Amid U.S. tariff threat, Ontario's Wynne positions herself as seasoned leader
Ontario Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne holds a campaign stop in Oakville, Ont., on Tuesday, May 29, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, May 30, 2018 1:38PM EDT
HAMILTON -- Ontario's Liberal premier travelled to the heart of her NDP rival's riding on Wednesday to portray herself as the only seasoned stateswoman in the province's election campaign capable of rising above the ideological fray.
At a stop in Hamilton outside a Stelco steel plant, Kathleen Wynne attacked both New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath and the Progressive Conservatives' Doug Ford as unyielding ideologues without the experience to fend off the threat of American steel tariffs.
"On the one end of the spectrum, you have Doug Ford -- he's expressed his admiration for (U.S. President) Donald Trump, despite the chaos, the uncertainty that the Trump administration has caused Ontario," Wynne said. "On the other extreme, you have the NDP, who have historically campaigned against free-trade agreements -- I would suggest a rigid and impractical position."
The United States has exempted Canadian steel and aluminum from new tariffs on an interim basis. The exemption is due to expire Friday.
While the federal government under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has done much of the heavy lifting to protect the industry in Canada, Wynne played up her own efforts.
"Over the past year, I have met with 37 governors, I have met with senators, I've met with congresspeople, I've met with senior members of the U.S. administration, all in an attempt to make it clear what our integrated relationship means to workers on both sides of the border," said Wynne, who has been trailing behind her rivals in recent polls.
"We were assertive, we were steadfast in our effort to make Ontario's case to those decision makers. That threat of U.S. protectionism is not going to scare us off."
Wynne said Ontario has developed one of the strongest economies in North America under a Liberal government that worked with employees, business leaders, and political leaders on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border.
Voters have a choice on June 7 between her and her two inexperienced rivals, she said.
"They're going to be choosing a person to lead them who will be in some very tricky, very delicate negotiations with U.S. officials," Wynne said. "That's the reality of the role premier (and) we cannot let ideology get in our way."
Horwath, who portrayed herself as a champion of steel and steelworkers, rejected Wynne's comments as "trying to stir up some trouble." She said she had been vocal in her support of the industry.
"Should I be given the opportunity to serve as premier I will be one of the biggest champions the steel industry has ever seen," Horwath said. "It has literally, not only built our country and fuelled the economy of a nation, but it has absolutely and completely ... built my city."
Meanwhile, the Tories, who have repeatedly come under fire for not yet releasing a costed platform, quietly updated their website Wednesday to show a more detailed compilation of the campaign promises they have made so far.
Ford has previously pledged to present a costed plan before the election but that has yet to happen.
"We've been talking about our plan every day and it's all there in one spot to show Ontario voters the stark choice between a responsible and modest spending of a PC government and a radical NDP who will be disastrous for the people of Ontario," said Ford spokeswoman, Melissa Lantsman. "We are going to balance the budget in a responsible way."
Both Horwath and Wynne heaped scorn on the notion that Ford has released a full plan.
"Look: This is not a fully costed plan, it's not coherent," Wynne said at a second stop in Markham, Ont., where she pushed her government's transit record. "All of the things that Doug Ford has said would add up to a $40-billion hole and they have no idea how they would find that."
Horwath was equally jaundiced, saying Ford's writing of a "list of things he might do and put it on the internet" is not good enough.
People should know what Ford's plans are, what he's going to cut and what services might be at risk," the NDP leader said.
"His list of things-to-do that he put on his website is not going to help people to decide which way to vote and what's their best interest in this campaign," Horwath said. "What's worrisome is we have a leader who's trying to take the chair of the premier in this province and he's not being honest with people."
Earlier, Horwath shrugged off Liberal accusations that her NDP is too beholden to union interests. She rejected a Liberal allegation that her party has a questionable financial relationship with a group of unions known as Cornerstone -- a for-profit group founded by eight unions. The Liberals allege the group has been financially supporting the New Democrat election campaign and operations.
The NDP has no financial relationship with Cornerstone, Horwath said. The governing Liberals, she added, have consistently made deals with special interest groups throughout their years in office.
"This is a government, a party, that spent its time cutting deals with various interest groups to try to help them politically. So, I completely dismiss any accusations from Ms. Wynne on that file," Horwath said.
With files from Paola Loriggio and Shawn Jeffords