Ontario Liberal Leader Dalton McGuinty launched a blistering attack on the Hudak Tories and their health-care plan. Small problem, though: the attack had to be explained.
At an event Monday morning at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO), Mr. McGuinty was talking up the province’s newborn screening program, which screens for 28 different disorders, including sickle cell disease and cystic fibrosis.
During his speech to hospital staff, he mounted an attack – er, criticism, of what the Liberals are characterizing as the “Harris-Hudak” Progressive Conservatives, warning that the Tories closed hospitals before “and they will do it again.”
When the speech was over, after a small scrum and as reporters were boarding the campaign bus, a McGuinty handler came by to explain to reporters that this was the very “first” time that Mr. McGuinty has stated that a Progressive Conservative government under Tim Hudak would close hospitals – just in case you missed it.
And it could have been missed. Unlike his federal cousins during election campaigns, Mr. McGuinty does not go negative with tremendous passion.
Here’s what he told the doctors and nurses he met with: “The PCs have a $14-billion hole in their plan [platform] this time ... they fired 6,000 nurses. We have hired 11,500 nurses. They closed 28 hospitals. We built 18 new hospitals ...,” he said.
He went on to note that in Ottawa, the Harris Tories closed Grace Hospital, Riverside Hospital and tried to close Montfort Hospital.
He was referring to Mike Harris’s PC government in the 1990s, which closed the Grace; the Riverside became an out-patient care facility. The Montfort – a bilingual hospital – remained open after much protest from the francophone community.
Mr. McGuinty, who is from Ottawa and whose riding includes CHEO, also said that the Tories tried to close the cardiac unit at CHEO “so we might send our babies and our children to Toronto for treatment.”
But they backed down after community pressure.
“They closed hospitals before and they will do it again,” claimed Mr. McGuinty.
Later, his campaign sent out an email noting that Mr. Hudak, while in the Eves government in 2002, voted against Mr. McGuinty’s motion to save the cardiac unit. (Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and Industry Minister Tony Clement, who were both part of the Eves government at that time, also voted against it.)
A recent Nanos poll showed that health-care was the number issue for Ontario voters – 26.4 per cent of poll respondents said health care was the issue of most concern compared to 16 per cent who are concerned about jobs and the economy.
As for who voters trust to handle those issues – 27 per cent said they would trust Mr. McGuinty on health-care compared to 22 per cent for Mr. Hudak.
Mr. Hudak’s health-care plan calls for 5,000 new long-term care beds. The Liberals have promised to provide tax credits of up to $1,500 to seniors for renovations, such as ramps or walk-in tubs, to allow them to stay in their homes longer.