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8:30 p.m. ET

The final Ontario election debate: recap

Samantha Edwards: Despite moderator Steve Paikin noting that the leaders’ microphone would be cut if they talked over each other, that didn’t appear to happen. At multiple times throughout the debate, the moderators had to interrupt the leaders as they clashed on a range of topics including health care spending, public education and the rising cost of living.

Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford Ford positioned himself as the only leader who would build new infrastructure and grow the economy, while continually attacking Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca and previous Liberal governments.

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NDP Leader Andrea Horwath highlighted the NDPs progressive platform promises, including OHIP-covered therapy and expanding rent control, and touted the NDP as the only party that can defeat Ford. While Horwath targeted Del Duca for the previous Liberal cabinet, Del Duca focused on attention Ford, taking aim at the PC’s recent budget that proposes cuts to public education.

Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner, meanwhile, was the only leader to bring up the urgency of the climate crisis in his opening and closing statements, saying that it’s critical to stop Ford from “paving over our future.”

7:58 p.m. ET

Leaders make closing remarks

Dustin Cook: Horwath up first, she appeals that NDP are the best shot at defeating Ford and the PCs and asks people to “come together.”

Del Duca next for the Liberals. He says he will work relentlessly for students and seniors to create a place to grow.

Ford says the choice is clear and the positions of the parties are very different. He says his party has a plan for prosperity and will “get it done.”

Schreiner is last, says he needs more Green MPPs at Queen’s Park to fight the climate crisis.

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Green Party of Ontario Leader Mike Schreiner speaks during the Ontario party leaders' debate.Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

7:55 p.m. ET

Climate change

Dustin Cook: The next question is on climate change and the opposition parties are targeting the Ford government’s time in office where they cancelled electric vehicle rebates. Ford responds that the government is investing in electric vehicle manufacturing and battery plants. Schreiner calls out Ford for comments made on oil and gas. “You’re going to defend big oil during a climate emergency,” he stated multiple times.

7:50 p.m. ET

Do any of you feel any obligation to be more prudent in your spending plans?

Samantha Edwards: Next question is up under the theme of rising cost of living in Ontario. The moderator asks: You are all pledging to spend billions more. Do any of you feel any obligation to be more prudent in your spending plans?

Ford says he is a strong believer in putting money back into people’s pockets, and throughout the debate, has mentioned the license plate sticker refunds. Horwath says that the NDP will not raise taxes on middle-income and low-income families. Schreiner also says the Greens won’t raise taxes on low- and middle-income people, but will raise taxes for those with higher incomes. Del Duca says the Liberals will balance the budget by 2026 without “cuts and chaos” to long-term care, public education and supports for small business.

7:40 p.m. ET

How would you foster unity?

Dustin Cook: The final segment of tonight’s debate is leadership. The moderator asks: Why are you the leader to foster unity rather than division?

Ford is up first, says during the pandemic he’s proven he’s been able to work with municipalities as well as all of the premiers. Del Duca says he would be collaborative, something he says Ford didn’t show in government by not working with other parties.

Head-to-head Del Duca and Horwath: Del Duca says if elected, he would appoint a multi-party committee on the climate crisis right away so all parties would have a hand in addressing the issue. Horwath says “it’s great Mr. Del Duca has seen the light on how other parties can make things better.”

Schreiner passionately asks Ford many questions, calling him to do more to address rising levels of hate in the province. Ford changes the focus, again says that he has the ability to move with other parties (including Schreiner).

Marcus Gee: Mr. Ford is arguing he can work with anyone, of whatever party. I have to say that Mr. Ford has handled himself well during this contest, staying calm when under attack and sticking to his “get it done” message. He has let his anger get the better of him in the past. He seems much more disciplined now.

7:15 p.m. ET

What would you do to improve education in the province

Dustin Cook: We’re onto education. The leaders are asked what they would do to improve elementary education in Ontario. Opposition leaders are arguing Ford and his government didn’t spend enough on education and led to an increase in the repair backlog and a need for more teachers. Del Duca mentions the government’s rollout of rapid tests to schools with most of them going to private schools rather than the public education system. Ford responds that they invested in improving HVAC systems and providing students with the education they need to get good jobs.

Horwath says she’s had teachers tell her that kids have “lost their spark,” and she takes issue with the mandatory online courses introduced by the Ford government. Ford says his government has increased spending and is hiring more teachers.

Samantha Edwards: Continuing on the topic of education, the moderator asks: In some parts of the province, violence in schools is on the rise. What will you do to improve school safety?

Horwath says resources and supports for students are crucial, and calls out Ford’s cutbacks including cutting the funding for the Ontario Autism Program. Del Duca also calls out Ford and says his most recent budget cuts $1.3 billion out of public education, whereas the Liberals would hire 5,000 more special education professionals. Ford says you need to work with the community to get to the root of violence.

“Your record on public education is an embarrassment,” Del Duca says to Ford. Ford responds that he is proud of his record on education and shout outs education minister Stephen Lecce.

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Ontario NDP Party Leader Andrea Horwath speaks as Ontario PC Party Leader Doug Ford looks on.Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

7:10 p.m. ET

What is the most important lesson you learned during the pandemic?

Samantha Edwards: The next question is on the health care impacts of the pandemic. What is the most important lesson you learned during the pandemic?

Ford says that he inherited a broken system, including the long-term care homes, but that he’s going to fix it and never let the province be unprepared again. Schreiner says that we need to be prepared for the future, which means investing in workers. Del Duca brings up the importance of following the science, and calls out when Ford closed (temporarily) playgrounds in the spring of 2020.

Horwath gets the last word on health care, noting that we need to acknowledge that a lot of people are still suffering from the pandemic, whether it’s people losing their small businesses or suffering from mental health challenges. She touts the NDP’s mental health care plan, which would provide therapy through OHIP.

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Ontario Liberal Party Leader Steven Del Duca speaks during the Ontario party leaders' debate.Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

7:00 p.m. ET

Health care in Ontario

Dustin Cook: After a very heated debate, the moderators cut it off as the leaders were speaking over each other. The third topic is on health care which has been front and centre during the COVID-19 pandemic: How would you meet needs and are you opposed to private health care? None of the party leaders directly answer the question on private health care, but Horwath, Del Duca and Schreiner all say they will scrap Bill 124 (which caps public sector wage increases at 1 per cent annually). Ford responds that the “health care system was on the brink” when his government came into power.

Leaders throwing out lots of attacks in the debate on health care: Horwath target’s Del Duca and the Liberals’ 15 years in power, she says “you left a wreck behind you” which she also used in last week’s debate. Ford says his party has been hiring nurses and working to build up the health care system. Green Party leader Schreiner chimes back: “Mr. Ford, have you talked to a nurse lately?”

Marcus Gee: It is remarkable and too little remarked on that Del Duca is essentially promising to nationalize the long-term-care sector, replacing private providers with public ones. It is a little silly for the leaders to accuse one another of slashing health care, which consumes a huge chunk of the provincial budget. Mixing the private sector and health care is wrong, Del Duca seems to say – though our whole system is a mix of public and private.

Ford blames the Liberals for leaving the province short of PPE – though just about every government was caught short. It’s easy to sit back from the sidelines and criticize, says Ford. Fair point. Every government struggled to get it right during the early stages of the pandemic.

Ford (like every government) claims far too much credit for the performance of the economy, which has more to do with, well, the economy than with anything that governments do.

6:47 p.m. ET

Is building a new highway the best way to spend $10-billion?

Samantha Edwards: Second topic is the $10 billion price tag for building of Highway 413. Moderator Althia Raj asks: Is this the best way to spend $10 billion?

Del Duca says Highway 413 makes no sense whatsoever and that it’ll affect his hometown of Vaughan. Instead the Liberals would use this money for schools and hospitals. Horwath says the NDP has been clearly opposed to the Highway 413 and the Bradford Bypass, unlike the Liberals which have flip-flopped on the issue.

Horwath and Del Duca:

Horwath and Del Duca are now going one-on-one. Del Duca once again brings up his buck-a-ride transit plan. Ford says that he is the party that wants to build new housing and the NDP is losing touch with the unions.

The leaders are speaking over each other, but Schrenier says that Ford will pave over the farmland and wetlands. “You’ve rather protest than build roads” Ford says.

Marcus Gee: “Massive highways to mansions,” is how Ms. Horwath sees Mr. Ford’s road-building plans. Mr. Ford is rather effective when he argues that a growing Greater Toronto needs to build. From a purely vote-getting point of view, Mr. Ford has the better pitch.

6:40 p.m. ET

What would you do to make life more affordable for Ontarians?

Dustin Cook: First theme of the debate is economy.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath says her party would focus on lowering gas prices, making homes more affordable. Del Duca touts his party’s plan to remove the tax on prepared food under $20. And Mr. Ford mentions the 5.7 gas tax cut set to come into effect in July for six months as a way to make life more affordable. Schreiner comments on growing food locally to make it more affordable at the grocery stores.

During a one-on-one between Del Duca and Ford, Del Duca takes a shot at Ford, says it sounds like he’s reading the script from four years ago. Ford is quick to mention former Liberal premier Kathleen Wynne, “you destroyed this province, the economy was going downhill quicker than the Canadian bobsled team.”

Now Schreiner and Horwath on the economy: Schreiner brings up his party’s plan to double ODSP rates and that the NDP recently followed suit in amending their plan (the party pledges to increase ODSP by 20% in the first year and double in a second year in office.) Ms. Horwath agrees and turns her attention to Ford, saying things have become less affordable during his time in office and he hasn’t done enough to provide financial relief.

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Ontario PC Party Leader Doug Ford's prepared notes are seen on his lectern during the Ontario party leaders' debate.Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

6:30 p.m. ET

Party leaders make opening statements

Dustin Cook: We’re about to get under way. One minute opening statements for all the leaders are now under way. The order of the opening remarks is determined by the party’s standing in the 2018 election (the Progressive Conservatives, NDP, Greens and Liberals). Moderator Steve Paikin notes that if the leaders speak over each other, their microphones will be cut from the control room.

PC Leader Doug Ford is up first. Says his party is saying yes, mentions the party’s plan to build highways and hospitals. “Let’s say yes, let’s get it done,” he says. Next up is NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, says “I’m sure this is not the most fun thing you’ll do tonight” to viewers but thanks everyone for tuning in for the important discussion.

Green Party leader Mike Schreiner in the party’s first time being invited to the debates with a seat in the last legislature says “we need new solutions to old problems.”

And last up is Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca. He targets Ford right away, saying the party “walked away from their responsibility to lead.” He mentions some of the party’s platform commitments in bringing back Grade 13 temporarily and offering $1 transit across all systems until January 2024.

Ford is pushing hard on the “let’s get it done” theme of his campaign, which paints his rivals as naysayers and feet draggers. His, he insists, is the party that says “yes!” I have to say that Ford, with his big smile and his businessman’s patter, sells it well.

Open this photo in gallery:

Ontario Progressive Conservative Party Leader Doug Ford, left to right, Ontario New Democratic Party Leader Andrea Horwath, Ontario Liberal Party Leader Steven Del Duca and Green Party of Ontario Leader Mike Schreiner pose for a photo ahead of the Ontario party leaders' debate.Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

6:00 p.m. ET

Leaders arrive for debate

Dustin Cook: All four party leaders have arrived at TVO Studios in Toronto. Supporters of the parties lined Yonge Street with signs supporting their respective leaders. There were also protesters from Ontario health care union SEIU chanting “Doug Ford has got to go.”

5:30 p.m. ET

What to expect in tonight’s debate

Dustin Cook: Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s live blog of the Ontario party leaders’ debate.

I’m Queen’s Park Reporter Dustin Cook reporting from the TVO Studios in Toronto where the primetime debate will take place from 6:30-8 p.m. The Globe’s Samantha Edwards, a Toronto-based journalist and audience editor, is also on deck from Toronto.

This is the second and final time PC Leader Doug Ford, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca and Green Leader Mike Schreiner will face off before the June 2 vote. The leaders participated in a debate in North Bay last week focused on Northern issues.

The debate, organized by a group of regional broadcasters, will be hosted by political journalists Steve Paikin and Althia Raj. Questions were determined by journalists from the broadcast organizers with input from prospective voters. The four leaders will also have the opportunity to pose questions to each other.

For the format of the debate, the leaders will square off head-to-head on individual topics, including the economy, health care, education and leadership. (The match-ups have been determined by random draw).

We’ll be watching to see how the leaders stand out in this one-on-one format, which is different than the free-for-all format in North Bay last week and should allow for a more back and forth debate on the issues.

Columnist Marcus Gee: This is a big night for all four leaders. The election campaign doesn’t seem to be drawing much attention from voters so here is their chance to make an impression. That is especially important for Steven Del Duca, who is less well known than Doug Ford or Andrea Horwath. I’m curious to see if he stays with the temperate tone he adopted in the last debate or whether he get more aggressive.

When and where is the second debate

The second Ontario leaders’ debate will be held Monday, May 16 in Toronto, beginning at 6:30 p.m. The 90-minute debate will be televised and available to stream online. Questions to the leaders were created by a group of journalists from these outlets, with input from prospective voters. TVO’s Steve Paikin and The Toronto Star’s Althia Raj are set to moderate.

It is the second time that Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca and Green Leader Mike Schreiner will face off in this provincial election campaign.

Last week, the leaders squared off on issues concerning Northern Ontario during a debate in North Bay.

Four things to look for in the Ontario leaders’ debate

Ontario election platform guide: What the major parties promise if elected June 2

High turnover of Ontario MPPs means new names on the provincial election ballot

Want to hear more about the Ontario election from our journalists? Subscribe to Vote of Confidence, a twice-weekly newsletter dedicated to the key issues in this campaign, landing in your inbox starting May 17 until election day on June 2.

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