The war of words between Ontario Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne and Prime Minister Stephen Harper ratcheted up on Thursday as the Liberal campaign rolled into the nation’s capital.
In a breakfast speech at the Ottawa Convention Centre, within sight of the Parliament buildings, Ms. Wynne accused Mr. Harper of hurting her province through the federal transfer system, neglecting the Ring of Fire mineral deposit and ignoring the country’s pension crisis.
She even criticized his philosophy of a more minimal federal government.
“I don’t have to accept that small, narrow vision of what this country is, and I don’t accept it. I reject it categorically,” she said. “I am going to, at every turn, argue for a different vision for this country and for this province’s relationship with Canada.”
Federal Treasury Board President Tony Clement returned fire, saying outside the House of Commons Ms. Wynne’s attacks are “a campaign technique to deflect attention from the disastrous record of the Ontario Liberal government, economic record as well as gas plants and shredding e-mails and 40 per cent hikes in hydro bills.”
The fight between the two levels of government has been a hallmark of the campaign, with the Liberal Leader trying to fire up her base by charging that the Prime Minister is hurting the province.
But Ms. Wynne on Thursday went a step further, saying voters should reject Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak because he is too similar to Mr. Harper to stand up for Ontario’s interests.
“How can Ontarians trust Tim Hudak to confront Stephen Harper when he shares so many of his values, ideals and policies?” she said.
Mr. Harper’s spokesman, Jason MacDonald, said if the province wants federal help building infrastructure for the Ring of Fire, it can apply for money from the Building Canada Fund. He also pointed out that, overall, federal transfers to the provinces have risen over the past year when the entire country is factored in. And he contended that a mandatory Ontario pension would be a tax.
New Democrat Andrea Horwath, meanwhile, accused the Liberals of failing to preserve Ontario jobs, pointing to the closing of the Unilever food processing plant in Brampton.
“[This is] again demonstrating that the Liberals have had no plan to keep good jobs here,” Ms. Horwath said at London’s downtown Covent Garden Market, where she was mainstreeting with voters. Asked how her party would prevent similar job losses in the future, the NDP Leader said she would create targeted tax incentives for employers who create jobs.
Also on the employment front on Thursday, Mr. Hudak highlighted his pitch that changing apprenticeship ratios would create 200,000 more spots in the skilled trades for young people.
“They have this old rule that dates back to the 1970s that says for every single apprentice in many trades, you have to have four or five journeymen, so they limit the number of opportunities,” Mr. Hudak told construction workers at a new housing project in the Toronto suburbs.
With reports from Josh Wingrove in Ottawa and The Canadian Press