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Premier Kathleen Wynne speaks from a Cabinet meeting in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. on Friday March 1, 2013. (KENNETH ARMSTRONG/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Premier Kathleen Wynne speaks from a Cabinet meeting in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. on Friday March 1, 2013. (KENNETH ARMSTRONG/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

ONTARIO POLITICS

Ontario Premier woos Windsor as campaign co-chair resigns Add to ...

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne is fighting to stamp out NDP fire in a hotly contested city ahead of a crucial by-election.

The Premier rolled into Windsor on Monday to talk about jobs, which will be a key issue in the coming battle. She will have to face that fight without Greg Sorbara, as the party has confirmed he is stepping down as the Liberals’ campaign co-chair.

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The Rose City has been battered by ups and downs in the manufacturing sector and, according to data from Statistics Canada, has an unemployment rate of 9.2 per cent in February, more than two points above the national average.

Ms. Wynne spent the morning at an industrial enterprise meeting with business leaders and academics, the latest of several such roundtables she has held across the province. She emerged from the sit-down pledging to improve job-training programs.

“If we wait until young people are in Grade 12 [before we] start thinking about those skills and exposing them to opportunities, it’s way too late. We have to be helping young people much, much earlier,” she said.

Jobs will be a centrepiece of the NDP’s pitch to the city as well, a party insider said. New Democrats have argued in favour of rejigging corporate tax credits to tie incentives to job-creation numbers.

Working-class Windsor is fertile ground for the NDP: The party has held both federal seats for more than a decade and scooped up adjacent Essex from the Liberals in the 2011 provincial election.

Windsor-Tecumseh was left vacant last month when former finance minister Dwight Duncan resigned. Mr. Sorbara, another former finance minister and stalwart of the Dalton McGuinty era, will cede the task to Health Minister Deb Matthews and Tim Murphy, chief of staff to former prime minister Paul Martin. Mr. Sorbara ran all three of former premier McGuinty’s victories and had been expected to run the next campaign as well.

Ms. Wynne has until late summer to hold a by-election. And on Monday, she gave no indication when it would happen. The local riding association, she said, is still searching for prospective candidates.

A by-election could be made moot if Ms. Wynne fails to pass a budget and is forced to call an election. The NDP has said it will only prop up her government if it receives a handful of policy concessions in the budget.

And on Monday, it ratcheted up the pressure on one of those demands, a 15-per-cent cut in auto-insurance premiums.

NDP MPP Jagmeet Singh told a Queen’s Park news conference that he wants the Liberals to release a report on insurance industry profits, which could play a part in determining what drivers should pay.

“People in Ontario are hard hit in many areas, and one of the areas where we see some savings in terms of affordability is auto insurance,” he said. “In this province, we have a lack of public transit. And a reality is, if you don’t have public transit, you have to rely on your automobile to get to work, to pick up your children from school.”

The Liberals have repeatedly said that their changes to the insurance industry and crackdowns on fraud have allowed premiums to fall slightly. But Mr. Singh said such an incremental approach is not enough, and his party wants to see immediate help for drivers.

If Ms. Wynne is worried about her party, however, she wasn’t showing it Monday. Asked about the by-election, she responded simply: “Well, we’re going to win it.”

With a report from The Canadian Press

Follow on Twitter: @adrianmorrow

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