Premier-designate Kathleen Wynne says it is her responsibility to attempt to work with opposition parties in the recalled legislature, rather than plunge the province into an election campaign that Ontarians don't want.
On Thursday, Wynne said that recalling the legislature and having the Liberals work with their opposition colleagues are among her top priorities as she takes on the full-time job of leading the Ontario government.
"We had an election just over a year ago and I think that the people of the province and certainly the people I've talked to — not just Liberals — have said they want to see us work together," Wynne said during an interview today on CBC Radio's Ontario Today.
She also answered questions from CBC viewers who called in and submitted queries online to the premier-designate.
Wynne was also asked whether the opposition leaders, Tim Hudak and Andrea Horwath, could be partners with the Liberal leader.
The premier-designate has already met with both Hudak and Horwath. Both conversations were "constructive" and Wynne said she is well aware they won’t see eye-to-eye with her on every issue.
"What I’m looking for is that ground in the middle, you know, the issues that we can come together on and say: 'You know what, in the best interests of the province, let’s get these things done,'" said Wynne, who is a trained mediator.
"If they decide that we can’t find common ground and they don’t want to work with me, then that's their prerogative. But I really hope that we're going to be able to come together, that I can bring in a throne speech and that we can work together on a budget and get it to pass."
Wynne said that if pushed by an opposition that is unwilling to co-operate, the Liberals will head to the polls. But she said it is not their first choice.
"I really believe that it’s my responsibility to attempt to work with the leaders of the opposition and create a parliament that will function," she said.
The Liberals need the support of the opposition in order to hang onto power at Queen's Park, due to their minority government status.
At present, the government holds 53 seats in the 107-seat legislature, which has been prorogued since Premier Dalton McGuinty announced in October that he was stepping down as Liberal leader.
Wynne said Thursday that she had heard a lot of complaints from Ontarians about the fact that the House was not in session.
Transit, energy and teachers
On Thursday, Wynne also fielded questions from CBC audience members on a variety of topics, including the contentious issues between public-sector teachers and the governing Liberals.
A decision by the government to impose contracts on public school teachers, using controversial legislation that was later repealed, has created a rift between the education sector and the government — after many years of peace and co-operation between the two.
Wynne acknowledged that "the process with the education sector was not what it should have been," which she said is the reason she has been quick to reach out to teachers’ unions to see how to rebuild their relationship.
The incoming premier was also asked Thursday about her view on the government’s commitment to green energy.
"I have no intention of moving away from green, renewable energy," said Wynne.
But the premier-designate did say the province must do a better job in reaching out to municipalities in deciding where wind turbines are installed.
Ontario's Ministry of Energy website says that the last of the coal plants in the southern part of the province will be shut down by the end of this year. That’s a development the incoming premier said is a must.
"Shutting down the coal-fired plants is, to my mind, a necessity in terms of cleaner air," Wynne said.
A Toronto caller who said he was opposed to road tolls, asked the premier-designate about the kinds of revenue tools she would like to see used to invest in transit improvements.
Wynne, who represents the Toronto riding of Don Valley West, said that a revenue source must be found to help pay for needed transit improvements that will otherwise not get built.
"If we're going to catch up and continue to have the infrastructure that we need … we're going to have to find a way to pay for it," Wynne said, adding that it is not fair to simply borrow funds and heap the responsibility for payment on future generations of Ontarians.
The premier-designate was not able to put an estimate on the amount of money that would need to be invested to fix transit problems around Ontario. But she noted the current price tag for a series of projects that Metrolinx would like to see built in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area is in the tens of billions of dollars.
Wynne officially became Ontario's premier-designate Thursday morning after meeting with McGuinty and Lt.-Gov. David Onley marking the first transfer of power at Queen's Park in more than nine years.
The process involved McGuinty verbally handing over command of the provincial government to the lieutenant-governor, who, in turn, asked Wynne to form her government.
"I have asked Ms. Wynne to form a government and she has accepted my invitation. So I wish to congratulate the premier-designate and I look forward to the swearing-in ceremony," Onley said.
The date for the swearing-in ceremony for Wynne and her cabinet was chosen. It will take place on Feb 11. She plans to recall the legislature on Feb. 19.
Wynne, once sworn in, will be the province's 25th premier.
The identity of her cabinet members remains a question mark as Wynne has kept those cards close to her chest since winning the Liberal leadership Sunday.
"You know what, stay tuned. We're just in the process of putting that together," said Wynne.
"What you'll see is a strong cabinet, a strong government because ... I know the times call for a firm hand and that is exactly what we're going to provide."