Voters got a sense of Ontario's election campaign yesterday with Liberal Leader Dalton McGuinty listing his past successes in public education, and his chief opponent labelling him a promise breaker.
The campaign for the Oct. 10 election kicks off today, but party leaders took another opportunity yesterday to attack each other's past records and platforms.
Progressive Conservative Leader John Tory called a news conference at a Toronto hotel, saying that Mr. McGuinty cannot be trusted and any new promises will result in tax increases or a substantial deficit.
"People want to know if you say you're doing something that you're going to do it. Mr. McGuinty's track record in this regard has been pathetic," Mr. Tory said. "There has been no leader in modern times in politics in Canada ... who has this record of saying things."
Mr. McGuinty, who appeared at a rally in his Conservative rival's Toronto riding of Don Valley West, dismissed any suggestion that he has not fulfilled many of his promises.
"The fact of the matter is that we kept the overwhelmingly majority of our promises and that's why we've been able to move forward with better schools and better health care and so many important environmental initiatives," he told reporters.
"I'm going to work as hard as I can to keep this campaign on a positive footing, to talk about what it is we've been able to do and how much more we would like to do on behalf of Ontario families."
Still, he didn't hesitate in criticizing Mr. Tory's plan to extend funding to all religious schools, not just Roman Catholic ones - a topic that has become the dominant election issue.
Mr. McGuinty told about 300 supporters attending a rally at Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute that Mr. Tory's plan would take millions of dollars out of the public education system.
Outside the school, a handful of demonstrators carrying placards and chanting slogans said that Mr. McGuinty's choice to only fund Catholic schools amounts to discrimination. He did not meet with them.
Last night, the Public Education Fairness Network, a group which is seeking public funding for faith-based schools, announced that the Ontario Catholic Church had endorsed their position, stating "that parents have the right to make educational choices for their children, and that the state should assist them." The network was quoting a news release by the Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops, which had recently been criticized for being silent on the debate.