ontario news watch

Ontarians are looking for a government that is responsible with taxpayers’ money and leaves more in their wallets. And a lot of the promises that got Premier Doug Ford elected still haven’t materialized.

Enter Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie.

Crombie just won the leadership of the Ontario Liberal Party. She’s been talking a good game about responsibly managing Ontario’s finances. And it appears she recognizes where the Ontario Liberals have gone wrong in the past.

“I think some of the decisions were too costly for Ontarians,” Crombie said in an interview last May. Crombie questioned the Wynne government’s spending choices in areas ranging from health care to child care.

During the Ontario Liberal leadership campaign, Crombie campaigned on policies to attract voters who were disillusioned with the reckless spending last time the Ontario Liberals controlled Queen’s Park.

Crombie also has a decent record as mayor of Mississauga. During her time in office, she’s largely kept property tax increases in check. Next year’s local property tax hike is set to come in under the rate of inflation and will be among the lowest increases in the GTA.

Ford rode a wave of taxpayer discontent straight to the premier’s office. He promised to get the province’s reckless spending under control and lower the tax burden on hardworking Ontarians.

But so far, Ford has failed on both fronts.

Crombie now has an opportunity to win over Ontarians frustrated with the tax-and-spend policies championed by both previous Liberal governments and the Ford Progressive Conservatives.

Here are three things Crombie could do to position herself as the taxpayer fighter Ford once promised to be: commit to balancing the budget, lower the tax burden for hardworking Ontarians and take the provincial debt seriously.

Ford promised Ontarians just months ago that he would balance the books next year. Instead, the government’s fall economic update announced a $5-billion deficit.

Crombie should lay out a vision to immediately balance the budget. There’s a lot of wasteful spending Crombie could go after, ranging from corporate welfare, to the new Ontario Infrastructure Bank, to taxpayer payouts to political parties.

Then there’s taxes. Ford promised a middle-class tax cut in 2018, but he hasn’t delivered. Ford promised to cut the second income tax bracket by 20 per cent, saving Ontario taxpayers up to $786 a year. Taxpayers are still waiting for those savings.

Crombie should promise a tax cut of her own to win the support of millions of Ontarians who are barely making ends meet. Income taxes are too high. The government’s gas tax cut is only temporary. And high sales taxes only make inflation worse. Crombie could pledge to lower any one of those taxes and find positive reception in every part of the province.

Crombie also needs to present a plan to lower the debt.

Ontario now has $400 billion in debt, largely thanks to the province’s last two Liberal premiers, Dalton McGuinty and Kathleen Wynne. The debt spiral they initiated is a major reason why the Liberals have remained a fringe party since 2018.

To stare down the ghosts of the Liberal Party’s past, Crombie should lay out a plan to use future surpluses to get the debt down and add a line item to the provincial budget that goes toward debt repayment. If Ford won’t be fiscally responsible, Crombie should promise to fill the vacuum.

Affordability is the number one priority for taxpayers. And the Ontario government is simply unaffordable. It spends too much and that means tax bills are too high. Crombie needs to make the case that she cares about making life more affordable for taxpayers.

Jay Goldberg is the Ontario Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation 


The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

There has lately been more than one allusion to the Ontario Liberals’ “second straight election disaster” last June 2, 2022, when they won only 8 of the Legislative Assembly’s 124 seats.

In fact, this was slightly better than the 7 seats they won in 2018. But it was also, no doubt and for the second time in a row, not even enough to qualify for official party status.

At the same time, in the 2022 election the Liberals actually won a slightly greater share of the province-wide popular vote than the official-opposition New Democrats (23.9% vs 23.7%), who took 31 seats!

(The almost crazy imbalance between seats and popular vote here of course flows from the sometimes extreme vagaries of the current electoral system, which Liberals had a chance to change and didn’t, and New Democrats used to criticize.)

It is also true enough that in three of the four main public opinion polls since the 2022 election the Liberals have continued to finish ahead of the NDP in the province-wide popular vote — in the latest Abacus poll by as much as six points.

There is as well a history of writing the Ontario Liberals’ epitaph too early. In the 1970s many believed the Ontario New Democrats would replace the provincial Liberals, following precedents in the Mother of Parliaments across the sea.

Then in the middle of the 1980s David Peterson from the university city of London, Ontario  liberated an increasingly urban voting base from a once glorious agrarian democratic past in the family farm heartland, that then did appear to have seen its better days.

Subsequently Peterson’s new more urban Liberals led to the governing parties of Dalton McGuinty from Ottawa, and Kathleen Wynne from the old suburbs of Toronto.

Meanwhile, at their recent annual general meeting in Hamilton, Ontario Liberals “overwhelmingly voted for a one-member-one-vote system” to elect the next party leader.

With the next fixed-date provincial election in 2026 now dimly in the headlights, a few party members  may also be having second thoughts about the rural side of the old Ontario Liberals, that Peterson’s new party for young urban professionals ultimately seemed to cast adrift.

In the 1960s Ontario Liberals were still obvious enough descendants of the old “Great Reform” agrarian democrats — a local variation on the wider family farm democracy of the anglophone North American Middle West.

The Great Reform Liberals dominated Ontario provincial politics in the confederation era under “Ontario’s Cromwell” Oliver Mowat (premier 1872–1896). Then they had a historic reprise under “Canada’s Huey Long” Mitch Hepburn, in the later 1930s and early 1940s.

This party’s deepest roots were in the Class 1 family farm land of Southwestern Ontario. Mowat’s seat in the legislature was Oxford North. Hepburn’s was Elgin (also the Canadian homeland of US liberal economist John Kenneth Galbraith, whose father was a farmer and prominent local Liberal).

The Ontario Liberals of the 1970s still had at least some of the old progressive rural mud of Southwestern Ontario visibly on their shoes.

Robert Nixon, leader 1966–1976 (and 1981–1982) was the last of this agrarian democratic line. And his final career as Premier David Peterson’s finance minister was a constructive link between the old rural and new urban order that finally led to McGuinty and Wynne.

The now arguably too urban Ontario Liberal Party of the 2020s could possibly use some of its long vanished agrarian democratic and “Great Reform” rural past today. Instincts of this sort played a part in the failed quest for Green Party leader Mike Schreiner as next Liberal leader.

(Mr. Schreiner grew up on a family farm in Kansas. And he currently sits for Guelph in the Legislative Assembly, home of the University of Guelph, formerly the Ontario Agricultural Collage — where John Kenneth Galbraith did his undergraduate degree.)

Is there some other way the current still somewhat misty Ontario Liberal leadership race of 2023 can bring the party’s family-farm democratic deep past at least a little back to life?

So far there doesn’t seem any obvious successor to Brant County farmer Robert Nixon in the contest. And the auto sector in Southwestern Ontario has built a base for urban New Democrats not old progressive rural Liberals.

The ancient history of the Ontario Liberal Party, however, is testament to the historical reality that a progressive rural community was once a dominant force in the regional politics of Canada’s most populous province.

A 2020s provincial Liberal movement that somehow managed to revive even a little of this old rural progressive tradition just might make a useful contribution to both present-day Ontario political culture — and its own partisan success in the 2026 election.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

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The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

This content is restricted to subscribers

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.