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Saturday, June 9, 2018

ONTARIO / CANADA: Doug Ford's PC government will move on these 5 promises quickly!

Ontario's premier-designate Doug Ford plans a quick, three-week transition to power, and then swift action on some of his campaign promises.

Conversations with Progressive Conservative insiders suggest that Ford could put a handful of measures in place immediately after he and his cabinet are sworn in.

Ford and outgoing premier Kathleen Wynne have agreed to meet on June 29 for the transition.

Here's a look at what to expect:
1. Look at the books

One of the central themes of Ford's campaign was a claim that the recently governing Liberals have "cooked the books."

He promised a line-by-line audit of government spending and a commission of inquiry to investigate the difference between the $6.7-billion deficit in the Liberals' 2018-19 budget and the auditor general's view that proper accounting would put the deficit at $11.7 billion.Since many of Ford's other promises are contingent upon what the probe into the province's finances reveals, it makes sense that this would be among his first moves.

"You've got to find out what you actually inherited," said one veteran PC official, who would only freely discuss the Ford transition on the condition of anonymity. "Priority No. 1 has to be to find out just what is the state of Ontario's finances."

The PCs have said the commission will cost $1 million, which would suggest it's not going to be a long and drawn out process.

2. Hydro moves

Before the campaign had officially started, Ford said the "first thing" he would do if elected premier would be to fire the CEO of Hydro One, who earned more than $6 million in salary and bonuses last year.

Ford would first have to take steps to dump the electricity transmission utility's government-appointed board members, then leave it to those new board members to dump CEO Mayo Schmidt. If that happens, Schmidt is in line for a hefty severance package.

The move would appeal strongly to Ford's support base and send a signal about one of the central — and perhaps fatal — acts of the Wynne government: the privatization of Hydro One.

Ford could also act quickly on his promise to reduce the price of electricity.

One of his proposed tactics is to put the $300-million annual dividend the government gets from its Hydro One shares to different use: instead of dumping it into provincial coffers, the PCs say they would put it back into subsidizing the province's hydro system, delivering an immediate price cut.

3. Challenge the carbon tax

Something Ford cannot do quickly is dismantle Ontario's cap-and-trade system, which requires industries to pay for their carbon emissions. The system is embedded in legislation and wrapped up in legal agreements with Quebec and California.

What Ford can do immediately is make good on his vow to fight the federal Liberal government's policy of imposing a carbon tax on any province that fails to bring in its own carbon pricing.

To launch the challenge, the government would file what's called a "reference question" with the Ontario Court of Appeal, asking it to rule on the constitutionality of a federal carbon tax. Whatever the court rules, the case could then be taken to the Supreme Court of Canada. (Saskatchewan has already launched such a challenge.)

4. Rewrite Ontario's sex-ed curriculum

Ford's stance on sex education helped propel him to the PC leadership. He will be under pressure from that support base to act quickly on his platform plank to revert to using Ontario's late-1990s sex-ed curriculum "until we can install a new one that is age appropriate and based on real consultation with parents."

When asked about the curriculum on Friday, Ford did not lay out a time frame.

"I can tell you one thing: we're repealing it," said Ford. "And I'll tell you another thing: we keep our promises. What we say we're going to do, we're going to do. We aren't going to flip-flop."

5. End the York University strike

It's one of the longest strikes by university faculty in Canadian history.

If there is no deal in the coming weeks, Ford could bring in back-to-work legislation so that the strike does not continue into the fall. That would require him to convene the Legislature, lay out a Throne Speech and have the House sit long enough to pass the bill.

The NDP would use its presence as the new Official Opposition to slow the legislation down, but the majority PCs would be able to push it through in a matter of days.

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