With just three months until the next provincial election, Ontario’s Progressive Conservative party is going back to square one on its policy platform.
While some parts of the platform developed by former leader Patrick Brown may survive, new chief Doug Ford is more or less starting from scratch, a source on his team said Monday.
Out the window is the People’s Guarantee, the centre-right manifesto released by Brown last year. It promised a 22-per-cent income tax cut, more funding for mental health and child care, and a tax on carbon emissions to help pay for it all.
“That platform was crafted for a very different candidate, with very different pluses and minuses and with some very different views of what the role of government in people’s lives should be,” said the Ford adviser. The Toronto businessman’s will be a “different document,” though possibly with some portions of the People’s Guarantee retained.
The platform will focus on a few key areas that Ford — elected leader on Saturday — wants to emphasize as he does battle with the Liberals and NDP, the source said.
“He’s more of a five-big-things kind of guy than a laundry list of a thousand commitments,” said the Ford confidant. “In terms of how he likes to campaign, it’s a shorter and clearer list.”
During his bid for the PC leadership, Ford did provide a flavour, at least, of the policies he might push in the June 7 general election, though he offered few details. They ranged from making almost $6 billion in budget cuts, to offering tax incentives to attract new business and scrapping the Liberals’ costly program for encouraging alternative-energy sources.
Ford drew considerable attention — and support from social conservatives — for his pledge to repeal and rewrite a controversial sex-education curriculum. He also said he would allow his members to vote freely on matters of conscience, and mused that it might make sense to require parental consent before underage girls get abortions.
And after being “anointed” at Toronto’s Prayer Palace evangelical church, Ford said he would always give the church a voice.
But on Monday, he played down social-conservative issues, saying they were not his highest priorities.
“Our focus will be on straightening out the finances of this province,” Ford said. “We’re going to reduce hydro rates, start attracting high-paying jobs … and make this the most prosperous region of North America.”
Charles McVety, a prominent evangelical leader who enthusiastically endorsed Ford as PC leader, said he was not disappointed to hear social issues would not top the Tory agenda. He said social conservatives will be happy if Ford — should he become premier — merely carries through on his promise to revamp the sex-ed program.
“It’s not who he is, and everybody knows that,” said McVety about social conservatism. “This is a tough, beer-drinking businessman. Not exactly your churchman.”
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