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Doug Ford’s government lays out its agenda in Ontario throne speech

Ontario’s provincial government is promising to end cap-and-trade, scrap the current sex-education curriculum and audit government spending in the throne speech delivered Thursday by Ontario’s Lt.-Gov. Elizabeth Dowdeswell.

The throne speech lays out new government’s priorities and kicks off a rare summer sitting of the legislature. It echoes many of the Ford government’s campaign promises, vowing to be a “government for the people” that will cut taxes and lower hydro rates.

In the speech, the government promises to be accountable and restore public faith in Ontario’s public institutions.

There will be a Commission of Inquiry into the government’s financial practices to identify ways to “restore accountability and trust in Ontario’s public finances.” It will include a line-by-line audit of all government spending to “identify and eliminate duplication and waste.”

“The era of accounting tricks and sleight of hand must end,” Dowdeswell said.

Less than two weeks after taking office, Ontario Premier Doug Ford has already acted on three of his central campaign promises: ending cap and trade, scrapping the sex-ed curriculum and getting rid of the CEO and board of Hydro One.

“We’re going to turn the page, we’re going to have lower hydro rates, we’re going to lower taxes,” Ford said to reporters at Queen’s Park on Wednesday when asked about his plans.

“We’re going to get rid of — as many as we can at least — the 380,000 regulations and get businesses moving so they can go out and they can hire people and again we’re going to be prosperous.”

While Ford’s promises won him the election campaign, making more of those promises a reality — and dealing with the consequences — could prove challenging.

One of the government’s stated priorities is to bring in legislation to cancel a wind farm in Prince Edward County, which was given its final approval during the election campaign. But construction is nearly completed, and the company involved says scrapping the project could cost Ontarians $100 million.

“A halt to construction without warning from the ministry would have significant economic consequences for all involved parties,” said Hartmut Broesamle, a board member of WPD, a German wind power firm.

“Like all other investors in Canada, WPD assumes that legally granted and valid approvals will be honoured at any time and also in the event of a change of government,” he said in a statement on Wednesday. “Anything else would send out a fatal signal to the entire economy.”

For NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, the cancellation has the whiff of gas plants all over again. Scrapping two gas-fired power plants previously cost Ontario $1.1 billion, according to the auditor general.

“It’s pretty shocking that this Ford Conservative government is doing exactly what the Liberals did when it comes to the cancelling of energy projects,” Horwath told reporters Wednesday at the legislature. “It’s something that Mr. Ford has to explain to Ontarians why he thinks it’s the right thing to do.”

The legislation to cancel the wind power project will also stop the company from suing the province over the move, said government House Leader Todd Smith. Attorney General Caroline Mulroney declined to answer questions about how such a provision would stand up to a court challenge.

Another Ford priority in the legislative session is to repeal Ontario’s cap-and-trade law. Ford has already withdrawn Ontario from the carbon-pricing market it shared with Quebec and California. What remains unclear is whether repealing the legislation will also nix Ontario’s targets for reducing carbon emissions, which are embedded in the law.

Environment Minister Rod Phillips refused to take questions from reporters about the issue when he emerged from a cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

Ontario companies have spent $2.9 billion on carbon allowances that have been rendered worthless by a Ford cabinet order banning any sale or trading of the cap-and-trade permits.

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