Ontarians Head to the Polls Today. Here's What Millennials Need to Know

Where the four major parties stand on jobs, housing, transit, student debt and child care

A photo-illustration of NDP leader Andrea Horwath and PC leader Doug Ford

Ontario’s provincial election is fast-approaching (the province heads to the polls on June 7), and… a lot of things are happening. On June 2, Ontario premier and Liberal party leader Kathleen Wynne made what amounted to a pre-election concession speech, saying, “It’s not going to be a Liberal government… There is a strong appetite for change, for a change in government. And that’s what we’re dealing with.” Wynne also admitted she wouldn’t be premier after June 7, but encouraged Ontarians to vote strategically to prevent a Conservative or NDP majority.

Now, the Progressive Conservatives and NDP are neck-and-neck (according to the latest Maclean’s-Pollara election poll, the PCs have 38% of decided voters, while the NDP have 37%) and, according to Maclean’s senior writer Paul Wells, PC leader Doug Ford may be solidifying his hold on ridings in the 905.

But this was always going to be a big election, even before Wynne’s announcement. For the first time, millennials might be the ones to decide the province’s future. That’s because there are now more millennial Ontarians—3.5 million, according to the 2016 census—than baby boomers. According to Abacus Data CEO David Coletto, in an interview with CBC, if Ontario’s millennials, “are engaged and they turn out to vote, and turn out collectively for one party, they can shift the outcome.” We saw this kind of power in the 2015 federal election, which resulted in an increase in youth turnout and the election of current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Of course, the “youth vote” is notoriously hard to capture. (Yes, young people showed up in impressive numbers to elect Trudeau in 2015—but their overall voter participation was still 9% lower than the national average.) But if ever there was an election to show up for, it’s this one, because the issues at stake are of real concern to millennials. Think, jobs, housing, transit, student debt and child care. Plus, how we set up our society now will undoubtedly affect us in the future.

That’s why it’s essential to head to the polls on June 7—and to be well-informed when you arrive. Maclean’s has put together a complete guide to each party’s platform. Read on for what the Progressive Conservatives, Liberals, NDP and Greens have to say about the the issues millennials care most about.

Child Care

A 2017 study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives found that child care fees have risen across Canada, and Ontario cities have the highest costs in the country.

Under leader Doug Ford, the Progressive Conservatives have said they would create a 75% refundable tax credit for child care expenses for children under the age of 15.

The Liberals promise to provide free full-day daycare for preschoolers starting in 2020, as part of a $2.2 billion investment.

The NDP, who are led by Andrea Horwath, says they’ll create 200,000+ new child care spaces and are aiming to make child care free for families with an annual income of $40,000 or less. The ultimate goal is to have child-care costs average $12 per day.

The Greens, who are led by Mike Schreiner, currently don’t have information about child care on their website. But according to the Toronto Star, the party supports phasing-in funding for early childhood education programs in order to support free daycare for working parents with children under the age of 3.

Climate Change and the Environment

The Progressive Conservatives took to Twitter to announce their platform will include neither a cap-and-trade system nor a carbon tax, leaving a pretty hefty $10-billion hole in the PC fiscal plan. Ford also wants to end Ontario’s Green Energy Act (a.k.a. the act that makes it easier to approve renewable energy projects in Ontario) altogether, and to cancel energy projects in the pre-construction phase. There may still be hope in the PC’s plan to invest in new emission-cutting technologies. *Maybe*.

At the core of the Liberals’ environment and energy plans is, “moving towards a more competitive and low-carbon economy.” Here’s the low-down: in the next three years, Wynne plans on investing $1.7 billion to support energy-saving programs, $52 million for technologies dealing with toxic chemicals and $15 million to protect forests, wetlands and lakes. For all the commuters out there, the Liberals also want to invest over $90 million to support commuter cycling.

The NDP plans to use $50 million from cap-and-trade programs for no-interest and on-bill home retrofitting. So what does this actually mean? That implementing power-saving technology into your home will be more affordable and accessible (if you can afford a home in the first place, that is). The NDP environmental platform also includes cleaning up the mercury in the English-Wabigoon River by directing $12 million to a Mercury Disability Fund, updating the Environmental Bill of Rights and expanding parks in consultation with Indigenous communities.

Their name says it all. Creating a cleaner and greener Ontario is at the heart of the Greens’ platform. Schreiner and party aim to set Ontario on the path to 100% renewable energy by implementing a $4.2 billion program that will pay for energy retrofits for homes and businesses, provide incentives for businesses to invest in low carbon products and equipment, expand Ontario’s Greenbelt and set more aggressive greenhouse gas targets for public buildings.

Drugs and Alcohol

For this election, it’s all about * going green* in a new way. And yes, we’re talking about marijuana.

According to Ford, the Progressive Conservatives don’t believe in “the government sticking their hands in our lives all the time.” The PC leader says he believes we need to be “super, super, super careful” in deciding whether or not to regulate the cannabis market. The party does, however, want to expand the sales of beer, wine, cider and coolers into corner stores, as well as lower the minimum price of beer to $1.

The Liberals support the federal government’s plan to legalize recreational marijuana by this summer, and if re-elected, they plan to regulate the sale of marijuana through the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation–a.k.a. the LCBO for weed. The party is also in favour of expanding the sales of beer and wine to (a limited number of) grocery stores.

The NDP, who are led by Andrea Horwath, favours similar restrictions to the ones on alcohol, i.e. pot can only be sold to adults aged 19+.While the party has endorsed the idea of using the LCBO to distribute weed, they don’t believe it’s enough to curb the black market. They’re also concerned about the preservation of agricultural land and think prime land should be preserved from being overrun by marijuana growing operations.

The Greens are, perhaps surprisingly, not *all* about the green at this point. The party plans to enact a two-year pilot project to test the private retailing of cannabis alongside LCBO-run dispensaries.


Post-Secondary Tuition and Student Debt

A 2015 analysis found that Ontario and New Brunswick have the least affordable university tuition for median income families in the country. This means that for some young people, post-secondary just isn’t an option financially, and those who do pursue it are left with sometimes insurmountable debt.

The Progressive Conservatives currently don’t have any information about post-secondary tuition or student debt on their party website.

In 2017, The Liberals implemented changes to the Ontario Assistance Plan (OSAP), which included grants that covered fees for lower-income students. But while this is a step forward, critics said the party was merely moving funds around, and not actually putting more money towards post-secondary education. The Liberals–as per their 2018 budget–promise to continue these grants for lower-income students to cover their tuition.

The NDP plans to convert all new student debt into grants and retroactively forgive interest for anyone with provincial student loan debt, as part of a 10-year, $16 billion plan. Horwath also wants to create thousands of student jobs, as part of an effort to lessen student debt.

The Greens want to provide interest-free loans for post-secondary students in financial need and fund post-secondary education through public subsidies, with the goal of eventually guaranteeing fully public tuition for all Ontarians.

Sex Education

Progressive Conservatives plans to “scrap Kathleen Wynne’s ideological sex-ed curriculum” and replace it with one that is “age-appropriate,” Ford says.

The Liberals implemented a new sexual education curriculum in 2015. The curriculum–which covers gender identity, sexual orientation and masturbation–has been divisive among Canadians and party leaders.

The NDP party currently does not have information regarding sex ed on their party website, but Horwath has said she feels that the updated sex ed curriculum was needed.

The Greens also don’t currently ave information about sex ed on their party website, but Schreiner has spoken out against the PC’s “regressive” platform.


The Progressive Conservatives want to put an end to “hallway medicine,” which means hospital overcrowding that leads to patients being treated outside private rooms, although Ford has yet to provide specifics on how they’d do this. They also plan to encourage more doctors to move to Northern Ontario by cutting their provincial taxes (in some cases to as low as 0%).

The Liberals are looking to bolster hospital care and infrastructure by investing $822 million into healthcare, which would be the biggest boost in more than a decade. They also plan to introduce a drug and dental program to cover 80% of specific drugs and dental costs, as well as hire 3,500 new nurses by the end of 2018.

The NDP promises to implement a $475-million pharmacare plan that covers 125 commonly prescribed medications–including some take-home cancer medication as well as drugs for those transitioning genders. The party also plans to expand full dental to contract, full- and part-time workers as well as low-income children and retired seniors without a pension. They want to invest $19 billion over 10 years for hospitals, and plan to fund more hospital staff–which includes hiring 4,500 nurses in their first year in office–to ensure shorter wait times and fewer cancellations for surgery.

The Green Party plans to push for a federally funded pharmacare program and increase the number of midwifery and birthing centres. They’re also pledging to expand the number of abortion clinics across the province–particularly in northern Ontario–and to increase funding for Local Health Integration Networks in rural areas.

Mental Health

Long-overlooked, mental health care seems to be a priority for all parties, and one of the few issues all leaders agree needs improvement.

The Progressive Conservatives say they will spend a significant amount of money on mental health support–we’re just not sure how much. In April, Ford announced the party would be spending $1.9 billion over the next 10 years on support for mental health and addiction. The party recently amended that number on their website, now saying they’ll invest $3.8 billion in “mental health, addictions and housing” over the next 10 years.  The party is opposed to planned safe-injection sites in Ontario.

The Liberals plan to spend $2.1 billion to “rebuild” Ontario’s mental health system.

The NDP plans to tackle mental health by establishing a new Ministry of Mental Health and Addiction, which would be responsible for hiring 2,200 new mental health care workers, building 30,000 supportive housing units and cutting children’s mental health wait times to a 30 day maximum. The party also plans to hire 400+ mental health care workers to provide help in high schools across the province.

The Greens will invest $4.1 billion over four years into mental health services as well as create an umbrella organization to consolidate mental health and addiction programs.


Progressive Conservatives have promised to commit $5 billion towards subways, relief lines and a GO transit line to Niagara Falls.

The Liberals have promised to set aside $79 billion for different public transit projects, which is a $24 billion increase from the 2017 budget. This money would go towards groundwork for a high-speed rail line between Toronto and Windsor and integrating municipal services to allow for broader regional infrastructure. The party also plans to match a $4 billion federal grant, contributing towards public transit projects across Ontario between now and 2028.

The NDP plans to cover 50% of all municipal transit operating costs, which means the cost of transit would *most likely* decrease. They also promise all-day GO Rail service between Kitchener, Waterloo and Toronto as well as year-round GO rail service between Niagara and Toronto. The party also plans to start construction on Toronto’s downtown relief line ASAP.

The Greens, like the NDP party, want to fund half the operating costs of municipal transit systems, meaning the cost of transit would *likely* decrease for commuters. The party also wants to increase funding for public transit infrastructure, and to build and fund better infrastructure for private and public electric vehicles (which would mean more charging stations along the highways).


The Progressive Conservatives have pledged to freeze minimum wage at $14 and have proposed an income tax credit for workers earning minimum wage. This means that anyone earning less than $28,000 annually would pay no income tax. The party has also promised to cut income tax by 20% for the middle class, i.e. those who earn $42,960 to $85,923. But, they haven’t been clear about where the money will come from to cover the cost of this cut.

The Liberals, after increasing the minimum wage to $14 this year, have promised to continue the momentum by increasing minimum wage to $15 in January 2019. In their most recent budget, the party readjusted the province’s tax rates and brackets; they also predicted that 1.8 million people would pay an average of $200 more in income tax rates, while close to 700,000 would see an average tax cute of $130.

The NDP also plan to increase the minimum wage to $15. The party further promises to raise income taxes by 1% for those who earn more than $220,000 and 2% on incomes greater than $300,000. And the NDP is the only party proposing a change to labour laws regarding vacation time. This change would guarantee all full-time workers three weeks paid vacation (an increase from the current two weeks).

The Green party is pledging to increase the minimum wage to $15 by January 2019, implement a 1% increase to the top 1% of earners and institute a Basic Income Guarantee for all Ontario residents, which they’ll fund by cutting the Liberal’s “unfair” hydro plan.

Women’s Rights and Equality

The Progressive Conservatives have stayed relatively mum on the issue of women’s rights. Party leader Doug Ford has said that while he would not address the issue of abortion access, he would welcome any party members who wish to do so.

The Liberals made history when Kathleen Wynne became Ontario’s first female premier. In their run for re-election, the party has been championing fairness, and in March 2018, Wynne announced legislation that, if passed, would require pay transparency from employers. Under this legislation, all publicly advertised job postings must include a salary rate/range, employers are barred from asking about past compensation, and employees are unable to be punished for discussing or disclosing compensation.

The NDP is pledging to *finally* fight pink taxes, and to update and enforce the Pay Equity Act, which addresses the gender pay gap. They also promise to make changes on the law enforcement front by prioritizing the enforcement of laws against gender-based violence, ending gender-based violence on campuses, in workplaces and communities through training and prevention efforts and improving accountability in campus sexual assault policies. The party also promises to fund women’s shelters and housing.

The Greens, like the PCs, haven’t made any explicit statements on their platform for women’s rights, but have voiced their support for the #MeToo movement and International Women’s Day.

With files from Katherine Singh.


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