June 9, 2014 7:00 pm

Wynne softens tone, but keeps up attacks on ‘wrong-headed’ rivals

Watch above: Why Kathleen Wynne is urging voters to question the motivations of her opponents. Alan Carter reports. 

CAMBRIDGE, Ont. – Premier Kathleen Wynne adopted a somewhat softer campaign tone Monday even as she kept up her attacks on her rivals, calling them poor choices for Ontario voters come election day.

Speaking at an elementary school, Wynne spoke at length about her political motivations as she touted the Liberal track record on education.

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It was as a young mother who saw the disruptions in the education system under former Progressive Conservative premier Mike Harris that she was driven to try to improve the system, she said.

The system, she said, is now under threat from her Tory opponent, Tim Hudak, with his pledge to cut 100,000 public-sector jobs.

“The reason that I’m in politics is that when it was tried before under Mike Harris, it didn’t work. It created chaos in the system,” Wynne said.

“That’s what motivated me then … and that’s what motivates me now. That’s why I’m in this.”

In pointed speeches over the weekend, Wynne characterized both Hudak and New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath as being reckless and misleading voters.

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She blasted their approach and platforms, and pleaded with NDP voters to side with her as the only way to stop Hudak.

She insisted they were scandalmongers and mudslingers for calling the Liberal government corrupt and dishonest over the gas plants scandal, which will cost taxpayers an estimated $1.1 billion.

On Monday, however, Wynne sounded a softer note as she reflected on a “very lively campaign” she said should be about more than tactics, strategy and politics.

She pointed to higher graduation rates and other education improvements that have occurred over the past decade under a Liberal government she only took over 16 months ago.

Hudak would undermine those improvements with a plan that “starts with cuts and continues with cuts,” Wynne said.

“It’s wrong-headed. I don’t believe it. We’ve seen it before.”

At the same time, she said, Horwath is simply “stringing together a bunch of disparate ideas” leading to a “real incoherence” in what the opposition is saying.

In Depth: Ontario Election 2014

Wynne said she wanted voters to understand the “stark” choice they have June 12. She said she saw no contradiction in saying she wanted to stay away from tactics and strategy while continuing to criticize her opponents and their platforms.

“This is an election campaign – it is a pitched competition between political parties,” Wynne said.

“There’s absolutely no doubt that there are two options facing people: One is Tim Hudak’s cut-and-slash agenda, and one is our plan, which would build the province up.”

At a later stop in Stratford, Wynne played up the importance of agriculture to the province and of bridging the urban-rural divide.

“There is only one Ontario,” she said.

© The Canadian Press, 2014

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