Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown is betting the formula for success in next June’s election is moving his party to the centre and aligning with the moderate approach of legendary PC Premier Bill Davis and the Big Blue Machine.
That was clear in the party’s long-awaited election platform that was finally released late last month. It is a clear departure from the platforms to Tories past.
Mr. Brown’s new policy platform, the “People’s Guarantee”, comes in the form of a magazine, and is the first real glimpse Ontarians have had of Mr. Brown and what he stands for.
The election document promises to continue spending in childcare, healthcare and transportation, while tackling climate change, cutting small business and middle class taxes, and addressing Ontario’s energy crisis.
One outlier in the platform is the lack of a strong emphasis on the province’s $312 billion net-debt, which reflects the party’s clear intention to move discourse away from its conventional rhetoric.
About 1,500 people attended the PC policy convention in Toronto last month.
With his sleeves rolled up, tie loosened and a new haircut (Mr. Brown had been criticized for his slick hair), the party leader presented a clear message about the need for change in Ontario and restoring integrity in government.
If elected, he says he will bring in the first ever Trust, Integrity, and Accountability Act.
With the promise of honest government, Mr. Brown outlined numerous progressive policies, even supporting certain Liberal policies.
As he said, “there is no monopoly on a good idea.”
For example, the party, if it forms government, will uphold the current Liberal commitment to build 100,000 licensed childcare spaces. The party will also pay up to 75 per cent of a family’s childcare expenses (or $6,750 per child), fund treatment for children with autism of all ages and invest $124 million for recreational sports infrastructure.
Some other progressive policies include:
- Arts and fitness tax credit
- $50 million commitment to cleaning up the Great Lakes
- Upgrading parks in cities, suburbs, and towns through a $20 million investment
- Tackling climate change in a fiscally responsible manner
- Investing $1.9 billion towards mental health
- Building 15,000 new long-term care beds over five years, and 30,000 over ten years
- Committing an additional $5 billion to build new subway stations in the Greater Toronto Area
Despite the many progressive policies, it is unfair to paint Brown with one brush. Traces of Conservative policies are found in the platform, such as cutting taxes and addressing the critical state of the energy sector.
Under a PC government, Ontario would see reduced income taxes for the middle class by 22.5 per cent, reduced income taxes for the first income tax bracket by 10 per cent and a reduced small business tax rate by an additional 28.5 per cent.
In terms of the energy sector, a PC government would reduce hydro rates by another 12 per cent. The platform promises that a PC government would also cut the salaries of Hydro One and Ontario Power Generation (OPG) senior executives, which have been criticized as exorbitant; it would scrap the Green Energy Act; remove the smart meter charge from people’s hydro bills and rebate the government’s portion of Hydro One’s dividend directly to ratepayers on their hydro bills.
If elected and given the opportunity to govern, it will be interesting to see how the PC party will carry out the promises it has made given the challenging circumstances it would inherit. What we do know is that Mr. Brown intends to use this potential opportunity to help Ontarians, a message made clear at the recent convention.
During the event, Mr. Brown’s two sisters captured his ambition to help others with an anecdote from their childhood. The story was about a race where Mr. Brown ran alongside his sister, motivating her to finish it.
Halfway through the race, however, he twisted his ankle. Despite the pain of that, he kept going to help her get to the finish line.
Ultimately, the story was presented as a metaphor for Mr. Brown’s determination to help Ontarians reach their goals and succeed. With the election set for June 2018, he now has a new race in sight, which happens to be the most significant one in his political career to date.