While the rhetoric of the recent election campaign was more divisive than at any time in memory and the popular vote was tight throughout the latter half of the campaign, the Doug Ford-led Progressive Conservatives were given a sizeable majority government Thursday. True, they may have only received just over 40 per cent of the votes cast, but a mandate was earned given the system Ontario has — just as it was by parties of all political stripes in past elections.
Though there’s an effective argument to be made about vote splitting on the left and how nuance and principle would seemingly allow NDP and Liberal supporters to a choice less aligned with their views to prevail, there is no mistaking that more Ontario voters decided they wanted the type of change the PC Party was offering in races across the province.
Now, it’s time for the new government to act on its request and deliver the affordability, efficiency, and fiscal restraint it promised. The change won’t come easily or overnight. No one should expect that after 15 years of Liberal government. There will certainly be a discovery phase where the new PC government will learn more about the state of the province’s finances and the contractual agreements it is bound by. There will be some tough decisions about legislation that may need changing and litigation that might arise as well.
Fortunately, should Ford choose to use it, he has a wealth of experience surrounding him to make those decisions. With the mass exodus of Liberal cabinet ministers prior to their drubbing last week and the years the PCs have spent on the opposition benches, it has been widely suggested one of their strengths was a deeper bench. They have an assortment of seasoned critics who could offer both parliamentary experience and portfolio-specific knowledge available out of the gate. Important roles for some of those people, like leadership finalist Christine Elliott and local MPP Todd Smith, will only bolster public support.
It is hoped that, together, they will emerge from a short period of learning to put forward a reasoned plan that will attack deficits, reorganize bureaucracy to be more effective, and encourage private sector growth and investment. While much change can be needed, the province likely isn’t going to be warm to personnel cuts or chaotic change like it experienced in the days of Mike Harris. While some commentators suggested that experience is forthcoming, this is the PCs’ chance to demonstrate there is another way. Besides, one would think they’d want to play the long game, rather than risk the pendulum swinging starkly after just one term.
The key to successful governance — and one the PCs rightly needled the departing Liberals on — is accountability and straightforward communication. Regardless of political beliefs or feelings about Ford, personally, the electorate will appreciate a government that says what it is going to do and then goes out and delivers. Much was made about the PCs not delivering a fully costed platform and the lack of detail Ford gave in some of his answers on the campaign trail, yet the party still received a mandate. Only through effective planning, consultation, and communication can the government show it is worthy of that trust and ready to govern.