Nip it in the Bud(get)

2 minute read

It hasn’t been a smooth runway for Premier Doug Ford and his government as they head into their second Ontario budget this week. Self-made speed bumps, coupled with a rise in COVID cases, has made the lead up to Thursday less than ideal. From Charles McVety’s Canada Christian College, to photos of an unmasked MPP Sam Oosterhoff, to ripping up ranked ballots for municipalities, many are asking if the pre-pandemic Premier is back. Premier Ford’s initial handling of the pandemic was met positively by voters and saw a doubling of his personal approval rating in the span of three months, which also buoyed the government’s overall approval. While Ford’s personal approval remains unchanged, according to an Abacus Data survey conducted earlier this month, his government’s overall approval continues to drop. With a prolonged pandemic and self-inflicted wounds, the Ford government’s approval is at risk of further decline.

Finance Minister Rod Phillips’ first budget was supposed to be tabled in March, but was moved to the fall because of the unknown impact of COVID-19 on the economy. At that time, Phillips introduced a Fiscal Outlook with reactionary spending measures designed to combat the virus’ impact on health care and the economy. The government’s initial hope was that by the fall they would be able to present a recovery plan to get Ontario back on track. That hope held through the summer and into September, until the second wave hit and shelved those plans. This forced the government to, once again, focus on COVID response measures.

This week’s budget is anticipated to focus on health care, additional support for businesses, and relief for families still struggling to make ends meet. All signals point to the budget including previous announcements, like the $300 million fund for businesses forced back into stage 2 in Toronto, York and Ottawa last month, and the $1 billion COVID-19 resilience infrastructure program. We also anticipate that the Premier will address rising insurance rates and food delivery service fees. It is unlikely that the budget will contain many post-pandemic recovery measures. In his daily press conferences leading up to the budget, the Premier has said that this would be the foundation for the province’s recovery. In other words, this is the appetizer for the main course in March 2021. 

Most importantly, Thursday provides Premier Ford a much-needed opportunity to change the channel, revert back to the leadership he showed at the beginning of the pandemic, and chart his path forward for Ontario.

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