Wednesday, February 8, 2023

The Ontario election campaign yielded some surprisingly good ideas for Canada

No big ideas during an election campaign? Au contraire – the Ontario election campaign has produced some unexpected and innovative proposals.

This does not happen often, mostly because politicians do not dare to dream. And, as Kim Campbell famously put it during her short term as Prime Minister, the election period is too short to discuss serious issues.

Here are the good ideas we noticed during the election that need to be implemented by Doug Ford’s victorious PC government and then scaled up for the rest of the country.

Education

The Ontario Liberals have proposed the introduction of an optional grade 13 for at least four years to allow children who have missed a significant portion of their school experience due to COVID-19 to catch up. Other clever education ideas raised during the campaign:

• Reduce class sizes, with the best proposal from the Liberals, who proposed limiting classes to 20 students across the board.

• Appoint many more teachers. The promises ranged from 10,000 for the Liberals to 20,000 for the NDP, including more special education teachers.

Ontario had the worst performance record in Canada over classroom closures and reliance on virtual learning during the pandemic, and Canada had one of the worst records in the world. Clearly, our children will have to help recover as the pandemic subsides.

Housing

Affordable housing is needed everywhere and is approaching a dire crisis situation across the country, although no government has plans for action to any extent that will help.

Most parties in Ontario have promised large quantities of new housing, with the usual number of at least 1.5 million homes. And although how, when and for whom these homes are going to be built requires much more focus, it is at least a start to have a promise about numbers.

Transport

The “buck a ride” public transport promise, also from the Liberals, is a very good idea. It deals with a whole range of policy issues at once.

It gives priority to public transport at a time when gas prices are rising and people are stressed due to general price increases.

This could get more people used to using public transport, which will have a positive effect on greenhouse gas emissions.

It is especially aimed at those who need it most. Low-wage workers often spend a lot of time in transit because housing costs are so high near their jobs.

The proposal will also put money in the pockets of those who need it most, especially the poorest and the most vulnerable such as people with disabilities, the unemployed, students and seniors.

A Woman Wearing A Mask Is Waiting To Get On A Tram While A Passenger Walks Out.
A woman is waiting in April 2020 for a passenger to leave a tram in Toronto.
THE CANADIAN PRESS / Nathan Denette

Public sector bargaining, labor

Somewhere along the way, it seemed like a good idea to limit wages in the public sector to very low increases over long periods of time. Governments across the country have introduced wage restrictions. This has led to devastating labor shortages in key healthcare industries.

In Ontario, Bill 124 limits some wages in the public sector to increases of one percent per year, which are primarily aimed at jobs done by women. With these types of government directives, there is no real public sector wage clause and it serves to increase wage equality within the sector.

Ontario’s bill 106 also affects women because of its restrictions on equal pay in the public sector.

The good idea? All three opposition parties – the Liberals, the NDP and the Greens – have promised to repeal both bills.

That would be a smart move for the whole of Canada. Governments across the country need to plan for labor in the healthcare sector, but as long as strong bargaining rights are not possible due to government directives, shortages will continue.



Read more: More long-term care beds in Ontario would not help without well-paid, well-trained staff


Looking ahead to the post-pandemic era

Problems stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic are almost universal across the country, so progressive ideas need to be spread from anywhere.

That is why the surprisingly good ideas that emerged from the Ontario election campaign need to be implemented, both by the re-elected Progressive Conservatives and governments across the country.

The pandemic exposed acute shortcomings in care services and exposed and exacerbated existing transit and housing problems. The clever ideas presented during the Ontario election represent a good first step in resolving some of them.

It is possible to have a more just society as we restore COVID-19, one that prioritizes the improvement of the lives of citizens from all walks of life. That should be the goal of every elected official, including the newly re-elected Doug Ford.

Nation World News Desk
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