Premier Kathleen Wynne continued her pre-by-election tour of southwestern Ontario Tuesday, pledging to pump up the knowledge economy in a bid to woo academically inclined London.
"Research and innovation are where the jobs of the future are going to come from," she said at a downtown youth employment centre. "Whether it's the auto sector, whether it's in health, whether it is in social services, we need those bright minds thinking about what comes next, and how do we make sure that young people have access to a full range of opportunities and those opportunities continue to grow."
Her Liberals will face a tough battle to hold the London-West riding, a seat left empty when former energy minister Chris Bentley quit the legislature earlier this year. The federal constituency is held by the Conservatives. The New Democrats are also competitive in the city, holding one seat provincially.
Ms. Wynne must call by-elections in London-West and Windsor-Tecumseh, the former riding of ex-treasurer Dwight Duncan, before the end of the summer. Ms. Wynne spent Monday in Windsor trying to stem an NDP surge there.
Flanked by London MPP and Health Minister Deb Matthews, who will co-chair the party's next election campaign effort, Ms. Wynne said no date for the by-elections has been set and that the party is still in the process of finding a candidate.
Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak, who has signalled he will likely try to trigger a general election this spring by voting against the government's budget, went on the offensive Tuesday. In a letter to Ms. Wynne, he highlighted Tory proposals to reign in spending and create jobs, including freezing public sector wages and limiting government spending to economic growth.
"We'll be campaigning for change in our province – whether it's a by-election election or a general election," he told reporters. "I just think the time has come and we're in the biggest jobs and debt crisis of our lifetimes. We can choose to act or we can kick the can down the road and make the problem worse."
Ms. Wynne spent part of the day discussing job creation with London business leaders – one of several such consultations across the province – to be followed by an afternoon tour of an arena.
She said her government would tackle unemployment in part through skills training to match workers with jobs and by allowing municipalities to craft local economic development plans.