New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath faced continuous attacks from her two opponents on Sunday in the final debate before Ontario heads to the polls, a marked contrast to the last time the leaders squared off and a sign of the dramatic shift in the province’s election campaign.
“Your plan will annihilate the middle class,” Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford said to Ms. Horwath, during one of the number of verbal scuffles between the two leaders. “Your plan is for the rich,” she shot back.
Mr. Ford, who presented himself as the most fiscally prudent of the three leaders, faced a barrage of questions over his party’s failure to present a fully costed platform yet, despite the first votes already being cast at advanced polls.
Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne attempted to present herself as an unapologetic moderate between Ms. Horwath’s promise of new government programs and Mr. Ford’s vow to cut $6-billion from the budget. She acknowledged in the opening minutes of the debate that she is disliked by many in her province.
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“Sorry, not sorry,” Ms. Wynne said during the debate, which was broadcast on Sunday evening from the CBC’s studio in downtown Toronto. “I’m really genuinely sorry that more people don’t like me. But I am not sorry about all the things we’re doing in Ontario to make lives better.”
A number of polls suggest that the New Democrats and Progressive Conservatives could redraw the province’s political boundaries and end the Liberal Party’s hold on the province after 15 years in government. While Ms. Wynne has admitted that her party is facing an uphill fight to win re-election, some polls show the Liberals facing a potentially catastrophic election night, with the party reduced to a few seats.
While both Ms. Wynne and Mr. Ford are warning that the New Democrats are “radicals,” support for the New Democrats has been surging since the election campaign began and Ms. Horwath has been the front-runner in most polls over the past week to take over Canada’s second-largest government after the vote on June 7.
Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne are criticizing Doug Ford’s Tories for not releasing a full platform ahead of June’s provincial election. The leaders spoke to reporters after Sunday’s debate.
The Canadian Press
Her main selling point so far has been that her party, which hasn’t been in the Premier’s Office at Queen’s Park since 1995, doesn’t have the baggage facing the Liberals and Tories. While Mr. Ford, a former Toronto councillor who became a household name during his brother’s time as mayor, and Ms. Wynne are divisive figures, most opinion polls show that Ontarians have a generally positive view of Ms. Horwath.
While the leaders also debated health care and education, affordability was one of the main themes running through the debate. Ms. Wynne and Ms. Horwath offered competing visions for a publically subsidized daycare system, wider dental coverage and a public drug plan. Mr. Ford put forward a tax rebate for daycare and wider tax cuts for middle-income earners and businesses. All three parties also have competing plans to reduce hydro rates.
“They will destroy our province, destroy our economy. That’s a fact,” Mr. Ford warned of the New Democrats. The Tories have promised a 20-per-cent cut to the second-lowest income-tax bracket, an end to the province’s cap-and-trade system, and a 10-cent-per-litre cut to the gasoline tax. However the party has not explained how it would pay for the tax cuts, which are expected to cost several billion dollars annually.
Ms. Horwath faced questions from the Liberal Leader about a mistake in the NDP platform that meant the party’s spending document would cost $1.4-billion more annually than originally estimated. The NDP counted a $700-million reserve fund in its proposed budget as revenue rather than as an expense, doubling the size of the error.
Like the two other major parties, the NDP has promised deficits during its first years in power. Mr. Ford has promised that he will eventually wipe out the province’s deficit, saying he would do it in either the party’s third or fourth year in power.
“We don’t make mistakes in our budget,” Mr. Ford said. “Do you have one?” asked Ms. Horwath. “People started voting yesterday Mr. Ford. Where is your platform? Where is your respect for the people now when they are already at the polls and you haven’t provided them with any information?” she asked.