Ontario premier steps up war of words in federal election campaign
Using a historical reference dating back to the time of Canada's first prime minister, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne waded deeper into the federal election campaign Saturday.
Provincial premiers usually stay out of federal campaigns, but earlier this week Alberta’s NDP Premier Rachel Notley blasted Harper for calling her government a "disaster." Notley said she would not be actively campaigning for federal NDP Leader Tom Mulcair, but would support him.
Wynne took her turn at a campaign event for Bill Blair, the Liberal candidate for Scarborough Southwest. She criticized the Conservatives for declining to help Ontario on the issue of retirement security.
The premier campaigned in the last provincial election on the promise to implement an Ontario Retirement Pension Plan, which the Conservative government has said it will not support.
She accused the government of not being a good federal partner in its refusal to provide Ontarians with even the "minimal support" it gives to Quebec and Saskatchewan.
"That's not partnership, that's not collaboration and that's not leadership," Wynne said. "We need a prime minister who understands how important the federation is to the health of this country.
She said if Conservative Leader Stephen Harper had been prime minister instead of Sir John A. Macdonald, Harper would have refused to help build the transcontinental railway.
"He would have said 'Well, you know, we're not going to help you with that, build it yourself,'" she said.
Harper was not on the campaign trail Saturday, but the Conservative Party pointed to comments he recently made on the issue of tax hikes.
The Conservatives have warned that the ORPP will result in a payroll tax because it requires contributions from employers and workers in any company that does not have a workplace pension.
At a rally in Ajax, Ont. this week, Harper said he does not support tax increases to help boost contributions to the Canada Pension Plan.
"Kathleen Wynne is mad that I won't help her do that and Justin Trudeau will, and you're bloody right the Conservative government is not going to help bring in that kind of a tax hike," he said at the rally.
In July, Finance Minister Joe Oliver sent a letter to Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa telling him that the Conservatives will not assist the provincial government in implementing the ORPP.
The Ontario government passed legislation in April to create the ORPP, which would mirror the Canada Pension Plan for about three million workers.
This isn't the first time that Wynne has come out swinging at the Conservatives ahead of the Oct. 19 vote. Last week, she criticized the Tories for funding infrastructure projects that were not identified as priorities by her government.
Martin Rust, a senior advisor with StrategyCorp, said Wynne's remarks during the election campaign have been surprising.
While Wynne, having "no skin in the game" at the federal level, is free to say anything she wants, her comments on the federal election have been "blatant" and "partisan," he told CTV News Channel.
"I think we should be clear, she's in this and approaching this the way she is for her own reasons and her own agenda," he said. "She's come out swinging from a very strong Liberal perspective, and endorsing Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party."
With files from The Canadian Press