Premier-elect Dalton McGuinty is ruling out negotiating with opposition leaders after his narrow victory, saying he has a strong mandate to govern Ontario.
Mr. McGuinty described the outcome of Thursday’s election, which left him just one seat shy of a third straight majority, as a “major minority.”
This is enough, he said, to pursue the agenda he campaigned on, one that allowed him to reverse his waning fortunes in the opinion polls and make a political comeback.
Mr. McGuinty said at a news conference Friday morning at his party headquarters in Ottawa that his task is clear: He has been elected to create jobs, grow the economy and strengthen the province’s schools and hospitals.
He will preside over a Liberal government that is stable and experienced, he said.
“So if there is a party that has properly positioned itself to ensure that we inspire the confidence, not only of Ontarians but the other two parties themselves, it’s our party.”
When the polls first suggested a week ago that the Liberals could end up with a minority, Mr. McGuinty emphatically ruled out working together with New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath in a coalition.
Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak, meanwhile, did his utmost to suggest that talks between his two rivals were already under way and said Thursday evening that Mr. McGuinty will be on a short leash.
But Mr. McGuinty reiterated that position on Friday, saying both the Progressive Conservatives and New Democrats should be able to support an agenda that is in the political centre.
“We are a middle of the road party,” he said. “We’re a progressive party.”
Mr. McGuinty also suggested that he is ruling out recounts in ridings where the margins were razor thin to push him over the magic threshold of 54 of the provincial legislature’s 107 seats.
“I’m not putting a lot of faith in that end of it,” he said, adding that outcome in most ridings was “pretty decisive.”
The first priority for his third term in office will be addressing the weakening economy, and the impact that will have on Ontario. To that end, Dwight Duncan, who won his fifth consecutive term in the riding of Windsor-Tecumseh, will remain as finance minister, and has been asked to begin working immediately on an economic update.
Mr. McGuinty ducked questions on his relationship with Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government. Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty endorsed his rival, Mr. Hudak.
But he said another top priority will be cobbling together a new health accord - the current, 10-year deal expires in fiscal 2013-14. To that end, Mr. McGuinty spoke briefly Friday morning with Quebec Premier Jean Charest and his counterparts in Prince Edward Island and Manitoba - Robert Ghiz and Greg Selinger, respectively, both of whom were also re-elected this week.
“It can’t be something of modest duration,” said Mr. McGuinty, who pressed for another 10-year accord during the campaign.