Toronto

'Very unclear what he is going to do': Wynne declines to support any PC campaign pledges

Outgoing Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne on Friday said she hopes that the PCs will allow the Liberals to retain party status, but declined to identify a single Tory campaign pledge that she supports.

Ontario's lieutenant-governor formally invited Doug Ford and his PCs to form a new government

Outgoing Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne criticized the lack of detail the PCs provided about their plans during the campaign. (Tijana Martin/Canadian Press)

Outgoing Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne on Friday said she hopes that the PCs will allow the Liberals to retain party status, but declined to identify a single Tory campaign pledge that she supports. 

Wynne, who announced Thursday night she was stepping down as Liberal leader, spoke to reporters at Queen's Park shortly after she​ formally notified the province's lieutenant-governor she intends to resign her post. Elizabeth Dowdeswell also met with incoming premier-designate Doug Ford, whom she invited to form a government. 

Ford and his new cabinet will be sworn in on June 29. 

Wynne won her seat in Don Valley West on election night, but her Liberals were trounced, losing all but seven of their seats in the Legislature. It was the Grits' worst showing ever in the popular vote.

"It was a very tough night," Wynne said. 

"I feel very proud of the work that all of our candidates did across the province," she continued, adding that she has personally spoken to all 123 Liberal candidates in recent days. 

The party will immediately begin a "rebuilding" process, Wynne said, starting at the local grassroots level. That could get more difficult in the coming months, however, as the Liberals now face the possibility of losing official party status. Among other things, it would mean limited access to resources such as research assistance.

Legislatures have the option of changing the eight-seat threshold, and it's been done in the past. Wynne said she believes incoming premier Doug Ford and his PCs should allow the Liberals to keep party status. 

"I hope that happens," she said. 

At one point, Wynne was asked whether there is any clear common ground upon which the Liberals can work with the PC majority. She struggled to find an answer.

"I think it is very, very unclear what he is going to do, and how he is going to do it," she said, adding that she believes Ford might not understand the consequences of some his commitments. 

She also highlighted that the PCs were the only party that did not release a fully costed platform before election day, leaving many of the details of their mandate vague. 

"I didn't hear anything that had enough detail attached to it for me to say I agree with it."

Ford focused on finances

During his own news conference in Etobicoke earlier on Friday, Ford said he's working with the Liberals to ensure a smooth transition to power — a process he said would take three weeks, involve the help of those who've worked at the federal level and see the formation of a strong Tory cabinet.

The premier-designate, who secured a majority a day earlier with a slew of populist promises, said his first order of business would be to scrutinize the province's books.

Ontario Lieutenant-Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell invited Doug Ford and his PCs to form a new government on Friday. (Supplied)

"We have to see the financial situation that's been left behind, and over the next couple days and weeks you're going to hear from us, but the most important thing is getting our fiscal house in order," Ford said.

"Immediately, we'll be out looking for an auditing firm to go into the province to go line item by line item. I always believe in third party validation."

Once the audit is complete, Ford said he planned to address many of the promises he made during the election campaign, including lowering taxes, cutting hydro rates, and eliminating the cap-and-trade system.

"After a hard-fought campaign, we know the hard work has just begun," he said. "But we intend to act fast. We will have much more to share with the people of Ontario in the coming days and weeks."

Ford's transition team, which will help him segue into power over 21 days, includes former Conservative MP John Baird, a past chief of staff in former prime minister Stephen Harper's government, and an executive at the Ford family business.

"We have already hit the ground running," Ford said. "We have begun work right away on setting up the premier's office, establishing a cabinet and implementing the machinery of a new government."

Phone calls with PM, other party leaders

Since his election victory, Ford has spoken to both Wynne and Andrea Horwath, leader of the new Official Opposition NDP. 

"Ms. Wynne was gracious and has promised her team's support for a smooth transition," he said. 

Ford said he's also had a phone call with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in which he laid out his priorities for the province and pledged support amid Canada's increasingly tense trade relations with the United States. 

"I said, 'We'll stand united against our neighbours to the south,'" said Ford.  

With 40.6 per cent of the vote, the Progressive Conservatives won 76 seats — far beyond the 63-seat threshold needed for a majority government. 

NDP lays out opposition priorities

Meanwhile, Horwath is vowing her party will hold  Ford to account for every decision he makes as premier.

Horwath, speaking Friday morning after her party became the Official Opposition, said she's "incredibly proud" of the NDP's campaign.

"Last night was a new beginning for the NDP," she said.

"I will keep fighting for change for the better. That work starts today."

Horwath was flanked by 11 of her winning candidates, and noted her party managed to elect more women than ever before. About half of the NDP caucus is made up of women, Horwath said.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath calls Thurday night's election a 'new beginning' for the Ontario NDP. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

With files from The Canadian Press

now