Ontario Liberal, NDP leaders make dueling campaign-style promises as election looms

Leaders of Ontario's two main opposition parties made election-style campaign promises in Toronto on Tuesday, six months before the province goes to the polls.

Liberals promise to end use of MZOs, NDP pledges to hike minimum wage to $20

Ontario Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca says the Liberals, if elected, would end the use of ministerial zoning orders to fast-track development against the wishes of local communities. (CBC)

Leaders of Ontario's two main opposition parties made election-style campaign promises in Toronto on Tuesday, six months before the province goes to the polls.

Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca promised to end the use of ministerial zoning orders (MZOs), while NDP Leader Andrea Horwath promised to boost the minimum wage to $20 an hour.

Del Duca, speaking at the site of the Dominion Foundry, said the Doug Ford government has used MZOs to push development despite the wishes of local communities. He said Ford's use of MZOs has been "reckless" and "irresponsible." He said Ford has issued 57 MZOs in slightly more than three years.

Del Duca says previous governments used them as a tool of last resort, he said.

"Doug Ford has chosen instead to use MZOs as a weapon of first instance to reward people who do not need the government's help," Del Duca said on Tuesday.

"We will scrap the minister's zoning order power ... The abuse and the misuse of this power by Doug Ford has made it crystal clear that it is no longer the mechanism that will help us build the communities that we need."

The Ontario Liberals would replace MZOs with something more transparent and narrow in scope, Del Duca said. He added the party would consult communities and not override their wishes..

He said the Liberals would fast-track only critical provincial projects, such as affordable housing, not-for-profit nursing homes and expansions of natural heritage sites. But such projects would include required consultations and judicial reviews to ensure the province respects environmental protections, he added.

The Ford government has defended the use of MZOs as a way to fast-track projects needed to bring down the rising cost of housing in Ontario and build new roads and highways to relieve traffic congestion. 

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath speaks to reporters after pledging to raise the provincial minimum wage to $20 over four years if elected. (CBC)

Horwath, speaking at a restaurant in downtown Toronto, said the New Democrats would raise the minimum wage through steady increases over four years following the election. An NDP government would raise the minimum wage to $16 on Oct. 1, 2022, $17 on May 1, 2023, $18 on May 1, 2024, $19 on May 1, 2025 and $20 on May 1, 2026.

The price of everything is going up, Horwath said.

"We know that Doug Ford hasn't helped. He, of course, cancelled the minimum wage increase that was supposed to happen a couple of years back. And for three years, he has frozen the minimum wage in this province. He, as you know, doesn't respect workers," Horwath said.

"Whether you are stocking shelves at a grocery store, whether you are cleaning in a hospital, whether you are pumping gas at a gas station or working at a convenience store, people need to earn a wage that keeps them out of food banks and helps them to make needs meet."

On Nov. 2, Ford announced that the Ontario government will raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour on Jan. 1, 2022 from the current $14.35.

At their respective news conferences, the two leaders explained why they believe they are the best parties to govern Ontario. The pitches were aimed at the same pool of voters — those who do not want to see Ford win a second term or those who have not yet decided for whom they are going to vote.

Del Duca said: "We have the experience, we have the energy and we have the ideas to move the province forward and we'll be ready to govern, should we earn that opportunity, starting on day one."

Horwath said: "We had 15 years of a Liberal government that literally promised and promised and promised and didn't deliver until it was politically appropriate for them. And then we had Doug Ford, who's made things even worse."

Ontario's next general election will be held on or before June 2 next year.

With files from Mike Crawley