Kathleen Wynne pitches Liberals as 'change' after 14 years in power

Premier Kathleen Wynne has a message for voters who think it's time for a change in Ontario: she is all about change.

In year-end interview, Wynne hints at 'more to come' from her government before election campaign

Premier Kathleen Wynne in an interview with CBC provincial affairs reporter Mike Crawley, at Queen's Park on Monday Dec. 18 (Claudine Brulé/Radio-Canada)

Premier Kathleen Wynne has a message for voters who think it's time for a change in Ontario: she is all about change. 

It's perhaps a surprising message from the leader of a party that's been in power for more than 14 years, facing an election next June.

"There's always need for change in Ontario," Wynne said Monday in a year-end interview with CBC News. "I believe in good change and we have brought and will continue to bring good change."

Wynne referred to her government as a bringer of change several times during the interview, which focused on the looming 2018 campaign, culminating in election day on June 7.

"I believe firmly that the path that we're on, the changes that we've made, the changes that we've introduced are in the best interests of the people of the province," she said. 

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne turns away from the podium after speaks with journalists alongside Quebec Premier Phillippe Couillard after they attended the Confederation of Tomorrow 2.0 Conference in Toronto on Tuesday December 12, 2017. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

Wynne pointed to two key reforms that will launch on Jan. 1: new employment laws, including a minimum wage of $14 an hour, as well as free prescription drugs for children and young adults. 

"The changes that we're bringing in on Pharmacare and minimum wage ... have taken time," she said.

"There's more change coming," Wynne hinted. "Stay tuned."

'We are not done as a government' 

Wynne would not offer any specifics about what she has up her sleeve. I asked her specifically if she is planning an income tax cut or a full-scale provincial child care program, and she declined to answer directly.

"Everything that we will do going forward is going to be consistent with what we have already done," Wynne said. "There is more to be done. We are not done as a party, we're not done as a government. Exactly what that's going to look like, I can't tell you right this minute."

She said she does want to make progress on covering prescription drug costs for all Ontarians, calling it the gap in Medicare. Wynne and Health Minister Eric Hoskins are "adamant that we need to go forward and help people to be able to cover their medication," she said. 

"There is more to be done," Premier Kathleen Wynne said in a year-end interview with CBC News. "We are not done as a party, we're not done as a government." (Claudine Brulé/Radio-Canada)

"I'm going to continue to push at the national level for a national Pharmacare plan. If that doesn't happen then we have to have a serious conversation about how we move forward." 

The government will bring in a budget in the first few months of 2018, but Wynne would not say if she intends to get it passed before dissolving the legislature for the campaign period. "I'll have to leave that till the new year. There are all sorts of factors that will come into play. I can't tell you exactly what will happen there." 

Nor would Wynne say whether she will step down if she fails to win the election. 

​In 2018, she will be seeking re-election without a number of her key cabinet members, including Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid, deputy premier Deb Matthews and Treasury Board president Liz Sandals, all of whom have indicated they won't run again.

I asked Wynne whether, when she entered politics, she had imagined that she would be the premier who would bring in the sale of wine and beer in supermarkets and marijuana in government-owned shops.

"Never in a million years," she replied.


Mike Crawley

Provincial Affairs Reporter

Mike Crawley is provincial affairs reporter in Ontario for CBC News. He has won awards for his reporting on the eHealth spending scandal and flaws in Ontario's welfare-payment computer system. Before joining the CBC in 2005, Mike filed stories from 19 countries in Africa as a freelance journalist and worked as a newspaper reporter in B.C.