Horwath on attack in northern debate

By: Maria Babbage and Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press

 | May 26, 2014 - 2:57 PM |
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and Premier Kathleen Wynne squared off in a northern debate today with the June 12 provincial election looming. File photos.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and Premier Kathleen Wynne squared off in a northern debate today with the June 12 provincial election looming. File photos.

THUNDER BAY, Ont. - Voters in northern Ontario were promised help Monday to develop the mineral-rich Ring of Fire and assistance with soaring electricity rates in a lacklustre debate with only two of the three leaders vying for the premier's chair in the June 12 election.

There were no actual exchanges between NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and Premier Kathleen Wynne in the debate because the format had them responding to questions from selected northern Ontario leaders, but not engaging with each other.

"You deserve a hard-working, honest government and that starts by cleaning up the corruption at Queen's Park," Horwath said as she came out swinging in her opening statement.

Wynne played a role in the decisions to cancel two gas plants prior to the last election just to save Liberal seats in the suburbs west of Toronto, which could cost taxpayers $1.1 billion, and in their attempts to cover up the scandal, added Horwath.

"The day that the OPP showed up and took those hard drives out of (the premier's office in) Queen's Park was the day that I heard the people of Ontario say that they had had enough," she said.

"They had had enough of the Liberal betrayals, enough of their lies, enough of the wasted billions and billions of dollars for their own gain."

Horwath also said Wynne can't blame the gas plants and the attempted cover up on the previous Dalton McGuinty administration.

"Ms. Wynne was at the centre of it," said Horwath. "She was a senior cabinet minister. She was a campaign co-chair. She endorsed it all."

After the debate, Wynne told reporters that Horwath knows the allegations against her are "just not true," but makes them anyway.

"It's quite a statement, and it's a bit sad that the NDP leader falls back on that when we were here to listen to questions from northern leaders," said Wynne. "Andrea Horwath knows that those allegations are not true."

Wynne said she'd changed the process to allow more community involvement in the location of new gas plants and other energy projects and broadened the scope of legislative committee hearings into the scandal and alleged coverup.

"I understand that there are people angry about the gas plant relocations and I have apologized for that," she said.

Wynne tried to maintain a positive tone in the debate, saying she was convinced northern Ontario would once again become an economic driver of the province's economy. Only the Liberals will spend money to train young people for better jobs while the Progressive Conservatives and NDP are looking for savings, added Wynne.

"(Progressive Conservative Leader) Tim Hudak and Andrea Horwath talk about cutting waste ... but the fact is that we absolutely must make investments in the future of this province, and the most important resource that we have is our young people," she said.

"Our plan is the diametric opposite of what Tim Hudak is proposing. He's going to start to grow the economy and consolidate the recovery by cutting the knees out from under the economy, taking paycheques away from 100,000 people."

Horwath also used her opening statement at the debate to attack Hudak for failing to show up, saying his absence shows his true feelings about northerners.

Hudak campaigned in Peterborough and greater Toronto area, saying it was unfortunate his schedule wouldn't allow him to attend the debate in Thunder Bay.

The Liberal campaign platform, released Sunday by Wynne, was nothing but a "Sears catalogue" of unaffordable promises, added Hudak.

"Do you really think that they can afford all of these new promises, or are they just trying to buy your vote for the election and then break the news after that they're going to increase your taxes," the Tory leader asked.

With files from Keith Leslie

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