McGuinty deflects Harper jab

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty says he isn't offended that the prime minister is calling for his defeat in the fall provincial election.
Rob Ford and Stephen Harper started forging a political relationship during the federal election campaign. ((Adrian Wylde/CP) )

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty says he's not offended that Prime Minister Stephen Harper is calling for his defeat in the Oct. 6 provincial election.

The Liberal premier, who has taken a few shots himself at the federal Conservatives over the last few weeks, is shrugging off the latest snub.

McGuinty said he's worked well with Harper and Ford in the past, even though they don't always see eye-to-eye.

"But it's no secret from time to time we have our differences," he said Thursday after touring the Celestica plant in Toronto.

"We are of a different political stripe. We are from different parts of the country. So I won't hesitate, I won't shrink from standing up for Ontarians when I think that's the right thing to do."

Harper's comments came during an unannounced visit Tuesday to the Etobicoke family home of right-leaning Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, which was captured in a YouTube video.

The video has since been removed.

Speaking to invited guests at a barbecue for Finance Minister Jim Flaherty — who sat in the government benches with Ford's late father when the provincial Tories ruled Ontario — Harper called for the provincial Liberals' defeat.

The prime minister claimed that he and Ford are each cleaning up a "left-wing mess," and with the Ontario election just a few weeks away, it was time to "complete the hat trick and do it provincially as well."

He also spoke about a recent fishing trip he took with Ford, saying the mayor didn't live up to his reputation when he caught a 39-centimetre-long smallmouth bass but "refused to kill it and eat it."

Recent polls suggest McGuinty is lagging behind Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak, who didn't attend the barbecue.

It wasn't clear what left-wing mess Harper was referring to federally, as his Conservatives inherited a $13-billion surplus when they came to power five years ago and have turned it into multibillion-dollar deficits.

But politically, the Conservative party has improved its fortunes in Ontario by winning 73 of the province's 106 seats in the May general election — mostly at Liberal expense — en route to a majority government.

Despite those results, McGuinty has repeatedly warned that Canada is ruled by a Conservative majority government that's dominated by the West and an NDP Opposition that's influenced by Quebec.

It's helped to bolster McGuinty's argument that only a Liberal government can ensure Ontario isn't shortchanged at the federal table -- something his opponents have dismissed as a desperate ploy to get re-elected.

Ontario Tory candidate Rocco Rossi, who dropped out of the Toronto mayoral race last year, said McGuinty is flirting with disaster by attacking the federal Tories.

"It's absolutely dumb when you go against the will of the people," said Rossi, who attended the Ford barbecue.

"Ontarians will punish this premier by electing change and electing a Tim Hudak government on Oct. 6."