Here’s our daily look at what’s making news in the lead-up to the next provincial election.
- Finance Minister Charles Sousa has announced that the next Liberal budget will be delivered March 28 and will include a deficit of up to $8 billion. This is a shocker for Ontario political observers, since the Liberals swore up and down for years that they were intent on eliminating the deficit. They did deliver a balanced budget last year (although there are disagreements about the true state of the province’s books). But now, returning to balance is out the window. “We are making a choice,” Sousa said yesterday at the Economic Club of Canada. “We are committing to more support for social and developmental services, more supports for mental-health and health-care programs, more supports for students.”
- The opposition parties are not impressed with the government’s plan to go back into the red. “Now, after promising a 'balanced budget' for years to come, the Wynne Liberals are already changing their tune and plunging the province back into a deficit. They can’t be trusted to keep their word,” interim Progressive Conservative leader Vic Fedeli said in an emailed statement. “They are desperate, and they are trying to lure in Ontarians with last ditch promises,” NDP finance critic John Vanthof said in a press release.
- Amid ongoing concerns that PC party members aren’t getting the paperwork they need to vote for a new leader, the party has extended the registration period for the third time this week. Members now have until 8 p.m. on Thursday to register. The previous deadline was Wednesday. Party members still have until noon on March 9 to cast their ballot. A party official reported that, as of about 3:20 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, more than 40,000 members had voted, which he said puts the party on track to have the highest turnout in a leadership race in Ontario history.
- The campaigns for Tanya Granic Allen, Doug Ford, and Caroline Mulroney have all asked that the deadline for voting be pushed back one week. PC officials have rebuffed those requests, stating that they remain committed to announcing the winner this Saturday. Christine Elliott’s campaign has not joined the call for a postponement.
- A new Angus Reid poll shows the Tories in good shape heading into the election. The survey estimates a whopping 50 per cent of leaning and decided Ontario voters would go PC in June. (The Liberals come in at 24 per cent, the NDP at 22 per cent.) But there are caveats: Angus Reid finds that while many who are considering voting PC would be comfortable with Elliott or Mulroney as leader, they would be less comfortable with Ford at the helm.
- Ontario is expanding measures to prevent opioid drug overdoses. New data shows that hospitalizations and deaths from opioid use grew substantially in 2017. According to the province, there were 1,053 opioid-related deaths in Ontario between January and October 2017, compared with 694 during the same period the previous year. The data also shows that there were 7,658 emergency-room visits related to opioid overdoses during that January-to-October span; that’s up from 4,453 between January and October 2016. New measures the government is introducing include making an easy-to-use nasal spray version of an overdose-reversing drug available for free at participating pharmacies.
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What to watch for
- Premier Kathleen Wynne takes part in a fireside chat on climate change today at Ryerson University with former U.S. vice-president Al Gore. It starts at 11:30 a.m.