario election campaign need to be implemented by re-elected progressive conservatives and governments across the country.
The pandemic exposed acute shortages in care services and exposed and exacerbated existing transit and housing problems. The smart ideas presented during the Ontario election represent a good first step to address some of them.
As we recover from COVID-19, it is possible to have a more equitable society, one that prioritizes improving the lives of citizens from all walks of life. That should be the aim of every elected official, including newly elected Doug Ford.