Wynne, Horwath take aim at Ford in first debate ahead of Ont. election

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TORONTO — Doug Ford was the main target in the first debate ahead of Ontario’s provincial election, with his rivals suggesting Monday that the Progressive Conservative leader, who is leading in the polls, would slash jobs and shrink services if elected premier.

Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath spent much of their time warning about what a Tory government would bring, while Ford hammered home his key messages of finding “efficiencies” and “respecting the taxpayers.”

The race officially begins Wednesday, but the debate set the stage for the campaign and provided the leaders of the three major parties an opportunity to test drive their slogans.

When both Horwath and Wynne used their questions during a leader-to-leader portion to ask Ford exactly what he would cut, the Tory leader repeated his key phrases.

“The other Conservative leaders, Mr. (Tim) Hudak, Mr. (Mike) Harris — they were very upfront about what their cuts are going to look like,” Horwath told Ford.

“Why don’t you have the guts to tell people what your cuts are going to look like? What is in store for the people of Ontario?”

Ford didn’t provide specifics, though he has promised to cut four per cent from the budget.

“I’m going to make sure we run a government that respects the taxpayers,” Ford said during his closing remarks. “You know me. I’m for the little guy.”

Horwath repeated that voters “don’t have to choose between bad and worse,” several times stepping back when Wynne and Ford began to spar, attempting to set herself apart from them.

Wynne said the election features “some pretty stark choices,” between what she calls her plan for care and Ford’s plan for cuts.

The premier also suggested that Ford’s plan to find “efficiencies” really means firing nurses and teachers — harkening back to the Liberals’ warnings about former Tory leader Tim Hudak’s 2014 proposal to cut 100,000 public sector jobs.

“Not one single person is getting laid off under our administration,” Ford vowed. “I love the nurses. I love the teachers. I’m going to support them 100 per cent.”

“Yeah, but you’re going to cut their jobs,” Wynne shot back.

Wynne also tangled with Ford over the placement of LCBO-run cannabis stores. In some cases, Ford said Wynne’s government placed them too close to schools, which the premier denied.

“You have to look at the evidence, you have to look at what the experts say, you can’t just have a slogan that then becomes a policy,” she said. “That’s not how it works.”

Ford also used the debate to announce that he would commit $5 billion more than what has already been allocated to build a regional transportation system in the Toronto area, including subways, relief lines, and two-way GO Transit to Niagara Falls.

After the debate Ford told reporters the plan would also upload the TTC’s subway system to the province.

Cristine de Clercy, associate political science professor at Western University, said Ford performed well given that this was his first debate against two more experienced leaders.

He didn’t make any major mistakes and also announced his transit funding commitment but did little else to offer up details on his plan.

“Mr. Ford spent most of his time on the defensive,” she said. “He didn’t layout his plan…and if you were looking for those answers it wasn’t a very satisfying debate.”

De Clercy said Ford’s pledge not to layoff any public sector workers while cutting four per cent of the provincial budget could come back to haunt him, as both Wynne and Horwath effectively communicated, she said.

“I think he’s really put himself in a box there,” she said.

De Clercy said Horwath also performed well, staying upbeat and asking tough questions.

Barry Kay, a political science professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, said given Ford’s position as front-runner in the polls he appears to have taken a low-risk approach to the debate. The Tory leader said little to get himself in trouble but at times looked out of place, he said.

“He didn’t seem comfortable,” Kay said. “He was the least impressive in terms of style. He’s trying to make sure he doesn’t make any mistakes.”

Kay said Wynne did a capable job of engaging both Ford and Horwath on policy, but it may not matter in the eyes of voters.

“She came across as very knowledgeable but frankly, I don’t think it matters,” he said. “She needs one of the other leaders to make a mistake to win.”

The Ontario election takes place June 7.

Shawn Jeffords and Allison Jones, The Canadian Press

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11 COMMENTS

  1. Twat, What? I don’t agree with her but that is very derogatory. You would not like someone to refer to your wife in that term. This coming from a former American dodger.

  2. Wow! Referring to her as a Twat. Not nice . I won’t vote for her but that is very derogatory and coming from a former American dodger.

  3. Wow, what a derogatory comment, I will not vote her party,but would never call a women a “Twat” I don’t think you would like your wife referred to a Twat

  4. Wynne has a lot of nerve to say anything at all at this point. Any effort on her part to be re-elected is ludicrous. She is obviously delusional.
    She has screwed over Canadians so badly that she should be banished from Canada.

  5. Well said Tommy Lee .NORTHERN ONTARIO PARTY.

    Ladys and Gentlemen, we are a regional party representing people in Northern Ontario who have come to realize that the big three Toronto focused parties just don’t seem to care much about Northern Ontario. Oh sure we get a bit of attention before every election and a bunch of empty campaign promises pointed our way, but the day after the election is when everything goes back to normal and Northern Ontario again gets forgotten about, except when Toronto politician’s are after our chromite. This year the Northern Ontario Party’s goal is to run 13 candidates across Northern Ontario. If we get a few seats (and it looks like we may), then things will start to happen. First, the constituents represented by those MPP’s will for the first time be truly represented at Queen’s Park. I say that because we don’t use a party whip. Each NOP MPP will be mandated to poll their constituents prior to any vote and vote accordingly. These MPP’s will always be able to put their constituents best interests first and foremost, not having to toe the party line. Secondly, with members in Queen’s Park, we will be able to continually advocate for fairness for Northern Ontario. Things like equal access to public services and healthcare, the lack of public transportation availability in many of our communities across the north, and the lack of investment into Northern Ontario’s highways and other infrastructure. Toronto’s political parties don’t care about the lives of Northern Ontarians. Simple proof is the total lack of rest areas on Northern highways! They put up flashing billboards stating that fatigue kills and that you should pull over if you’re tired, but they don’t give you any safe areas to pull over into. The bottom line is that all the big three Toronto focused parties have had a crack at governing Northern Ontario in the last 40 years, and they’ve all failed us miserably…including the GTA focused Mike Harris and Ernie Eaves who started selling off Hydro One, and privatized the 407, among other fiascos. The sell-off of Hydro One has hit Northern Ontarian’s the hardest as our winters are colder and winter nights are a little longer. Many of us have no access to natural gas and have to heat our homes with electricity or wood. To sum up and to answer your questions. Well, we won’t know how many seats until after the election. Do you know how many the PC’s will win? Of course you don’t. As for impact, we’re already making an impact as we’re giving Northern Ontarians hope for a better tomorrow. Real hope, not just empty promises. Something Toronto focused politicians can’t seem to wrap their heads around.

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