Ontario Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne rallied her troops in a Toronto nightspot Friday evening — just a few hours after announcing the province is headed to the polls.
Wynne told some 400 supporters that her minority government's budget, which failed to win support from either opposition party, would be re-introduced following the party’s return to power on June 12.
“We would have loved to have had the opportunity to immediately implement that budget, but [NDP Leader] Andrea Horwath and [PC Leader] Tim Hudak decided they want an election,” Wynne said.
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“But there is a silver lining … We are going to win this election and then we are going to implement our budget.”
Wynne stressed the need to invest in the province’s infrastructure and to provide better support for retirees, an issue over which she has sparred with Ottawa.
“Our plan is about making sure that whether you live in Kenora, where you need your bridges fixed, or whether you live in downtown Toronto, Windsor or Ottawa, where you need transit … wherever you live in the province, our plan says you need to have investment in infrastructure.”
Wynne said Friday it was better to have a election instead of waiting to see her minority Liberal government defeated in a confidence vote on its budget.
Wynne visited Lt.-Gov. David Onley on Friday afternoon to ask him to dissolve the legislature after the New Democrats announced they had lost confidence in the Liberals and would vote with the Progressive Conservatives to defeat the budget.
Voters should not consider veering to the political left or right, warned Wynne, who said people will have a choice between a balanced Liberal approach to job creation and economic growth and the "reckless schemes" of the opposition parties.
"They'll have a choice, in fact, between safe hands and risky tactics," she said.
Premier slams feds and opposition parties
The premier took several shots at Prime Minister Stephen Harper for failing to fund infrastructure projects like Ontario's Ring of Fire or to help improve retirement income for people without a workplace pension plan. But she reserved most of her vitriol for the NDP and Tories.
"The NDP make pie in the sky promises, but they won't say how they'll pay for them," complained Wynne. "So, now is not the time for pipe dreams."
The Tories would "roll back the clock" in Ontario by "declaring war" on organized labour and slashing government programs people rely on, added the premier.
"Their cuts would devastate crucial public services in health and education," she said. "Their cuts would take us along a path towards a low-wage, low-growth economy."
Budget a 'mad dash to escape scandals': Horwath
New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath said earlier Friday that she could not continue to prop up a government that was plagued by scandal after scandal and could not trust the Liberals to keep all the promises in Thursday's budget.
"I cannot in good conscience support a government that people don't trust anymore," said Horwath. "This budget is not a solid plan for the future. It's a mad dash to escape the scandals by promising the moon and the stars."
It wasn't just the budget but the gas plants scandal, the police investigation into the Ornge air ambulance and faulty girders being installed in the Windsor parkway that prompted the NDP to stop supporting the Liberals, said Horwath.
"It's one scandal after another. It's continued behaviour from a government that hasn't seen the way to change their path, and so it wasn't only the $1.1 billion [gas plants] scandal itself, but it's the continuous cover up of information," said Horwath.
"The leopard is not changing its spots."
Rather than see the government face weeks of criticism in the legislature until the budget vote, Wynne opted to call the election herself.
Campaign begins next Wednesday
Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak, who held his own press conference after Wynne spoke, called the New Democrats hypocritical for taking so long to decide to defeat the Liberals, something he said they should have done at least a year ago.
"If you're looking for who's going to be the best actor on the stage, if you're looking for someone who's running a popularity contest by promising funding on all kinds of projects but they don't have the cheques to cash in, well then vote for the Liberal leader or the NDP leader," Hudak said in Ottawa.
"But if you want a turnaround plan to get Ontario working again, look at me, look at my team, look at my plan."
By tradition, Ontario elections are called on a Wednesday and held on a Thursday four weeks later, but this campaign will go five weeks because of a Jewish holiday on Thursday, June 5.
Even though Wynne asked to have the legislature dissolved on Friday, and it won't sit again until after the election, the campaign period doesn't officially begin until next Wednesday.
The dissolution of the legislature also means there won't be any finding of contempt against the Liberals for the deletion of emails and wiping of hard drives in the premier's office because the committee that was looking into the gas plants scandal is now disbanded.
But rather than see the government face weeks of criticism in the legislature before the budget vote, Wynne opted to call the election herself.
Hudak criticized the New Democrats for taking so long to decide to defeat the Liberals.