Ontario legislative building. HELENA NAJM/THE VARSITY

The 2018 Ontario provincial election has produced a dramatic shift in the political orientation of the legislature, with the Progressive Conservatives (PC) forming a government for the first time in 15 years. Below, Comment contributors assess minimum wage policy, voter turnout, political uncertainty, and the need for change as they react to the election results.


Improved voter turnout shows hope for democracy

Last week’s election in Ontario drew out crowds from all sides of the issues, spelling disaster for the Liberals and ushering in a new era of PC government. While this may not have been a desired outcome for many, the vote was indicative of the current state of political dissatisfaction in Ontario, with voter turnout reaching a nearly 20 year high.

Voting is an essential part of participating in our democracy: it ensures that our governments are truly representative of those they are elected to serve. The increased voter turnout in both the 2015 federal election, and in this provincial election, are hopefully telling of increased political engagement in Canada. With more people making their way to the ballot box, our democracy becomes immeasurably stronger, by ensuring all voices are heard, and therefore increasing accountability and responsibility for candidates to work to reach voters and understand their constituencies.

Many issues were raised during this election, from buzzword topics like hallway medicine to the funding of transit systems. These topics seemed to resonate with voters, as they were compelled to have their voices heard by coming out to the polling stations. Let this election’s result be a warning to Canadian politicians: the voters want change, and their ballots reflect that.

Anastasia Pitcher is a second-year Life Sciences student at New College.

 

The PCs’ minimum wage policy will harm low-income Ontarians

As the PCs take office, any hope of future increases in minimum wage will be frozen until further notice. One of Doug Ford’s platform points was to freeze minimum wage at the current $14 per hour and implement a tax credit removing those earning less than $30,000 a year from the income tax rolls.

‘Tax cut’ was a buzzword used during the campaign in order to appeal to lower-income households. This contrasted with the Liberal and New Democratic Party (NDP) promises to increase minimum wage to $15 at the beginning of 2019. However, Ford’s proposition of a tax credit for minimum wage earners would only apply to provincial tax, while three-quarters of the tax rate for minimum wage workers is federal.

According to economist Sheila Block, in 2015, the average tax rate for Ontarians earning less than $30,000 a year accounted for only 0.9 per cent of their income. However, only 34 per cent of this category actually pay tax, and they pay $485 on average. It is clear that such a small tax cut under new PC policy is not in any way better than a $15 minimum wage increase. In a 37.5 hour work week, a one dollar increase in wages would reap $1,950 a year, before taxes.

The PC platform point of eliminating income taxes for minimum wage earners disguises the fact that those who rely on minimum wage including students will be on the losing end for at least the next four years. This is counterproductive, considering the many students who rely on minimum wage jobs in order to pay for their postsecondary education and living costs.

Areej Rodrigo is a fourth-year English, Professional Writing and Communications, and Theatre and Performance student at St. Michael’s College.

 

Ford’s lack of a fully-costed platform lends to an ambiguous future for Ontario

It seems that Doug Ford has discovered the ultimate trick to avoiding accountability: not having an election mandate to be held obligated to in the first place. The most concerning facet of Ford Nation’s ascension to government is that the people of Ontario are ultimately taking a gamble with their government, given the lack of realistic policy statements from the Premier-elect. Barring a smattering of tweet-like bullet points on the PC website, there is very little to refer to if one is seeking to predict how Ontario’s new government is going to govern — including no trace of the fully-costed platform that Ford had promised would be released by Elections Day.

Of course, there are the promises made at innumerable rallies and debates. Yet said promises run the gamut from the reasonable to the ridiculous: for instance, “mandating” free speech in university and banning cellphones in classrooms. And it is perhaps the former that are more troubling than the latter, as Ford has been almost completely mum on the issue of paying for what Global News calculated amounts to $5.76 billion in lost tax revenue and over $8 billion in new spending.

Ford’s vagueness and inexperience — having only served a single term on the Toronto City Council — are all the more glaring when considered in light of frequent insinuations by conservative pundits that Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is “all style and no substance,” and that the Ontario NDP is made up of an unproven team of political rookies.

The incoming Premier’s affable spontaneity is surely a hit at his family’s annual Ford Fest, but uncertainty and improvisation is no way to run a government. In a time of increasing international political and economic volatility, it remains to be seen whether the tenuous political order in Ontario can afford an unpredictable Doug Ford.

Spencer Ki is a third-year Astrophysics and Mathematics student at Victoria College.

 

New leadership promises fresh ideas and balance

During the Ontario provincial election cycle, the Liberal Party were challenged by an overwhelming dissatisfaction against the policies they enacted over the past 15 years. Their growing unpopularity culminated in the loss of 48 seats and official party status in parliament.

The election of the PC majority government brings forth an alternative leadership. It gives voice to the opposition whose views have otherwise failed to gain support under the Liberal administration. Although I am a consistent supporter of the left and center-left parties, I am open to ideas that the conservative right may bring to the fore ideas which may have been left behind when looking through the tunnel vision that defines our political spectrum.

The substance behind policies are frequently lost in the ideological and personal debates surrounding politics, leaving legislation to be interpreted into simplistic extremes. However, policy outcomes are complex. The radical shift brought about in the 2018 Ontario election will ideally compel more critical reflection and debate in citizens and politicians regarding legislation, which may have been pushed on or discarded without further thought.

With the newly formed Conservative government and strong NDP opposition acting like two knobs of an Etch A Sketch, hopefully, we can build a political system that prioritizes competition between ideas, balance between parties, and accountability toward the elected government.

Vaibhav Bhandari is a graduate student in the Biochemistry program.

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