The leaders of Ontario’s three main political parties used the third and final debate of the 2018 provincial election campaign to launch pointed attacks about each other’s integrity, as well as their credibility and track records on a number of high-profile public policy issues affecting voters.
The issues raised Sunday evening touched on everything from ‘hallway medicine,’ to improving child care services, reducing hydro rates, Hydro One executives’ compensation and how the parties’ would bankroll their respective election promises.
The hour and a half-long debate grew heated at a number of points as Liberal leader Kathleen Wynne, Progressive Conservative leader Doug Ford, and NDP leader Andrea Horwath talked over one another repeatedly and butted in with accusations of dishonesty and inaccuracy.
Sunday night’s debate, held at the CBC headquarters in downtown Toronto, represented the last televised leaders’ debate before Ontarians head to the polls on June 7.
The debate – moderated by Farah Nasser of Global News and TVO’s Steve Paikin – saw Wynne, Ford and Horwath field questions from journalists and from members of the public. The three leaders were also each given the opportunity to address a question of their own to one of their rivals.
Wynne, Ford take shots at Horwath
Wynne and Ford both aimed their questions at Horwath, whose popularity surged in recent polls and all but evaporated the Progressive Conservatives’ earlier lead.
The Liberal leader challenged Horwath about her promise to never use ‘back-to-work’ legislation, in reference to the York University strike. Wynne asked how the NDP leader would handle situations where labour negotiations hit an impasse without “putting Ontario permanently on strike” or “emptying the public purse” to surrender to union demands.
Horwath told Wynne she was “disappointed” and “expected a question like that from Mr. Ford.”
“We have to prevent those kinds of labour disputes from happening in the first place,” Horwath responded.
Wynne also took many other opportunities to dispute Horwath’s approach to issues like child care.
In attacking Horwath, Ford meanwhile focused on the legacy of the Ontario New Democrats under Bob Rae’s leadership and the NDP’s plans for increased social spending. He alleged an NDP government would “annihilate the middle class” and “bankrupt the province” – and alleged unaffordable living in Ontario would be “ten times worse.”
“How will you prevent your NDP government from causing another recession like the last NDP government caused – and it was a disaster,” Ford asked.
Horwath suggested Ford had “the facts wrong” and argued the NDP came to power “at a time when the economy was already failing.”
“We’re in 2018 now. This is not 1990,” the NDP leader said, adding that she would not take additional money out of the pockets of low-income and middle-class families to fulfill her party’s election promises.
“We are going to ask the richest people and the richest corporations to chip in a bit more … to make sure this province is a place where everyone has a chance to build a good life.”
Ford also used a costing mistake the NDP made in its platform to argue that the NDP could not be trusted in spending voters’ tax dollars and running the province.
‘Where is your plan?’
While Ford attempted to burn Horwath for the miscalculation in her platform, Wynne and Horwath chided the PC leader for not having yet released a comprehensive, costed campaign platform – pointing out that advance polling began Saturday.
Ford brushed off the attack, asserting his party is indeed sharing details with voters.
“We have a plan and we’re rolling it out every single day with costing,” Ford told Horwath, saying his party has been making a platform announcement “every day.”
The NDP leader told Ford “that’s not how it works.”
“The people of Ontario deserve so much better than that,” Horwath said, suggesting Ford is disrespecting voters by not giving them a costed platform to consider.
Wynne sided with Horwath, arguing that Ford can’t fulfill the promises he’s making without making cuts somewhere and people have “no idea” what that looks like at the moment.
“I think, if you had a plan, you would share it with the people of Ontario,” Wynne said.
Kathleen Wynne defends legacy
As she has throughout the campaign, Wynne spent a lot of the debate defending her record as premier. She conceded several times that her government can “do better” but argued it would be unfair to suggest “that nothing has improved” under her leadership.
In her opening statement, Wynne insisted she’s “sorry, not sorry” for the last five years.
“I’m really genuinely sorry that more people don’t like me. But I am not sorry about all of the things that we’re doing in Ontario to make life better,” she said, pointing to her movement on providing free tuition to low-income students, protecting the environment and raising the province’s minimum wage.
Green party leader weighs in from headquarters in Guelph
The leader of the Green Party of Ontario, Mike Schreiner, was not included in any of the three televised leaders’ debate this election campaign.
As Sunday night’s debate unfolded, Schreiner weighed in from afar, filming and posting his responses to certain questions and the leaders’ answers on social media.
The Green Party does not have any sitting MPPs in the provincial legislature.