As Wynne takes over, opposition pushes for promises of change
Published Monday, January 28, 2013 7:47AM EST
Last Updated Monday, January 28, 2013 12:38PM EST
Outgoing Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty officially welcomed Kathleen Wynne to the job on Monday, handing over the keys to the premier’s office.
The ceremonial event took place at Queen’s Park shortly after Ontario’s opposition leaders made their demands of the premier-designate.
In separate news conferences on Monday morning, both NDP leader Andrea Horwath and Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak insisted that Wynne will have to change the way business is done in the provincial legislature if the minority Liberal government is to survive.
Horwath asked Wynne to call a public inquiry into the two gas plant cancellations that cost the province $230 million.
“The last premier used prorogation as a way to block the scrutiny of the mess,” Horwath told reporters. “The new premier needs to do better.”
The NDP leader said over the next few days she plans to outline policy priorities for her party, however, she added that a public inquiry will de-politicize the gas plant issue and allow MPPs to turn their focus to other issues.
“If this legislature is simply seized once again, paralyzed once again, by the whole issue of the gas plants, then how far are we going to get?” Horwath asked.
“I think we will have a very difficult time in this legislature if the premier does not do things a little bit differently,” she said.
Earlier in the day, Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak told reporters he’s concerned Wynne’s agenda is too similar to that of outgoing Premier Dalton McGuinty.
"We’ve brought a lot to the table and I don’t expect the incoming premier to agree with all of our ideas, but I do expect some," said Hudak, who repeated that Ontario is facing a severe "jobs and debt crisis."
The PC leader said while he gets along with Wynne personally, the two often "don’t see eye to eye."
"If she’s prepared to tackle the economic issues in a serious way, we’re prepared to work with her," he said.
The PC party wasted no time in releasing their first series of attack ads on Wynne, describing the 59-year-old as "another McGuinty-Liberal Ontario can’t afford."
Asked if he approves of the ads, Hudak said the Liberal party must head in a very different direction, "and I’ll use every method I can to say that loud and clear."
Wynne reaches out
Wynne will need the support of one of the opposition parties to prevent the Liberal government from falling.
The Don Valley West MPP said she reached out to both Hudak and Horwath shortly following her victory at this weekend’s provincial Liberal leadership convention.
"I don’t think it’s going to be easy, it’s going to be a challenge," Wynne told CTV’s Canada AM on Monday. "But the reality is the people of Ontario expect us to work together and so it’s my responsibility to do everything I can to establish that working relationship.
"Just because it’s difficult is no reason to say we can’t do it, we can’t try."
Wynne said she’s also reached out to Ontario’s teachers’ unions in hopes of re-engaging with the province’s educators.
While she said she has no intention of scraping the two -year contracts imposed on about 130,000 elementary and secondary school teachers using the controversial Bill 115, she did stress that extracurricular activities need to be restored in Ontario schools.
Wynne has promised to recall the legislature on Feb. 19, which she admits is a tight deadline.
After holding her first caucus meeting Tuesday, Wynne will meet later this week with Lt.-Gov. David Onley and McGuinty to begin the formal transition of power.
CTV’s Queen’s Park Bureau Chief Paul Bliss said Wynne got off to a rough start as Ontario’s premier-designate, with both opposition parties making some lofty demands from the Liberals.
“The opposition parties, their goal is to unseat the Liberals at some point. So they may work with her for a little bit, but it’s not going to be a honeymoon, that’s for sure,” Bliss told CTV Toronto on Monday.
As for the possibility of a spring election, neither the Liberals nor the opposition are in a position to head to the ballot box in the near future.
“Right now in the polls, the Liberals are trailing,” he said. “There’s a lot of baggage after nine years with Dalton McGuinty as premier and elections are all about timing … if one party is seen as triggering an election, that doesn’t go over very well with the public.”