NDP says it will vote against Ontario's budget

Andrea Horwath's comments suggest an imminent election

TORONTO – The stage has been set for a June election in Ontario after NDP Leader Andrea Horwath announced she has lost confidence in Premier Kathleen Wynne and the province’s minority Liberal government.

Horwath said she can’t continue to prop up a government that has been the focus of scandal after scandal and her party will vote against Thursday’s budget.

“I cannot in good conscience support a government that people don’t trust anymore,” she said Friday.

“This budget is not a solid plan for the future. It’s a mad dash to escape the scandals by promising the moon and the stars.”

The Liberals haven’t kept the promises they made to the NDP in last year’s budget, so she can’t trust them to keep the 70 new promises made in this year’s spending plan, Horwath said.

She said the scandals surrounding the costly cancellation of two gas plants, the Ornge air ambulance service and potentially unsafe girders that were installed on a parkway in Windsor proved too much for her caucus.

The Progressive Conservatives vowed to vote against the budget even before they saw it, and Horwath said the NDP will join them to defeat the fiscal plan on a confidence vote.

However, Wynne could decide not to wait for the budget votes — there will actually be two — and ask Lt.-Gov. David Onley to dissolve the legislature and call an election.

Wynne said she will make an announcement later this afternoon on whether the Liberals will drop the writ immediately, or whether they will force a vote on the budget in the legislature.

“I’m disappointed that (Horwath) wouldn’t have a meeting with me. I think there’s a lot in this budget that needs to be implemented in this province,” she told Belleville radio station CJBQ.

“But I’ve said all along … if we didn’t have a partner in the legislature, then we would take this budget to the people of the province, and we will do that.”

The New Democrats propped up the Liberals in the last two budgets, but negotiated major changes in each including a tax on incomes over $500,000 and a 15 per cent average cut in auto insurance premiums.

Several large labour groups, including the Unifor union and the Ontario Federation of Labour, urged the NDP to pass the budget and avoid an election, but public sector unions complained the fiscal plan puts jobs at risk.

The Ontario Public Service Employees Union — which has been in a tough labour fight with the Liberals — said they support Horwath’s call to go to the polls.

Despite the left-leaning goodies in the budget, such as a proposed Ontario pension plan, the Liberals can’t be trusted, said OPSEU president Warren “Smokey” Thomas.

There needs to be an election, even if it runs the risk of producing a right-wing Progressive Conservative government that “hates unions” and will tear down the province’s public services, he said.

Thomas said he won’t tell his members how to vote, but he believes some will support the NDP while others will vote Liberals.