TORONTO — Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said Friday she agreed with Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak on one thing: the key issue in the campaign for the June 12 election is job creation.
Both Wynne and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath went on the attack against Hudak’s campaign pledge to cut 100,000 public sector jobs in the first term of a Conservative government to help eliminate the $12.5-billion deficit in two years.
Hudak’s plan to slash about 10 per cent of the provincial public service would mean fewer firefighters, water inspectors, teachers, personal support workers, nurses and therapists, Wynne warned at a campaign event with nurses in Toronto.
“I believe that starting with hiring people is where we should start, not firing,” she said. “I think that jobs and creation of jobs, rather than cutting, is where we should begin, and that is clearly what this election campaign is about.”
Hudak maintains his planned cuts would not impact health care, police services or water inspectors, but Wynne questioned how he could keep that pledge.
“That that could be done without affecting health care is, I think, questionable at best,” she said.
Wynne said the dangers of Hudak’s planned cuts are why she held a campaign event Thursday in Walkerton, where deadly E. coli contamination of the town’s water supply killed seven people and made thousands ill in May 2000.
The tainted water tragedy was blamed in part on cost-cutting by the government of former Tory premier Mike Harris, which privatized water testing and cut Ministry of Environment jobs.
“If we are going to learn from decisions that were made in the past then we have to remember what those decisions were, we have to look at what the impacts were and so when Tim Hudak says he’s going to cut 100,000 jobs from government, we have to understand what that means,” said Wynne.
Horwath, meanwhile, lashed out at both Hudak and Wynne during a campaign stop in Sarnia, where she was promising to help lower “jaw dropping” electricity bills.
“People are very, very wary of a Tim Hudak Conservative government that would throw 100,000 people in Ontario on the unemployment line,” said Horwath. “The Liberals, let’s face it, are a scandal-ridden, wasteful government that has become out of touch with Ontarians and that people tell me they simply don’t trust anymore.”
Horwath criticized the “mess” both the Conservatives and Liberals made of Ontario’s electricity system and claimed people are finding their hydro bills now rival their rent or mortgage payments.
“We used to have very competitive electricity rates in Ontario (but) right now Quebec and Manitoba have electricity rates that are half or less (of ours),” she said. “People are opening their electricity bills and their jaws are literally dropping.”
For his part, Hudak rolled out the next phase of his promise to create one million jobs over eight years, saying he could create 96,000 new positions by expanding GO Train service for commuters. He would pay for his transit expansion by scrapping the Liberals’ plan to spend billions to change GO’s locomotives from diesel to electric.
“The Liberals talk a lot, they make up wish lists to appease Liberal MPPs and their friends, but you’re still stuck in traffic,” Hudak said in front of GO trains in Toronto.
“It’s time to take urgent and decisive action to invest in the strengths in our system like GO, subways and improving our highways so you can get home faster to see the kids and products can get to market for sale.”
Both Wynne and Hudak were sticking close to Toronto Friday while Horwath campaigned along Highway 401 with stops in London, Cambridge and Kitchener after starting her day near the U.S. border at Sarnia.