McGuinty stands by Ontario budget

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty says he is willing to listen to suggestions on his government's budget, but he would also be proud to campaign on it if necessary.
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty says he is open to budget suggestions from opposition parties. (CBC)

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty says he is willing to listen to opposition suggestions on his government’s budget, but he would also be proud to campaign on it if necessary.

The Liberals could face an election if they can't get either the Progressive Conservatives or the New Democrats to support the budget introduced Tuesday.

On Wednesday, McGuinty said the budget is part of a plan to eliminate the $15-billion provincial deficit over the next five years, while growing the economy and protecting health care and education.

Asked if he would welcome the opportunity to take the issue to voters, McGuinty said that heading into another election campaign would not be his first choice, but he would do so if forced.

"I would certainly be proud to campaign on our budget and our five-year plan, and I would certainly seek a majority in order for us to be able to get the job done," McGuinty said.

"But I remain very hopeful that it does not come to that."

Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak says his party will vote against the budget. (CBC)

So far, Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak has said his party will vote against the budget. Speaking Wednesday on CBC Radio's Metro Morning, Hudak said it lacks clear measures to cut the deficit and attract jobs to Ontario.

"If they had addressed both of these issues in a serious way, I'd support the budget, but they failed to do so," he said.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said Wednesday her party will reach out to Ontarians to hear what they have to say about the budget, before deciding how to vote.

"New Democrats will not play political games with this budget, but we need to know if the budget is one that families can accept, or whether we need a new government here in Ontario at Queen's Park," Horwath told reporters at a news conference on Wednesday morning.

"Now we're going to listen to Ontarians and at the end of the day, it's going to be up to Dalton McGuinty: we can get down to work, or we can have another election."

Premier urges parties to 'avoid brinksmanship'

McGuinty suggested that all of the MPPs at Queen's Park need to look at what Ontarians are expecting.

"I would encourage all of us who are involved in the legislature to avoid brinkmanship and to be reflective and to try to understand what it is that Ontarians are expecting of us," he said.

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath says she will consult Ontarians before making up her mind on whether to support the budget. (Mike Crawley/CBC)

"I think they expect us to find a way to move this budget forward."

Finance Minister Dwight Duncan said that like the NDP, he plans to speak to Ontarians about the budget in the days ahead, though a series of telephone town halls.

Duncan also said that the public is unlikely to favour having another election.

"The one thing I do know is that the people of this province do not want an election, not five months after the last one," Duncan said.

All three parties are still dealing with debt incurred from the election in October that left the Liberals just one seat short of a majority.

At present, the Liberals have 53 seats, the Progressive Conservatives 37, and the New Democrats the remaining 17 seats in the provincial legislature.

With files from the CBC's Mike Crawley and The Canadian Press