Wynne takes aim at Harper in first day of Ontario election campaign

WATCH: Prime Minister Stephen Harper waded into the campaign Friday, slamming Wynne’s proposed Ontario pension plan — a centrepiece of her re-election bid — as a tax that won’t fly with voters.

TORONTO – Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne is fending off attacks from the Harper government in the first day of campaigning in the provincial election.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper waded into the campaign Friday, slamming Wynne’s proposed Ontario pension plan – a centrepiece of her re-election bid – as a tax that won’t fly with voters.

Wynne shot back Saturday, saying that if Harper isn’t willing to back the plan, he shouldn’t interfere.

“The first choice would have been to have an improvement and enhancement to the Canada Pension Plan, but the federal government is not interested in doing that,” she said.

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WATCH: An election is coming. Alan Carter breaks down how we got here and what’s ahead for Ontario voters. 

“So quite frankly I think that if Prime Minister Harper isn’t interested in partnering with us then he should move out of the way.”

Finance Minister Joe Oliver also weighed in on the issue Saturday, telling CBC that Wynne’s budget proposals would put the province on a “route to economic decline.”

Wynne’s response was to accuse the Harper government of balancing its books “on the backs of the people of Ontario” by cutting transfer payments for health and social spending – a long-standing point of contention between her minority Liberals and the federal government.

Ontario goes to the polls June 12

The province was plunged in a campaign for a June 12 election after the opposition parties said they had lost confidence in the minority Liberal government.

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Tory Leader Tim Hudak and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath decided to force an election rather than supporting a plan that would see Ontario through its fragile economic recovery, she said.

It would also improve people’s lives with a made-in-Ontario pension plan, billions for transit and transportation infrastructure and grants for businesses to create jobs, Wynne said.

“Quite frankly I thought there was a lot in the budget that would recommend itself to both the Tories and the NDP, but she made a different decision,” she said.

WATCH: NDP Leader Andrea Horwath will not support Liberals’ budget having lost confidence in the government

Although the NDP wrung concessions out of the Liberals in the last two budgets, Horwath said she could no longer prop up a government that was plagued by scandal after scandal and couldn’t trust the Liberals to keep all their budget promises.

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

“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 controversies kept piling up, from the costly cancellation of two gas plants to the police investigation into the Ornge air ambulance service and potentially unsafe girders that were installed in the Windsor parkway, said Horwath.

Read More: Five scandals likely to haunt the Liberals during the election

“It’s one scandal after another, it’s continued behaviour from a government that hasn’t seen the way to change their path, and so it wasn’t only the $1.1-billion (gas plants) scandal itself, but it’s the continuous cover up of information,” she said.

Wynne put on a brave face when asked whether the scandals she’s inherited from her predecessor Dalton McGuinty would finally end the Liberals’ decade-long rule.

“I will continue to provide the openness that I have brought to this job since I came in just over a year ago,” she said.

The dissolution of the legislature scuttles highly anticipated appearances of senior staff in McGuinty’s office before a legislative committee looking into the gas plants scandal.

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It also means there won’t be any finding of contempt against the Liberals for the deletion of emails and wiping of hard drives in the premier’s office because the committee is now disbanded.

The premier took several shots at Harper for failing to fund infrastructure to develop the Ring of Fire mineral deposit in northern Ontario, or help improve retirement income for people without a workplace pension plan.

But she reserved most of her vitriol for the NDP and the Tories.

“The NDP make pie-in-the-sky promises but they won’t say how they’ll pay for them,” Wynne said. “So now is not the time for pipe dreams.”

The Tories would “roll back the clock” in Ontario by “declaring war” on organized labour and slashing government programs people rely on, she added.

Wynne takes aim at Harper in first day of Ontario election campaign - image

“Their cuts would devastate crucial public services in health and education,” she said. “Their cuts would take us along a path towards a low-wage, low-growth economy.”

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Hudak said he has no qualms about taking his ideas to voters, which include lower corporate taxes and an across-the-board public sector wage freeze.

Horwath is hypocritical for taking so long to defeat the Liberals, which they should have done at least a year ago, he said in Ottawa.

“If you’re looking for who’s going to be the best actor on the stage, if you’re looking for someone who’s running a popularity contest by promising funding on all kinds of projects but they don’t have the cheques to cash in, well then vote for the Liberal leader or the NDP leader,” he said.

“But if you want a turnaround plan to get Ontario working again, look at me, look at my team, look at my plan.”

Several large labour groups, including the Unifor and the Ontario Federation of Labour, had 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 like the pension plan, the Liberals can’t be trusted, said OPSEU president Warren “Smokey” Thomas.

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

Even though Wynne asked to have the legislature dissolved on Friday, and it won’t sit again until after the election, the campaign period doesn’t officially begin until next Wednesday.

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