Cornwall - Sep. 27, 2011 - Neither PC Leader Tim Hudak or NDP Leader Andrea Horwath delivered a knockout blow against Premier Dalton McGuinty in tonight’s Ontario Leaders Debate. All three party leaders stuck pretty close to their platform talking points, but McGuinty provided a unique spin on his eight years as Premier.
The Premier found himself on the defensive on a number of issues including the HST, the Liberals’ green energy plan, broken promises, government spending and more. The Premier made a number of statements that should make most voters shake their heads.
Early in the debate, Hudak reminded McGuinty that under his eight year watch, public sector spending has increased by 80% in Ontario, while the economy has only grown by 10% over that same time. Later on in responding to cuts in government spending, McGuinty boasted about phasing in a 7% reduction. Should Ontarians then feel happy about his 73% increase in public sector spending?
McGuinty said that the instability in the global economy is due to the lack of confidence in governments’ ability to manage the money. His last eight years in office have been filled with examples of poor money management and tax increases – billion dollar e-health scandal, excessive grants to cricket clubs, surprise eco tax, the HST, the health tax, the smart meter tax, the design of a new logo, the problems at OLG and others.
Later, Hudak pointed out that McGuinty has doubled the Provincial debt in eight years. Hudak said, “what took 35 Premiers 142 years, you will do in your time in office,” - in referring to the doubling of the debt. To that McGuinty responded, “The deficit is significant, will not deny that.”
Horwath reminded the Liberal leader that the people of Ontario feel ignored by the McGuinty government and that in the middle of the recession his government hit families with a new tax in the HST.
On the discussion of taxes McGuinty claimed that he has spoken to a lot of families and that the Liberals will reduce income tax, reduce electricity bills by 10%, reduce tuition by 30%, and provide tax credits to seniors. Hudak was quick to rebut by saying, “in all due respect nobody believes you anymore.”
In his closing statement McGuinty said “when the global recession hit Ontario it hit us hard, so we rolled up our sleeves and got working together. We invested in new jobs. We invested in job re-training. We came to the support of the auto sector. Economy is turning around, we are on track and we are headed in the right direction. The last thing we need to do is raise taxes on job creators and the last thing we need to do is start cancelling international contracts while we are trying to secure new international investment.”
In his closing statement Hudak asked, “Can you afford four more years of Dalton McGuinty? We saw what he did last time - he increased taxes on families when he promised he wouldn’t. He increased taxes on business and drove hydro bills through the roof. That weakened Ontario at our time of need. We lost 300,000 manufacturing jobs as a result. We need to chart a different course. Our plan will create jobs in our province, give families relief and get government focused on the basics - Health and education.”
Lastly, Horwath concluded by stating that “it is important to acknowledge that there is a big choice on election day. You can choose the status quo that hasn’t been working or you can choose a party that’s going to put patients first, that’s going to put jobs first, that’s going to put affordability of everyday life at the top of the agenda. New Democrats are offering the kind of change that does exactly that."
In the end, I don’t believe there was a clear winner tonight. I also believe that if you stopped 100 people at a busy intersection in any Ontario city or town, a very small percentage would have watched the debate in its entirety. Recent polls are suggesting that we are heading for a minority government. As such, I don’t think tonight’s debate will do much to change the trends of this election.
As the final nine days of the campaign unfold, it will be incumbent on the local candidates and Leaders, to work hard to reach out to voters and try to earn their vote. It is clear that every vote can and will make a difference come October 6th.