Ontario’s Liberal government, which is trailing in the polls ahead of a spring election, will deliver a throne speech outlining its priorities on Monday, as the opposition accuses it of attempting to hit the reset button before the June vote.
Kathleen Wynne announced the move Thursday, less than a week after the province’s Progressive Conservatives elected populist politician Doug Ford as their new leader.
Wynne said the speech will outline government priorities as people deal with “uncertainty in their lives.”
“This throne speech is about making it clear we recognize peoples’ stress and anxiety and that our government is making deliberate choices to invest in the care and the services that the people of this province rely on,” she said in a statement. “All of us know someone in need of more support and better care.”
The procedural move requires the government to briefly prorogue the legislature, which means shutting it down, but no sitting days will be lost because the closure will take place this week over March Break.
Wynne said all government bills and motions that existed prior to prorogation will be re-introduced to the legislature.
The premier has spent the week making announcements that highlight her agenda and government policies to battle climate change, increase the province’s minimum wage and invest in health care.
“Our government will make investments in mental health, health care, home care and child care and invest in areas that make life more affordable,” Wynne said. “This is no time for a government to take a step back or make deep cuts.”
Ford, who has pledged to do away with the Liberals’ cap-and-trade system and stop the minimum wage from rising next year, said the Liberals are trying to hit the “reset button” on their record.
“The people of this province know better,” he said in a statement. “There is no reset on 15 years of Liberal waste and political corruption … Kathleen Wynne is untrustworthy. Her government will say, do, and promise anything to cling to power.”
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath called the prorogation of the legislature a “stunt” and an attempt by the government to “wipe the slate clean.”
“The Liberals had 15 years to make life better for Ontarians, and they let people down,” Horwath said in a statement. “People are not buying a last-ditch attempt by Kathleen Wynne to grab their attention, and to convince them that this time she’ll be different.”
The throne speech, which is marked by a formal ceremony at Queen’s Park, will come just a week before the Liberal government is set to table its 2018 budget on March 28.
The document will run what’s expected to be an approximately $8 billion deficit in order to enhance spending on health care, child care and support for students.
In September 2016, Wynne used a throne speech to announce relief for Ontarians from high hydro rates after being dogged by the issue for months. At the time, the government removed the provincial portion of the HST from bills and would go on to slash 25 per cent from rates the following spring.
Western University political science professor Cristine de Clercy said the government could use this speech to announce a major policy plank for its platform.
“Throne speeches tend to initiate the session or appear in the middle of a term when the government feels the need to re-orient or clarify or re-direct their party and their bureaucracy,” she said.
“There’s no doubt that the throne speech has been crafted with a view towards the pending election. In that sense, it’s unusual but perhaps not unexpected.”