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Ont. Liberal leader Kathleen Wynne gets on her campaign bus in Toronto on Monday May 5, 2014. (Frank Gunn/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Ont. Liberal leader Kathleen Wynne gets on her campaign bus in Toronto on Monday May 5, 2014. (Frank Gunn/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Wynne, PMO exchange broadsides over pensions Add to ...

For the fourth straight day, Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne targeted Prime Minister Stephen Harper in her election campaign – this time taking a swipe at the pension he’ll receive.

And the Prime Minister’s Office fired back, accusing the Grits of choosing “a course of higher taxes and more debt” for Ontario.

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In a scrum after a speech at a high school Monday, Ms. Wynne promptly took aim at Mr. Harper for opposing her government’s proposed Ontario Retirement Pension Plan. She said the plan would roughly double the maximum benefit of the Canada Pension Plan to $25,000 per year for retirees.

“Stephen Harper, when he retires, is going to have about 10 times that amount in his pension,” she said in Richmond Hill, the community north of Toronto where she grew up. “The reality is that if he doesn’t believe that the Canada Pension Plan should be enhanced, then he should move out of the way and let Ontario do its work.”

Ms. Wynne’s numbers are somewhat off: If Mr. Harper were to retire in 2016, he would collect $191,094 per year, according to calculations by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, which monitors MP pensions. Mr. Harper significantly cut his projected retirement payout in 2012.

The Prime Minister had tried to avoid being baited by the Liberals over the weekend, but his spokesman hit back against the latest criticisms.

“Our government has taken a low-tax approach, and we’ll continue to lower taxes as we move toward a balanced budget in 2015,” Jason MacDonald wrote in an e-mail. “The Ontario Liberals, on the other hand, are proposing higher pension payroll taxes, while we’ve cut taxes and provided incentives to those who want to save.”

Mr. MacDonald also went a step further, slamming Ms. Wynne’s government for increasing the deficit two years in a row.

The Progressive Conservatives, for their part, tried to put the Liberals on the defensive over the billion-dollar cancellation of two gas-fired power plants.

Leader Tim Hudak and energy critic Lisa MacLeod released their statement of defence in a $2-million lawsuit brought by Ms. Wynne. The Liberal Leader sued the pair for accusing her of taking part in the destruction of documents related to the plants.

In their defence, Mr. Hudak and Ms. MacLeod’s lawyers argue they “had a legal, social and/or moral duty to make the statements complained of.”

“I’m not going to back down,” Mr. Hudak told reporters at a recording studio in Mississauga. “When people see a billion dollars [added to] their hydro bills, blown to save Liberal seats, there’s another reason why we need change.”

New Democrat Andrea Horwath, who spent the day campaigning in Brampton, said Ms. Wynne’s government “has been plagued with scandal.” She also challenged her two rivals to five debates. Ms. Wynne agreed in principle, but said it was up to the television networks to decide how many they could handle.

Ms. Wynne has criticized Mr. Harper on every day of the campaign so far. In some speeches, she has invoked his name as many times as Mr. Hudak’s and Ms. Horwath’s. Picking a fight with the feds is an age-old tactic in provincial politics, and Ms. Wynne seemed determined to fire up her base by portraying herself as the province’s defender in the face of an uncaring Ottawa.

“I am the Premier, and am running to be the Premier again of the province of Ontario,” she said. “I will always stand up for the people of Ontario and their needs and desires.”

With a report from The Canadian Press

Follow on Twitter: @adrianmorrow

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