TORONTO – Ontario’s decade-old Liberal government is looking to develop new policies this weekend in advance of an election that could come as soon as next spring, Premier Kathleen Wynne said Friday.
About 500 Liberals will hold a provincial council meeting in Hamilton, their first get-together since Wynne took over as premier last January.
“My message is going to be that we are ready to take the next steps as a party, and in a minority situation that means we have to be ready for an election at any point,” Wynne told The Canadian Press.
“There’s a lot of good work that’s been done over the last 10 years, but now we have to take that (party) renewal that’s happened over the last nine months and translate it into our vision for the future.”
Wynne had threatened earlier this month to call an election if the opposition parties wouldn’t allow any bills to pass in the legislature.
This week, the Tories started co-operating on a number of non-partisan bills, saying they want to “clear the decks” so the Liberals can get onto major economic initiatives, if they have any to introduce.
“What we’re doing is calling their bluff,” said Progressive Conservative Rod Jackson. “They don’t have any plan.”
The Liberals launched a website Friday to get public input to help develop new policy proposals, which prompted the Opposition to claim the government is out of ideas, especially on ways to improve the economy and create jobs.
“We’re seeing a desperate, pathetic government that is grasping at ideas because they don’t have anything to hang on to,” added Jackson.
The New Democrats called the Liberals’ attempts to engage the public on policy development little more than window dressing and political games.
“Kathleen Wynne is more concerned about the interests of her political party than really dealing with the issues,” said NDP house leader Gilles Bisson.
“This is nothing more than an attempt on the part of the Liberals to be seen as doing something where they’ve not done it before.”
But Wynne defended the public outreach as a good practice for all politicians.
“My belief, honestly, is that whether it’s in the run up to a platform development or whether it’s between elections, I think it’s critically important that politicians, governments (and) parties stay in touch with their constituencies,” she said.
“We’ll reach out beyond party members and invite people … to give us input because I think it’s really important whether people are Liberals or not, there can be good ideas.”
The Conservatives insisted Wynne does not have a plan to turn Ontario’s economy around.
“She’s been premier for nine months and a senior cabinet minister for 10 years,” said Jackson. “If she doesn’t have the answer now, I don’t have any confidence she will have it in six months.”
The Liberals should be taking action now to reverse their green energy policies that sent electricity prices soaring and do more to reduce unemployment levels, especially among young people, added Bisson.
“They’ve been in power and had the ability to effect some of the decisions to curb youth unemployment, and what they’re doing is more consultations, more roundtables, more white papers,” he said. “What people want is action.”
Wynne also said the Liberals will eliminate Ontario’s $9.2 deficit within four years as promised without cutting programs and services.
“We face some real challenges, but I don’t believe that just cutting and slashing and austerity is the way to go,” she said.
“I don’t think that’s how we’re going to realize our aspirations as a province, and so investing in Ontario’s strengths is a critical part of our strategy.”