VAUGHAN – Premier Kathleen Wynne stepped up her attacks against Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak Monday, calling his plan for the province a “frightening” one that would push Ontario back towards a recession.
At a campaign stop in Vaughan, north of Toronto, Wynne hammered away at Hudak’s election campaign pledge to shrink the public sector by 100,000 jobs.
“We believe this is exactly the wrong way to go,” she said at a carpenters’ training centre.
“His approach would sacrifice our fragile economic recovery and would plunge us back toward recession. That may be his approach but it’s not mine and it is not ours.”
As she stood surrounded by carpenters-in-training, Wynne said the Tory plan would lead to the firing of many people who hire skilled tradespeople for home renovations. Highly trained, skilled apprentices will have trouble finding work if Ontario is plunged back into recession, she warned.
“If people can’t afford to build new houses, if they can’t afford to invest in new additions or renovations and if government isn’t building and investing, then carpenters and other skilled tradespeople are not working,” Wynne said.
“That’s the reality and the frightening prospect of the Hudak PCs.”
A Liberal government would safeguard those jobs by investing $130 billion over a decade in infrastructure projects across the province, Wynne said.
“Unlike Tim Hudak, we believe that jobs are more important than cuts,” she said. “We have a plan to cut ribbons at construction sites, Tim Hudak’s plan would cut jobs at construction sites.”
Hudak’s proposal to shrink the public sector if his party wins next month’s election was first announced Friday, drawing swift condemnation from the Liberals and the NDP.
Watch: Hudak questioned over when his one million new jobs will arrive
But the Tory leader has said his tough love proposal – which amounts to a 10 per cent reduction in the broader public sector – would spur job creation in the private sector while saving the province $2 billion a year.
Tim Hudak adamant he can create a million new jobs
On Monday, Hudak again defended his plan while campaigning in Smithville, Ont., saying it was a much-needed move.
“Public sector plays an important role, there’s no doubt about it. That’s my family: my mom, my dad, my sister too. I understand. But we need to reduce the cost and size of government,” said Hudak, whose parents both worked in schools
“It is a necessary step to create one million more jobs in the province.”
The much-touted Tory “million jobs plan” would reach its target over eight years while Hudak’s public sector cuts are part of a larger goal of eliminating the province’s $12.5-billion deficit by 2016.
Meanwhile, Wynne has promised that the Liberals will balance the books by 2017-2018, while continuing to be the “leanest government” in Canada if re-elected.
“We are very, very careful and the endeavour of making sure that we’re being prudent and spending in a reasonable way – that’s an ongoing process,” she said Monday afternoon in Stoney Creek, Ont.
“I would suggest that everyone in this province counts on strong education, a strong health-care system that is there when they need it and I will not sacrifice those things in order to balance the budget 365 days earlier.”
Hudak has said he would protect “vital” services like nurses, doctors and police, but teachers and administrative positions would be part of his proposed cuts.
Whether Wynne can convince voters to trust her over her opponents, however, remains to be seen.
She has continued to face questions about a number of scandals that have plagued the Liberal government in recent years, including the cancellation of two gas plants when Dalton McGuinty was premier, which could cost taxpayers up to $1.1 billion.
Watch: Kathleen Wynne says Liberal government can move past mistakes
When asked why voters should take her at her word, Wynne sought to distinguish herself from her predecessor.
“There were some mistakes that had been made,” she said of McGuinty’s government. “I knew the challenges that we were confronting, I have come in and for the last year I have been changing the rules…I’m taking my integrity and my record on the road.”
The province goes to the polls on June 12.