Ontario: Still Canada’s biggest and best province

Province-of-Ontario-Canada

The province of Ontario is on the move, harnessing a historically rich and diverse economy to take full advantage of national economic conditions and continue providing jobs for a significant portion of Canadian workers.

Ontario is going through a period of change. In June 2018, Conservative businessman Doug Ford was elected premier of the province, ending a 15-year period of governance by the Liberal Party. It’s a change many Ontarians have been desperate for.
Ask any Ontarian and you’ll get a sense of how special this place is. A hive of vibrant multiculturalism and varied landscapes, Ontario has plenty to delight tourists and residents alike, and is home to about two in every 5 Canadians.

Historically, Ontario has a rich and diverse economy, the largest in Canada, with the province’s Ministry of Finance reporting GDP of over $830 billion for 2017, almost twice that of the next largest province, neighbouring Quebec.

It’s little surprise that Ontario has such a valuable economy. With a population of more than 14 million living across an area just over 1 million km2, it is the most populous province, and the fourth largest, in the country.

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In 2017, the Greater Toronto area added almost 70,000 jobs to the province’s 7 million strong workforce.

 

Size and diversity help the province excel in a number of different economic sectors, with manufacturing in particular playing a major role. Ontario is the leading Canadian province for manufacturing, providing almost half of the country’s manufacturing GDP in 2012.
As a significant part of North America’s manufacturing heartland, Ontario’s key manufacturing industries include automobiles, biotech, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and information and communication technologies.

With manufacturing on the decline throughout the world, Ontario has suffered a significant loss of jobs in the sector since the turn of the century. However, the sector has remained strong, shipping more than $258bn worth of product in 2011.

The manufacturing industry is a key driver of jobs in the province. Ontario has the third highest number of manufacturing employees of any jurisdiction in Canada and the United States, behind only California and Texas.

The automotive industry is particularly strong in the province, with Ontario representing the largest sub-national automotive assembly jurisdiction in North America, with a recorded 88% of its vehicle production exported in 2011.

Agriculture forms an equally important part of the province’s economy, with Ontario being home to over half of the Class 1 farmland in Canada, the highest quality of land. In 2011, the province’s almost 52,000 farms made up nearly a quarter of national farm revenue.

The province also boasts an impressive innovation corridor along Highway 401, between Toronto and Waterloo, the second largest on earth next to California’s Silicon Valley, which employs 280,000 tech workers from around the world.

Other sectors that have continued to thrive through difficult conditions are forestry, which supports almost 200,000 direct and indirect jobs in Ontario, Mining, which produced more than $10bn in 2011, and the largest part of the province’s economy, the services industry.

Ontario is an important region for petroleum refining, and is the national leader for wind power. The Green Energy and Green Economy act of 2009 has helped the province make the move towards having a renewable-energy economy in years to come.

Recent reports on the province’s economy remain positive, with its major city Toronto in particular seeing something of a jobs boom. In 2017, the Greater Toronto area added almost 70,000 jobs to the province’s 7 million strong workforce.

According to the Financial Accountability Office of Ontario, the province saw an overall gain of 128,400 new jobs in 2017, its largest since 2003. Additionally, its unemployment rate dropped to 6%, representing the lowest rate since 2000.

In his new post as premier, Doug Ford has pledged to oversee a period of growth in the province of Ontario, proclaiming it ‘open for business’, with the promise of new jobs, lower taxes and less government waste.

The province’s growth is expected to slow a little this year, but with a fantastic economic infrastructure in place, and a number of sectors still leading the way, the province of Ontario is set to keep pulling its weight as a key player in the nation’s economy for years to come.

2018 Ontario General Election: why did Ontario’s voters elect Doug Ford?

Ontario-Premier-Doug-Ford

Ontario’s voters took to the polls in June to express their dissatisfaction with the Liberal Party’s governance under Kathleen Wynne, expelling her for Conservative populist and successful businessman Doug Ford into the premiership with an impressive majority.

A few days before the 2018 Ontario General Election, Liberal Party leader and premiership incumbent Kathleen Wynne’s forthcoming loss of the party’s fifteen-year stronghold on the province was all but confirmed.

Less than a week before polling day, the soon-to-be-outgoing premier was conceding defeat, giving an emotional speech in which she told voters she had no idea who the next premier would be, but that she was “pretty sure it won’t be me.”

The speech was a response to damning polls that suggested the Liberals may be lucky to walk away from the election with a single seat in the Legislative Assembly, an outcome which once seemed improbable but was now becoming all too real a possibility.

Wynne took to the podium to deliver a last-ditch plea for voters to elect enough Liberal MPs to ensure a majority government couldn’t be formed by populist Conservative candidate Doug Ford or New Democratic Party leader Andrea Horwath.

History tells us this plea was too little too late. Ford went on to win 76 of the 124 seats on offer in the legislature, securing a majority government and becoming the 26th premier of the province of Ontario.

Kathleen Wynne couldn’t have had a more humiliating fall from grace. After the huge success of the 2014 election, where she became both the first female Premier of Ontario, and the first openly LGBT Premier in Canada, the manner of her demise was significant.

The loss not only ousted Wynne from the premiership, but consigned her party to its most devastating defeat in its 161-year history, with seats reduced from a majority 55 to just 7, one less than it needed to maintain official party status.

It’s not hard to see why Ontario’s voters turned their backs on Wynne so ruthlessly. For some time, there had been growing apathy for a party that had been governing the province for 15 straight years. Many voters felt the time was right for a change.

Much of this apathy stemmed from an air of arrogance that has been hanging around the Liberals for years, most notably since Wynne took over as leader, and a failure to acknowledge key political mistakes the party had made.

In truth, a Liberal victory never looked on the cards. By the time Wynne delivered her concession speech, it was clear those at the top of the party had realised just how much voter confidence it had lost, and that there was little chance of competing.

The Official Opposition was formed by the NDP, which saw impressive gains in the Legislative Assembly since 2014, and whose leader Andrea Horwath was every bit a contender for the premiership as Ford. For many it was a surprise to see her lose out.

So why did voters put their faith in Doug Ford in such huge numbers? Ford had long been dismissed as the ‘controversial’ candidate, with a number of high-profile stories, including being sued by his late brother’s wife, arising while he was still on the campaign trail.

Ford’s brother was the infamous Rob Ford, former Mayor of Toronto, whose troubled legacy still remains fresh in many Ontarians’ minds. Ford’s connections to a chaotic family were the subject of much discussion, often threatening to render him unelectable.

But as Liberals shied away from directly attacking Ford’s person, they instead succeeded in bringing greater attention to his policies. A slew of campaign ads questioning what effect a Ford premiership would have on working-class Ontarians did little to help the cause.

There is certainly plenty of evidence to suggest that Wynne and the Liberals were guilty of losing the election, rather than Doug Ford doing anything particularly impressive to win it. But that’s not to say Ford didn’t play his part.

It might be an over-simplification to suggest that the Conservative win was further evidence of a distinct shift in global political mood, veering towards conservative austerity and away from liberal values, often seen as harmful to business and the economy.

It’s true, however, that the Liberals pre-election budget proposing billions of dollars in new spending for free childcare and expanded coverage for dental care was largely seen as extravagant. Ford, a successful businessman, considered this to be excessive.

Both Liberal and NDP platforms forecasted at least another half-decade of deficits before the economy would improve, but Ford and the Conservatives stuck their neck out by promising just a single year of deficits until spending was brought under control.

kathleen-wynne-former-ontario-premier
Kathleen Wynne couldn’t have had a more humiliating fall from grace.

 

Ford’s fiscal confidence struck a chord with voters. Having already shown himself to be an astute businessman, his plan to conduct an audit on what was considered a free-spending Liberal government cemented this reputation amongst his supporters.

As Ontario’s populist candidate, and one with the kind of slim political credentials that had many people giving him no chance of winning, Ford spent plenty of time with the people of the province during his campaign, determined to win their trust and their votes.

In an election largely recognised for voters being emotionally rather than ideologically influenced, Ford took full advantage of a disillusioned voter base. Anywhere was up in comparison to the Liberals, and Ford put himself in the best position to capitalize.

In the run-up to the election, the Huffington Post published a poll that suggested around half of voters were motivated by blocking the party they didn’t like rather than supporting one that they did. The Liberals were the ones to block.

With Liberal votes effectively split between Ford and Horwath then, it was little more than a matter of staying in the race and maintaining visibility with the people, something Ford did with aplomb.

It remains to be seen how far Doug Ford will succeed in delivering on his ambitious campaign promises, but what has already become clear is that the Liberals didn’t do enough to retain voter confidence. It will likely take a long time for the party to recover.

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