Ontario summer election likely averted

Ontarians will not go to the polls this summer if the budget passes Wednesday, Finance Minister Dwight Duncan says.
Finance Minister Dwight Duncan said Tuesday that the Liberals' budget is 'relatively intact.' (Canadian Press)

Ontarians will not go to the polls this summer if the budget passes Wednesday, Finance Minister Dwight Duncan said in a news conference on Tuesday.

The province had appeared on the brink of an election, only eight months after the Liberals won a minority.

The standoff began when the NDP and the Conservatives started removing sections of the Liberals' omnibus budget bill at the committee stage on Friday. In turn, Premier Dalton McGuinty threatened a snap election.

In the days since, all three party leaders have sought to place the threat of an election at the feet of their political opponents.

Duncan said at Queen's Park that "enough of the tools required" remain in the budget to balance it, grow the economy and create jobs. 

"Because the NDP has broken their word twice, we're not taking anything for granted," Duncan said. "We'll be watching the NDP closely to ensure they don't backslide yet again. If they don't backslide again and the bill passes, there will be no election."

The Liberals said the NDP had broken its word to pass a budget that included a tax on people making more than $500,000, while the NDP said the Liberals were acting as though they had a majority. Meanwhile, the Conservatives tried to maintain their distance even as they supported the NDP amendments.

NDP, Liberals feud over Horwath's leadership

At the news conference, Duncan said the Liberals had been "able to shine a spotlight" on what they saw as NDP Leader Andrea Horwath's dishonest behaviour, which he said allowed the bill to leave committee "relatively intact."

In his own news conference, NDP house leader Gilles Bisson said Horwath kept her word with the Liberals, who were only trying to sling mud at her to build themselves up.

Bisson said the NDP will let the budget pass, but didn't say whether members would vote in favour or abstain.

Progressive Conservative finance critic Peter Shurman said Tuesday was an "unfortunate" day for Ontario politics.

"Dalton McGuinty wanted to continue to operate as if Ontario was some kind of a monarchy and he was the only one allowed to make decisions," he said. "The fact of the matter is he got 80 per cent of what he wanted in the budget. We got nothing that we wanted in the budget."