By Allison Jones
From cutting class sizes to ending for-profit long-term care to rebates for electric vehicle purchases, parallel promises abound in the Ontario NDP and Liberals’ platforms in a race in which the leaders have not ruled out working together.
Both NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca have said they would not support a Doug Ford Progressive Conservative minority government.
Polls suggest that Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives are poised to be re-elected, but if they fail to win another majority, Horwath and Del Duca will have some decisions to make.
If they don’t want to send voters immediately back to the polls, Horwath and Del Duca may choose to support or work with the other party in some form.
Del Duca said Thursday he is prepared to work in a minority government scenario with any other party that shares his priorities, such as investing in public education and seniors’ care.
“If … that means that come June the 2nd and the people of Ontario have asked all of us, regardless of partisan stripe to work together, then I will do whatever I can to find a way to do that,” he said.
“Doug Ford doesn’t have the capacity to lead this province. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t people perhaps here in my home community who might have voted conservative in the past, who might share my passion to invest in public education. If that’s true, and I believe it is, then I’m prepared to work with anyone who wants smaller class sizes and economic dignity, and a seniors care revolution and a fight or a plan to fight the climate crisis.”
Del Duca was speaking in Vaughan, Ont., about a plan to cap class sizes at 20 students for all grades across the province and hire 10,000 more teachers.
“For me, it’s not about the politics, it’s about the progress,” he said. “So I’d be happy to work with anyone who wants to deliver – in this case, for example – a hard cap of 20 for elementary and secondary classes.”
Among the education promises from the NDP is a pledge to cap classes for Grades 4 through 8 at 24 students and hire 20,000 teachers and education workers.
Horwath wouldn’t speculate Thursday on working with Del Duca, saying instead that she is campaigning to be premier in order to prioritize the public education system.
“No matter what Steven Del Duca says now, he had 15 years to to make sure we had smaller class sizes, and the Liberals refused to do it,” she said, referring to the Liberal government from 2003 to 2018, in which Del Duca served as a cabinet minister for several years.
The Liberals have not yet released their full platform, but the similarities in policy promises don’t end with education.
Both parties pledge to: cancel Highway 413, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 and achieve net zero emissions by 2050, expand the protected Greenbelt, offer rebates for electric vehicles, plant millions of trees, eliminate for-profit long-term care, raise personal support worker wages, repeal Bill 124, and fully cover medication to prevent and treat HIV.
They also both say they would appoint a minister for anti-racism, implement the Pay Transparency Act, legislate 10 paid sick days, boost the minimum wage, and allow gig workers to be classified as employees –among other items.
Colin MacDonald, a principal at public affairs firm Navigator and a former Liberal staffer, said most voters don’t spend their days going through the specifics of each policy promise.
“A lot comes down to how the leaders perform and how professional and well put together the campaign is, and the candidates, and what is the track record for delivering and being effective either in government or in opposition,” he said.
They base their decisions either on a couple of issues most important to them, how likely a party is to act on those priorities, or who is most likely to unseat a government they dislike, MacDonald said.
The NDP and Liberals have both been focusing their messages on the latter point, making the case to voters that only they can beat Ford. New Democrats note they are way further ahead in terms of incumbents, while the Liberals say historically they are more likely to win elections.
The platform similarities are likely not due to any sort of calculated move setting the stage for a coalition, said Karl Baldauf, vice-president with McMillan Vantage Policy Group. And for Del Duca, there may not be an advantage in entertaining that sort of scenario, he said.
“An NDP-led coalition, which there would be pressure on his party to consider, would, I think, present a generational challenge for the Ontario Liberal Party if they were a junior partner,” said Baldauf, a former Progressive Conservative staffer.
On the campaign trail Thursday, Ford said voters will have a clear choice on June 2.
“They’re going to have a choice between a government that is getting things done, or building – again – roads, hospitals, schools, right across the board, putting money back in people’s pockets, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs,” he said.
“The other choice is you sit there and you saw what happened for 15 years they destroyed our province. They talk, talk, talk, they set up committee after committee, meeting after meeting. Nothing got done.”
Banner image: Ontario Liberal Party leader Steven Del Duca speaks with Don Valley West Liberal candidate Stephanie Bowman outside the Lawrence TTC Station in Toronto, Thurs., May 5, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 5, 2022.