Kathleen Wynne warns Doug Ford would 'take a bulldozer' to Ontario
Liberal premier reveals her election campaign line of attack against the new PC leader
Premier Kathleen Wynne took her sharpest jabs yet at Ontario PC leader Doug Ford on Thursday, claiming he would send the province backward and would bulldoze the programs that governments have built over the years.
Wynne made the remarks in a speech to the Economic Club of Canada. It comes day after her government tabled a pre-election budget proposing a free child-care program, a boost to mental health spending and free prescription drugs for seniors, as well as deficits for six straight years.
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"This election will come down to the clearest, starkest choice in this province's history," Wynne said, provoking applause from the audience at a downtown Toronto hotel. "We can go forward with the agenda I've outlined, or we can go backward with Doug Ford. It's a choice between care or cuts."
The speech reveals the lines of attack the Liberals intend to use against the PCs during the campaign for Ontario's June 7 election. The strategy focuses on painting Ford as beholden to big business and no friend of ordinary workers, children and seniors.
Wynne did not mention the NDP or its leader Andrea Horwath even once in the 3,500-word speech.
"Doug Ford wants to take a bulldozer to a province that has worked so hard to get to this place," said Wynne. "The things the Conservatives and Doug Ford are saying that they would do if they form the next government ... stand in stark contrast to my values and what I know is needed from government for people to get ahead right now."
Wynne spent the first half of her speech laying out some of the key Liberal programs and promises of the past year, including Pharmacare, a $15 minimum wage, grants that cover the cost of tuition and free day care for children from age 2½ to kindergarten.
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In the latter part of the speech, she portrayed Ford as a threat to all of these.
"A government led by him would put them all on the chopping block. There would be freebies for big business, and cuts and pain for pretty much everyone else."
Wynne tackled Ford's musings about cutting Ontario's corporate tax rate, which is already the lowest among the provinces.
"The reality is that corporate profits are soaring," Wynne said. "It's the people who are working at those companies who are my priority."
The speech signals that during the election campaign, the Liberals will try to undermine Ford's political image as someone who is on the side of the hard-working little guy.
"He doesn't think its government's job to stand up for the well-being and wages of workers," said Wynne. "He's ruled by the notion that government should get out of the way and give big business and wealthy interests anything and everything that they ask for."
PC officials said Ford was not available to respond to Wynne's claims Thursday afternoon, but he was spotted by reporters at Queen's Park. Instead Vic Fedeli, the party's leader in the Legislature, took questions.
"There really is a tone of desperation. You've got a premier who will say and do anything to change the channel," Fedeli told reporters. "This is a premier who does not have the ability to run on her own record, so she needs to divert."