Catherine Fife, the Ontario NDP candidate for Kitchener-Waterloo, says her party's proposed savings and accountability minister would look to find efficiencies and redistribute funding in the healthcare and post-secondary education sectors.
Given a choice, if the NDP were to take power, Fife said she would like to take on the new portfolio.
Fife made the comments Wednesday at a Kitchener-Waterloo all-candidates debate hosted by the University of Waterloo’s Federation of Students. It was in response to an audience question to all candidates about which ministry they would like to oversee if elected.
Earlier this month, NDP leader Andrea Horwath had said she would create the new position if her party were to form government. The minister would be tasked with finding cuts of 0.5 per cent in spending, or about $600 million a year on Ontario’s $120 billion annual budget.
“I am genuinely frustrated by the waste at Queen’s Park,” Fife told CBC News in an interview after the debate.
“I’ve been at Queen’s Park for 18 months and I can tell you that on every ministry file, there is a whole level of incompetence, and I think in order for us to rebuild trust with the electorate, we have to demonstrate that we have respect for those tax dollars.”
When asked how the NDP came up with the figure of $600 million as a target for savings, Fife singled out health sector and post-secondary education.
“The Liberals have already identified 50 per cent of that $600 million as certainly the health sector. You have duplication with the [local health integration networks], the [community care access centres] and hospital administration,” said Fife.
"I would go first to health – but at the top of the health echelon – and redirect the funding back down to the front line. But we’ve also seen university management, executive administrators, that budget line has continued to grow at the expense of students.”
The other candidates present at the debate were Tracy Weiler for the Progressive Conservatives, Jamie Burton for the Liberals and Stacey Danckert for the Green Party. The topics of discussion focused largely on student issues such as tuition fees, youth unemployment and transit.
In response to the question about which ministry the candidates would like to manage if elected, Weiler said she would be interested in the Ministry of Trades, Colleges and Universities, Danckert said she’d like to be involved with the Ministry of Environment, and Burton said she would be happy with any role.