By Trent Gow
What is the clearest signal that an Ontario election is approaching? You would get bonus points if you said that the provincial Progressive Conservative Party is imploding. It happened before the 2014 election and it's happening again. But in my seasoned view the number one leading indicator of an impending election is a flurry of populist expenditure announcements which seek to ensure that no voter is left unsubsidized. And in this election cycle, because of the deep-rooted unpopularity of the Wynne government, the cynical gravy train started early.
Not long before Christmas in a blatant attempt to consolidate her Party's support from NDP voters the Premier announced large and abrupt increases in the minimum wage and other employment entitlements. For maximum voter impact these measures were rushed to implementation on January 1st largely on the backs of the owners of small businesses many of whom have learned from bitter experience not to vote Liberal.
Also on January 1stthe Ontario government rolled out its OHIP + pharmacare program which gives the province's 4 million children and youth free access to more than 4,400 approved medications. This expensive initiative was hyped as a groundbreaking measure that would improve health care for all residents aged 24 and under. But, only a month later it is a bureaucratic nightmare for families with kids with certain serious or chronic illnesses which require expensive treatments. Some doctors fear that the extra layers of drug approvals involved are already impacting patient care negatively.
To be fair, both of these major Liberal initiatives have the potential to improve the quality of life for many Ontario families. But for the full benefits to be achieved seamlessly it was essential that the implementation be done in a open, measured way that gave those most adversely affected the time to plan and then make appropriate compensating adjustments. In their rush to buy votes the Liberals failed to do so. And we will all pay the price – at least until election day.