Ontarians are going to the polls on June 12, Premier Kathleen Wynne has announced.
NDP leader Andrea Horwath sent the province hurdling towards a spring election when she declared she would not be supporting the minority Liberals’ latest budget.
“I believe that we have the best team and the best plan for the province,” said Wynne, who succeeded Dalton McGuinty as premier in early 2013 when she won the Liberal leadership, at a Friday news conference at Queen's Park.
Earlier on Friday, Horwath told reporters that the Wynne government "cannot be trusted and cannot be supported any longer." The Grits survived the last two budget cycles with the assistance of NDP MPPs.
"I have lost confidence in Kathleen Wynne and her ability to deliver," Horwath said Friday. "I cannot in good conscience support a government that people don’t trust anymore."
Horwath's announcement comes a day after she stayed silent as the Liberals released their budget on Thursday. She kicks off her official campaign Saturday at a waterfront restaurant in her Hamilton Centre riding.
On Friday, she listed a number of scandals she says have caused her to lose confidence in the Wynne government. She also pointed to a number of undelivered Liberal promises.
"Ultimately, there's a lot of momentum in different camps pushing for a spring election," said Peter Graefe, a McMaster University political science professor. "They were in a difficult position."
Wynne had given Horwath a May 8 deadline to indicate whether she would support the budget. With Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak already indicating he would not back it, the decision of whether to keep the Wynne government alive fell into Horwath's hands.
"This budget is not a solid plan for the future," she said. "It's a mad dash to escape the scandals. It's time for change. We do not support this government any longer."
Horwath didn't waste time, launching directly into what should shape up to be her talking points at speeches across the province.
"They talk a good game but they can't get any results," Horwath said. "We have a number of issues that we tried to get the government to agree to in the last budget, which they did — financial accountable office, reducing hydro rates, getting the wait times in the home care system reduced — none of that's happened."
"It's obvious that they cannot deliver, no matter how many promises they make."
Ted McMeekin, MPP for Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale, says he's surprised by the decision. "The budget that we presented was a very forward budget, a very progressive budget," he said. "Calls to my constituency office last night were running ... five to one against having an election."
Graefe told CBC Hamilton that as much as people talked about the Liberal budget as a created to "seduce" the NDP, it could also be seen as a "threat," as the Liberals tried to position themselves as more left leaning while Horwath made an attempt to court voters who might not be traditional NDP supporters.
"One certainly hears about a lot of sectors that used to be loyal NDP supporters that aren't anymore," he said.
What does this mean for LRT?
A spring election also throws a shadow of doubt over light rail transit (LRT) being built in Hamilton. Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals have said they’ll make nearly $29 billion available for transit funding in the coming years, along with other “revenue tools” in Thursday’s budget. About $15 billion will be for transit in Toronto and Hamilton.
Horwath renewed her commitment to LRT in Hamilton, but did not answer to if the system would be partially or fully funded.
"I absolutely support the LRT in Hamilton, it's actually one of the projects we've prioritized," Horwath told CBC Hamilton.
Transit advocates and city council have hoped the province would fully fund LRT for years. The city included LRT in its Rapid Ready transit plan it submitted to the province, and passed a motion saying it supported LRT if the province paid all of the capital costs, estimated in 2011 to be about $800 million.
Graefe says the LRT project could end up "further down the list" from infrastructure projects in Toronto after an election. "Certainly if a Conservative government was elected, they likely wouldn't see LRT in Hamilton as a focus," he said. "[Horwath] is in favour of it, but she seems to think there's this endless well of corporate taxes to pay for it."
A "lack of consistent vision" from city council also doesn't help the project's chances, he added.
"We are in a situation where no one wants to pay for it — at least municipally."
Ward 1 Coun. Brian McHattie told CBC Hamilton the imminent election will delay discussions between the city and the province on an agreement to fund a rapid transit plan for Hamilton. A strong supporter of the city’s light-rail transit (LRT) plan, McHattie says the delay will offer “a chance to continue to educate and inform citizens of the opportunity.”
Horwath, he said, has told him that she favours LRT for Hamilton’s B-Line corridor.
“That bodes well for the future, whether it be an NDP or a Liberal government or some combination thereof.”
It's a 'relief we're getting an election': Bratina
McHattie says he doesn’t think Horwath’s decision to sink the Liberals’ budget is good for the city.
“We function best when we have a stable provincial government with proper and stable funding,” he said. “I think it would be best for Hamilton and for other municipalities for the government to carry on, but that’s not my decision.”
Mayor Bob Bratina, however, told CBC Hamilton that he feels the province is ready for an election. "We've got to stop looking at the past and arguing about gas plants and get a good sense of renewal of government, whichever way that goes, and get on with business," he said.
"I would say personally that it's almost a relief that we're getting an election."
An election must be held on the 5th Thursday after the writs of election — formal legal documents — are put together. They are prepared for each of the electoral districts in the province as an official notice that the election process is underway.
Elections Ontario likely won't allow an election on June 5 because of the Jewish holiday Shavuot. The elections act allows for moving the date for a significant religious date. That makes the most likely dates for an election June 12 or June 19.
The response to the decision on social media was swift: