By Kevin Werner, News Staff
Hamilton’s lone Liberal MPP Ted McMeekin presented a blunt message to a gathering of supporters last week calling Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak as “twice as mean” as Mike Harris ever was during his tenure as premier.
“When he looks out over the audience and says he will cut 100,000 jobs and is smirking when he does it … does that bring back memories of some one else?” says McMeekin.
In equal parts castigating the Tories, while trumpeting his own party’s accomplishments, McMeekin laid out a premise to a number of well-wishers May 15 at his Waterdown campaign office that voters have a stark choice between two competing philosophies in the June 12 provincial election.
He accused Hudak of scrapping a public sector by announcing his intention of firing 100,000 civil servants, including nurses, firefighters, meat and water inspectors, and teachers, a bureaucracy that was created and enhanced by former Tory premier Bill Davis. The plan is part of Hudak’s goal of creating one million jobs, a proposal McMeekin had a tough time swallowing.
McMeekin also pointedly condemned Hudak for supporting the Mid-Peninsula Highway, which will mean paving over farmland and environmentally-sensitive wetlands in the Niagara and Hamilton areas.
“There are better ways to spend three billion dollars. I don’t think we want to embrace risky Tea Partism or Tea Party-like policies,” said McMeekin.
Instead, the Liberals introduced in their failed budget a spending program that included $130 billion in new infrastructure projects, which will create over 2 million jobs within a decade, said McMeekin. Other items in the budget included the promise of a new Ontario Pension Plan, increases to the minimum wage, and social assistance rate hikes. It projected a deficit of $12.5 billion, with a balanced budget by 2017-18.
“I would love to be a Liberal candidate or an NDP candidate and offer rainbows and unicorns to everybody inOntarioand everybody in my riding but it’s not sustainable,” Progressive Conservative candidate Donna Skelly told Hamilton Community News reporter Richard Leitner. Skelly blamed the Liberals for out-of-control spending that is leading the province to a financial crisis.
McMeekin who was first elected in 2001, says since the Liberals dumped the Tories in 2003, there are no more rolling blackouts, smog days are gone thanks to the closure of the coal-fired plants, health care is improving, and the economy is on the upswing.
“We are taking a balanced approached,” he said.
Skelly, running for the second time against McMeekin, said Ontario is at an economic crossroads caused by the Liberals with their profligate spending habits. With a $300 billion debt hanging over the province’s head, only the Tories “have the guts to tackle the problems that the Liberals have created,” she said.
“We have to make changes and I think they’re very reasonable, very do-able,” said Skelly.
NDP candidate Alex Johnstone said her party remains a viable option for residents who may be thinking about using their vote to prevent the Tories from taking power. She said the Liberals have been “wasteful” with taxpayers’ money, while the Tories are simply scaring people with their platform and cutting 100,000 jobs.
“We need to elect someone to get the job done,” said Johnstone, recently. “Why give (the Liberals) a second chance? I don’t know how popular (Ted) is. People are holding their nose and voting strategically. We need to have a strong presence, hold media events every week and grab some attention. People are fed up with the Liberal government. They are looking for change.”
McMeekin acknowledged the Liberals have had some “challenges.” The gas plants that were cancelled, at a cost of over $1 billion, should never have been located in the Greater Toronto areas. People should be sent to jail if they are convicted, he said.
“I’m getting sick and tired of being tainted with this stuff,” he said. “We’re a good government. We’ve done some good things. Let’s never forget that.”
But later, he pointed out all three parties during the 2011 election said they would cancel the gas plants.
“We were not the first party to say we wanted to close (the facilities),” said McMeekin.
And he doesn’t see the eHealth problems as a scandal. He pointed out the Tories invested $250 million to create an electronic health tracking system while in power, but quickly pulled the legislation because it would have violated privacy issues.
McMeekin said now health officials say it is “the single most important initiative,” something that is used by 7.3 million Ontarians.
“We are proud of our eHealth system,” said McMeekin. “It is making a difference.”
With files from Richard Leitner, Hamilton Community News.