Liberal leadership candidate Wynne defends prorogation

Ontario Liberal Leadership candidate Kathleen Wynne is pressed about prorogation and her government's move to block teacher labour action in a Metro Morning interview Tuesday.

Ontario Liberal Leadership candidate Kathleen Wynne would not criticize Premier Dalton McGuinty’s controversial decision to prorogue the legislature, saying the man she’s running to succeed "did what he felt he needed to do."

Wynne made the comments Tuesday in an interview with Matt Galloway on CBC’s Metro Morning.

The Don Valley West MPP officially announced her candidacy for party leadership on Monday.

Galloway pressed Wynne on whether or not she supported McGuinty’s decision to shut down the legislature on the day he announced he would step down as premier. Opposition members have said the prorogation was made to stifle debate on a number of simmering controversies facing the Liberals.

"I believe [McGuinty] made the decision that he felt he needed to make," said Wynne. "The premier was confronted with a situation that was not functioning."

Wynne said if she becomes premier she will work to get the legislature sitting again "as soon as possible."

Wynne was also asked about Bill 115, Liberal legislation — now approved — that imposes a contract on teachers and prohibits them from striking for two years.

 Teachers unions have argued that the law, which is now the subject of court challenge, eliminates collective bargaining. Some teachers have vowed to stop performing all non-essential services, such as coaching sports teams, in protest of Bill 115.

Wynne said the legislation was needed to help curtail rising labour costs as the province struggles with a crippling $14-billion deficit.

"We need those deals in place. What we said in our budget was ... if we did not have those deals if we could not curtail public spending on wages, then we would need to legislate," she said.

"We need to balance the budget. We need to change the trajectory of public sector spending. I’m committed to working with teachers. I'm committed to bringing them into my office and saying, 'OK, how can we go forward?'"

Only one other candidate, MPP Glen Murray, has officially launched a leadership bid. Sandra Pupatello, a former Liberal cabinet minister, has said she is leaning toward running.

The Liberals will chose a new leader at a party convention scheduled for the weekend of Jan. 25.