With the Ontario election in the rearview mirror, and Doug Ford re-elected as premier with a sizeable majority, the P&C industry is eagerly awaiting to hear who the next finance minister will be. But political pundits and insurance experts predict — and hope for — very few changes in the cabinet.
Panelists from several political strategist firms predicted their cabinet picks at a Canadian Underwriter webinar on Friday. Most spoke well of Ontario’s Minister of Finance Peter Bethlenfalvy, who assumed his role in December 2020.
“I think Peter Bethlenfalvy understands the file from a commercial standpoint, from a debt standpoint, combined loss ratios — he gets the whole thing, he’s worked in this field,” observed webinar panellist Kim Donaldson, IBC’s vice president of Ontario. “He’s comfortable talking about insurance, which is good for us.”
The industry hopes for little change to the rest of the cabinet.
“There were some excellent staffers on this file in the lead-up to the government; we’re hopeful that they’ll be back,” Donaldson added. “We’re hopeful that the chief of staff [James Wallace] and principal secretary [Amin Massoudi] will also be back, certainly in the short term. The ones on our file have been solid performers in making every effort to understand what is a dense and complex policy file.”
Monique Smith, former Liberal MPP and consultant, counsel and chair of cultural industries at Global Public Affairs, predicts changes to the Conservatives cabinet — but not in finance.
“Peter Bethlenfalvy has distinguished himself as competent on the file, and they’ve had too much turnover in finance in the first four years of their administration,” Smith says. “We need some continuity. I think everybody would agree to that.”
Since Ford was first elected in 2018, the Conservatives have rotated through three ministers of finance.
Bethlenfalvy was preceded by Rod Philips, who was in cabinet from June 2019 to December 2020, and Vic Fedeli, who held the position from June 2018 to June 2019.
“Minister Bethlenfalvy has made no secret he wants to stay put in finance, and given where we are in the state of the world, in the economy, that is probably the right call to make,” says Kim Wright, principal at Wright Strategies.
“We’re looking now at the fastest rate of increase of inflation since 1941 in western economies,” says Chad Rogers, strategist at Crestview.
This election saw one of the lowest voter turnout rates at 43.5%. Comparatively, the 2018 election saw a voter turnout of 58% — a nearly 20-year high.
The Progressive Conservative Party was elected in 83 ridings across Ontario, with 40.8% of the popular vote. The New Democratic Party won 31 seats with 23.7% of the popular vote, and the Liberal Party won 8 seats with 23.8%. The Green Party, and one independent candidate, each received one seat.
Ontario’s election results were favourable for the industry, noted Donaldson. “I think many of us would share that, no matter where we fall on the political map…the election of this government is good for our file.”