Caroline Mulroney says if she became premier of Ontario, she could find billions in internal government savings to balance her opposition to a provincial carbon tax.
The candidate for the leadership of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives spoke publicly for the first time Friday since announcing that she does not support the carbon tax measure that is part of the PC Party platform known as the People's Guarantee.
Appearing on stage at a Manning Centre conference in Ottawa, Ms. Mulroney was asked where she would find the roughly $4-billion in carbon tax revenue that her party's platform booked in order to pay for other promises, such as income tax reductions.
"The Liberals have been wasting money for 15 years and just recently the Auditor-General looked at 14 programs in Ontario and found a billion dollars of waste. So everyone knows that they've been wasting money," she said. "I'm confident that we'll be able to deliver a plan that makes life more affordable in Ontario and doesn't add to the tax burden of Ontarians."
Ms. Mulroney is among three main candidates who have declared for the leadership of the party in the wake of Patrick Brown's resignation as party leader over allegations of sexual misconduct. Voting by PC Party members will take place between March 2 and March 8. The winner will then lead the party into a provincial election that is scheduled for June 7.
The Ontario PC Platform, which has been removed from the party's website since Mr. Brown's departure, expects carbon tax revenue would bring in $1.3-billion in 2020-21 and $2.4-billion in 2021-22.
The platform also counts on billions in savings from a "value for money audit" that the party said represents less than 2 per cent of the provincial budget. Specifically, the platform says this review would find $6.1-billion over three years. Ms. Mulroney did not address how her proposed search for efficiencies would affect the platform's existing reference to finding internal savings.
Ms. Mulroney's two main challengers – Doug Ford and Christine Elliott – are scheduled to speak at the Manning Centre Conference on Saturday. Both Mr. Ford and Ms. Elliott have also said they oppose the carbon tax.
The appearance of a politician named Mulroney at a conference named after Preston Manning served as a reminder of the historical divisions within Canada's conservative movement.
It was the rise of Preston Manning's Reform Party that contributed to the demise of the federal Progressive Conservative Party, which had won two majority governments in the 1980s under Ms. Mulroney's father, former prime minister Brian Mulroney. Federal conservatives ultimately reunited under former Reform Party MP Stephen Harper, who led the Conservative Party of Canada and served as prime minister from 2006 to 2015.
Ms. Mulroney was asked how she would include the parts of the conservative movement – such as social conservatives – that have at times felt shunned by the Ontario PCs under Mr. Brown's leadership.
Ms. Mulroney said she wants a "big tent" party where all voices feel they have been heard.
While acknowledging that she has not been active in politics, Ms. Mulroney said she has other forms of experience that Ontarians will welcome.
"The Liberals have 15 years of political experience and that's what's gotten us into this mess," she said. "I come to this job with 20 years of private-sector experience. I've been in law. I've been in business. I've got a really broad understanding of how the economy works. I come to it with a broad understanding of what we need to do and how we need to fix this, and I've done this while raising a family. And so I think I've got the kind of experience that people want to see at Queen's Park, but I'm also a member of a team and it's a great team."