Ontario Election Rivals Square Off Over Economic Plans

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne charged her main election rival’s spending cuts would spark a recession while he warned she’d raise taxes as they squared off in a debate over dueling plans to spark a sluggish economy.

“There’s no doubt that if Kathleen Wynne gets re-elected she’s going to raise your taxes,” Tim Hudak, leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives, said in the debate televised last night by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. “She says she’s going to balance the budget, but a few minutes ago she didn’t lay out any ideas to reduce spending.”

Hudak and Wynne have taken turns leading opinion polls over the past month as voters in the June 12 election decide whether the Conservative’s focus on lowering taxes and balancing the books or Wynne’s Liberal Party prescription for a fresh round of government stimulus spending is more likely to invigorate the economy of Canada’s most populous province.

“There is only one leader standing here right now who would put us back into recession with his plan, and that is Mr. Hudak,” said Wynne. “I believe that making the investments right now to allow us to grow the economy, to allow us to work with business, that is the way forward.”

Hudak didn’t back down from his promise to cut 100,000 government jobs. While saying much of the reductions could be achieved through attrition, he also said he would fire bureaucrats at agencies like Ontario Hydro, promising to use the cuts to balance the books and fund corporate tax cuts.

‘Flawed Premise’

Wynne called that plan a “shock to the system” that a fragile Ontario economy could ill afford, and repeated some economists’ criticisms of Hudak’s promise to create a million jobs in eight years. Ontario’s economy has stagnated at 1.3 percent growth in each of the past two years and is forecast to grow 2.1 percent this year.

Hudak “owes you an explanation as to the plan that he’s putting forward and how it is based on a flawed premise that no economists have agreed to,” she said.

Hudak’s “Million Jobs Plan” has been criticized for a mathematical error that inflated the number of jobs his policies would create. Wynne proposes to boost the deficit this year, adding C$3 billion ($2.7 billion) in program spending to help pay for investments in schools, roads and hospitals. Wynne has pledged to then eliminate the deficit by the fiscal year starting April 2017. Hudak says he can eliminate it a year earlier.

According to survey aggregator www.threehundredeight.com the Liberals had 37 percent voter support based on polls taken through June 1, compared with the 36 percent for the Conservatives. With the New Democratic Party garnering 20 percent, polls suggest the election will yield another minority government with the NDP holding the balance of power.

Gas Plants

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath sought to differentiate herself from Wynne’s platform by attacking what she called Liberal “corruption.”

An aide to former Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty is under investigation by the Ontario Provincial Police for deleting e-mails related to the relocation of two gas plants during the previous election, which is estimated to have cost over C$1 billion.

Horwath and Hudak both repeatedly asked Wynne why she supported the decision to move the gas plants. Wynne apologized for that decision and said she’d moved to prevent similar mistakes in future.

“New Democrats are talking about things differently than both the Liberals and the Conservatives,” Horwath said. “You don’t have to choose between bad ethics and bad math.”

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