By Kevin Werner, News Staff
As public opinion polls had the Progressive Conservatives and Liberals in a neck-and-neck race with five days left in the election campaign, Premier Kathleen Wynne and NDP leader Andrea Horwath took turns castigating each other during stops in Hamilton on June 7.
Wynne hammered Horwath during stops at Liberal MPP Ted McMeekin’s Waterdown campaign office and Hamilton Mountain Liberal candidate Javid Mirza’s Stone Church headquarters, saying the NDP leader is only trying to “sling mud” and was “creating controversy” rather than debate her party’s platform.
“She has not brought forward a coherent plan to the people of Ontario,” said Wynne. “She hasn’t made it clear what she stands for.”
But a few hours later Horwath responded while attending a Hamilton food store’s 50th birthday celebration at the Hamilton Farmers’ Market. She labeled Wynne and the Liberals “corrupt” and called the June 12 election a chance for voters to oust the Liberals.
“I think this campaign is clearly about cleaning up the corruption at Queen’s Park,” said Horwath.
Horwath and Tim Hudak, leader of the Progressive Conservatives, who made a stop in Mississauga, sent a letter to Wynne demanding she release documents that the Ontario Provincial Police have asked for, including visitor records from Queen’s Park. The OPP made the request to legislative staff, not the premier’s office and it has a 10-day deadline. The request was made as the
OPP investigates the gas plant decision and how the premier’s office was involved during former premier Dalton McGuinty’s term.
Both Horwath and Hudak have stated they will call for an inquiry into the gas plant decision after the election.
Wynne reiterated her statement in Waterdown that the Liberals “learned lessons” for closing the gas plants in Mississauga and Oakville in 2011 at a cost of about $1.1 billion. The plans were relocated to Sarnia and Napanee.
“Andrea Horwath is absolutely wrong,” said Wynne. “It is not in the realm for me to interfere in an ongoing investigation.”
The most recent election polls clearly show that Ontario voters are heading towards another minority government, a situation that could have the NDP as the third party supporting the Liberals. The latest surveys have the Liberals at 39 per cent, the Tories at 37 per cent, the NDP at 17 and the Greens pulling in 6 per cent.
Horwath rejected the idea that the NDP will be stuck with third-party status, arguing the NDP message is being picked up across the province, especially in Hamilton even if the premier made two campaign appearances in the city in one day, a possible indication of how the votes are being broken down.
“I’m running to be premier of this province,” said Horwath. “The last time I checked Hamiltonians were pretty supportive of what the New Democrats are doing.”
The NDP is counting on incumbent MPPs Paul Miller in Hamilton East-Stoney Creek, Monique Taylor for Hamilton Mountain and Horwath to retain their ridings. Still some NDP supporters and unions have been urging voters to think first about preventing the Tories from winning the election.
“The only poll that matters is the poll on election day,” said Horwath, who called the recent poll results “all over the map.”
Wynne was equally dismissive of another minority government, saying the Liberals are campaigning for a “strong mandate.” The premier has stated that if the Liberals form the next government they will re-introduce the budget that the NDP voted down prompting the election.
“I’ve worked in a minority parliament,” said Wynne. “We will work with whatever configuration the people of Ontario sends us.”
McMeekin said he expects the vote to coalesce in the run up to election day. He argues the NDP support is “slipping” and the Liberals are benefiting.
“I’m optimistic on e-day it will be a very close election,” said McMeekin. “People still don’t understand why Andrea Horwath pulled the plug on what the economists and all the stakeholders said (the budget) was the most progressive in the last 30 years.”