Tory ‘hat trick’ not in Ontario’s best interests, McGuinty charges
New lines are being drawn in the Battle of Ontario as the campaign heads into its critical last week, with political leaders fighting to position themselves as the candidate who can stand up to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and win concessions for the province.
Whoever is elected premier will soon end up at a table negotiating a new health accord for the province, and at Tuesday night’s debate Liberal Leader Dalton McGuinty told viewers that Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak wasn’t up for the job.
He resumed the attack Wednesday morning as he raised the spectre of the so-called “Ontario hat trick” Mr. Harper referred to during a summer backyard barbecue – Conservatives in Ottawa, Rob Ford in Toronto and a Progressive Conservative majority in Queen’s Park.
“Can you imagine Tim Hudak at the table with Stephen Harper negotiating a 10-year health accord?” Mr. McGuinty asked supporters at a rally in Vaughan. “A conservative hat trick may have a nice ring for some people but I think we need to ensure we have a champion for Ontario.”
Mr. Hudak was just down the road as Mr. McGuinty made his speech, and was quick to fight back and position himself as a provincial defender. He used the opportunity to hammer Mr. McGuinty on the $1-billion in losses at eHealth and the unknown cost of moving a Mississauga power plant that has already started to be built.
“I’ll always fight to put Ontario first,” he said. “Dalton McGunity can’t stand up for Ontario any more because he’s loaded down with a billion dollars on his back from eHealth and the whole Mississauga power plant fiasco. How can you go and ask for more money at confederation when you’ve blown so much money on waste?”
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath also chimed in and declared herself the best negotiator for provincial health care funds.
“The question voters need to ask themselves is who do they trust to stick up for a universal, affordable, and accessible public healthcare system,” said Ms.Horwath. “All provincial Premiers will be sitting at the table with Stephen Harper, who has, on multiple occasions, opposed public health care, promoted private options, and downplayed the Federal government’s role in health care.
“Ontario needs a strong voice at the table and Mr. McGuinty and Mr. Hudak’s track record speak for themselves.”
The Harper government has gone out of its way to stay out of the headlines during the provincial election, issuing orders on how best to interact with fellow conservatives on the campaign trail. MPs are encouraged to help local candidates where they can, so long as it doesn’t make them the focus of the news or jeopardize a relationship with whichever party ends up winning.
It’s a fine balance, and MP Dean Del Mastro found himself out of step when he commissioned his own poll when he felt the Peterborough PC candidate was being underrepresented in a poll done by a local newspaper.
As he apologized, another story came out about Mr. Harper’s chief of staff hosting a fundraiser for a Toronto-area PC candidate.
“During these elections you may be called upon by a provincial candidate to assist them in their election. Please keep in mind that we do not want the federal government to become a story in any of these elections,” federal Conservatives were told in a memo. It added that any participation must be done in a way “that does not impair our ability to maintain appropriate federal-provincial relations and does not bring the federal government into disrepute.”