A list of policies and cuts that Doug Ford’s government has reversed

TORONTO – Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s government said it will not appeal after the province’s highest court upheld a lower court ruling that declared the public servant salary cap law unconstitutional. The province will repeal that law in the coming weeks.

It is the latest in a long series of political setbacks by Ford.

Here is a partial list of those reverts:

Salary cap law: The province passed Bill 124 in 2019 that capped pay increases at one per cent annually for three years for general public sector workers, which included teachers and nurses.

The Ontario Court of Appeal found that the law violated collective bargaining rights and was therefore unconstitutional. The province could have sought permission to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, but decided not to. Ford said Tuesday that he agreed to repeal the law because of the high cost of living. The Progressive Conservatives had enacted the law as a way to help the government eliminate the deficit.

Shell dissolution: In December 2023, the province announced plans to reverse course on an earlier move to dissolve Peel Region’s top-tier municipality, which would have left Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon as independent cities. Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Paul Calandra announced in December that when the chamber resumes, he will introduce legislation to repeal a law the government passed in June 2023 to dissolve the region in 2025.

Official plans: Earlier this fall, Calandra changed course regarding changes to some official municipal plans and urban and regional boundary expansions. Many regions and municipalities had spoken out about the changes, saying the additional land was not necessary to build more housing.

Green belt: The biggest of the government’s policy changes this year was a rollback of its decision to open up parcels of protected Green Belt land for housing development. Ford apologized for removing the land in the first place, after both the auditor general and the integrity commissioner determined that the process unfairly favored certain developers. The RCMP is now investigating. The Ford government passed legislation earlier this month to solidify its repeal and enshrine Green Belt protections in law.

Notwithstanding the clause: The government passed and then repealed a law in 2022 that imposed a contract on education workers and prohibited them from striking, using the notwithstanding clause to protect against constitutional challenges. The province passed the law in an attempt to prevent 55,000 Canadian Union of Public Employees school support workers from striking, but they walked off the job anyway and Ford offered to withdraw the legislation if they returned to work.

vehicle plates: Ford introduced new blue plates as part of the 2019 budget, but the government quickly scrapped their implementation after a police officer in Kingston noticed the plates were barely visible at night. The government no longer issues those plates, but as of last year there were still 170,000 in circulation and the province has not yet articulated a plan to get them off the roads.

Autism: In February 2019, the government announced a renewal of the Ontario Autism Program. It was proposed as a way to eliminate a huge waiting list for services, but it would have given families a relatively small amount of money based on their income, not the needs of their children. It would also have effectively excluded thousands of children currently receiving government-funded therapy. After a strong and sustained outcry, the government announced a rollback, saying it would go back to the drawing board for a needs-based program and double the current budget. That new program is still subject to many problems in 2023.

Public health: Mayors across the province came together to fight retroactive cuts to public health funding in 2019, and the government eventually relented. The cuts, in the form of a new cost-sharing agreement, were largely due to take place in 2020, but mid-year cuts that would have taken effect after municipalities had already approved their budgets were cancelled. The cuts were paused due to the start of the pandemic and it was not until 2023 that the government definitively reversed them.

E-learning and class sizes: The government angered teachers in spring 2019 when it announced it would increase the average class size in high schools from 22 to 28 and require students to take four online courses to graduate. Against the backdrop of difficult negotiations with education unions, the Minister of Education offered to reduce the class size target to 25 and announced that students would instead have to take two online courses to graduate.

french university: As part of the government’s efforts to balance the books, it announced in 2018 that it would cancel plans for a French-language university. The move sparked an outcry among Franco-Ontarians and caused a member of the Progressive Conservative group to resign. Ontario and the federal government later announced that they had reached an agreement to jointly fund a French-language university.

Legal assistance: The 2019 provincial budget cut that year’s funding for Legal Aid Ontario by $133 million (or 30 per cent) and planned $31 million in additional cuts over the next two years. Eight months later, the government announced it would cancel those future cuts.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 13, 2024.

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