Ontario Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty says he won't be pushed around when he's dealing with the federal government and that's why a federal Tory minister didn’t pick him as his preferred premier candidate.
“It’s no secret, if they have their choice, they’d like to have an Ontario premier who will do as he’s told,” Mr. McGuinty said at a campaign stop in Cornwall, Ont., on Saturday afternoon.
“The problem that they have with me, is I don’t fit that job description.”
His response was on the heels of an endorsement for his main rival, Tory leader Tim Hudak, from federal Conservative Finance Minister Jim Flaherty. Mr. Flaherty announced his support last Friday for his Tory cousins, an attempt to boost their chances of forming government in Ontario.
The provincial election campaign has moved into its final days ahead of Thursday's vote and polls suggest a dead heat between the Liberals and the Conservatives.
Focusing on the province's debt and deficits, Mr. Flaherty told an Empire and Canadian Club audience that Ontario “can't afford four more years of the same Dalton McGuinty government.”
His endorsement clashes with Mr. McGuinty's campaign message that he is the best leader to keep the province afloat during economic uncertainty.
But Mr. McGuinty dismissed that his chances of being elected premier may have been hurt by the endorsement for Mr. Hudak.
“Not at all,” Mr. McGuinty said. “I don’t think Ontarians like being told what to do, I think Ontarians have got a mind of their own.”
He referred to his experience working with three Canadian prime ministers.
“I know what they expect, what they’d like to see in Ontario premiers. They like to see somebody who’s going to stay quiet and do as he’s told,” Mr. McGuinty said.
The Liberal leader is using the opportunity to try to prove he is the only candidate who will stand up to Prime Minister Stephen Harper over the renewal of federal-provincial transfers for health and social spending.
To this end, the Liberals will be airing a new attack ad against Mr. Hudak in the following days. It brings up Mr. Hudak's junior health minister job during health care cuts under the Tory government of Mike Harris.
Not only is Mr. McGuinty competing with Mr. Hudak, the NDP is also a concern because the party could siphon votes from the Liberals.
On Saturday, NDP leader Andrea Horwath opened a stump speech at a market near Leamington with a shot at Mr. Hudak over their shared pledge to shave HST off some purchases.
“I wonder if Mr. Hudak will tell his friends in Ottawa that we need to take the HST off home heating,” she said, referencing his endorsement from Ottawa.
With a report from Adrian Morrow