Thornhill, Niagara Falls byelection calls imminent

A provincial byelection call could come as early as today in two southern Ontario ridings.

Tories say hospital announcement all about 'byelection politics'

Ontario will increase the size of the its Ontario Child Benefit in each of the next two years and give early childhood educators a raise. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

A provincial byelection call could come as early as today in two southern Ontario ridings.

It's expected Premier Kathleen Wynne will call the votes for Thornhill and Niagara Falls this week so that the new MPPs can be in place before the legislature resumes sitting on Feb. 18.

One factor that kicked up the byelection talk is yesterday's announcement by Health Minister Deb Matthews that the government will provide $26.2 million to plan a new hospital and two urgent care centres to replace ageing hospitals in Niagara Falls, Port Colborne,  Fort Erie, Welland and Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak accused the Liberal government of changing its opposition to the project after Liberal Kim Craitor resigned his Niagara Falls seat last fall.

"The Liberals had not supported that, but now that their member has retired and the seat is open, I guess they're now all for it," Hudak told reporters. "I just worry this is more about byelection politics than it is about health care."

Hudak says the Liberals had a similar, sudden conversion on the need for a subway to Scarborough during a byelection in that Toronto suburb last summer.

Wynne has six months to call a byelection after a seat is vacated, which means she must announce a date for the Niagara Falls vote by March 24.

Premiers generally schedule byelections for all vacant seats at once, so a vote in Thornhill to replace Tory Peter Shurman would be called at the same time. Shurman resigned in December after a dispute with Hudak over expense claims.

The outcomes of the byelections would not affect the minority status of the Liberal government, no matter which party wins.

If the byelections are held in February, the two new members of the legislature likely won't have much of a chance to get their seats warm before the province is plunged into a general election.

With files from The Canadian Press

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