TORONTO - Jobs and taxes have dominated the Ontario pre-election debate, with the opposition leaders coming down hard on Premier Dalton McGuinty and New Democrat Andrea Horwath staying true to her image as a scrappy fighter from Hamilton.
Horwath and Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak wasted no time attacking McGuinty for what they say is a terrible record.
Horwath interjected often, regularly interrupting the two leaders to get her point across or correct the record when the others attacked her party.
Hudak says the Liberals have only created low-wage jobs and graduating students can't find work, with McGuinty contesting that the province's economy is in fact faring well.
And he says tonight's, coming so late in the campaign, could have "a big influence."
Horwath says the Liberal plan hasn't worked, and is leaving students jobless and with "a mountain of debt."
The 90-minute faceoff is the only chance voters get during the election to see the leaders of the three main political parties at the same time.
"I'm not saying that it's all sunshine and apple pie," said McGuinty, whose calm and steady manner made him appear muted in comparison to the impassioned Horwath and Hudak.
The Liberals have a jobs plan largely focused around green energy that's working, McGuinty said, adding that it's the Tories who would kill thousand of jobs by scrapping a contract with Korean giant Samsung.
Hudak dismissed the green jobs as "nothing but a shell game" which is simply driving up electricity bills."
"Your jobs plan has been a failure," Hudak said.
Horwath, who like Hudak spoke often about the people she has met and the places she's visited during the campaign, told McGuinty that stats about job creation meant nothing to the people of Ontario who "feel like you have ignored them for the last eight years."
"During that recession what you decided to do was hit people with an unfair tax that made things harder," she said.
McGuinty defended his tax record, after bringing in both a health tax and the HST despite promising no new taxes, saying he would not raise taxes this time around and Hudak should "stop saying" that he would.
"With all due respect, sir, nobody believes you anymore," Hudak replied.
The debate is the first one for rookies Horwath and Hudak, and is particularly important for the two opposition leaders, since it's their chance to introduce themselves to many voters just tuning in.
The latest polls suggest the Liberals and Progressive Conservatives are in a virtual dead heat, creating the potential for a minority government with the NDP playing king maker.
Hudak and Horwath already faced off last week, in a northern issues debate which McGuinty declined to participate in.
Horwath couldn't resist taking a shot at McGuinty over missing the debate, offering the premier a geography lesson when speaking about a man she met in Dubreuilville.
"Don't know if you know where Dubreuilville is," she said. "It's near Wawa."
The leaders of Ontario's three major parties gathered Tuesday night to debate the issues facing the province. The following is a recap of some of the key moments.(THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan) Denette
Twitter was abuzz throughout the debate with talk of Dalton McGuinty's frequent hand gestures. Few of the comments were positive. The CBC's Kady O'Malley tweeted "I just realized radio people missed on McGuinty's magic hands. So sad," while user @brealeona posted that "Dalton McGuinty's hands deserve their own place on the ballot. Those things had their own agenda during the debate." (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn)
One of the most memorable exchanges of the night was between Hudak and McGuinty on the subject of raising taxes. McGuinty said his government would not raise taxes, but Hudak interjected that "Nobody believes you any more." Throughout the debate Hudak hammered McGuinty over new taxes and fees introduced during the Liberals' time in office. After the debate, Maclean's national editor Andrew Coyne tweeted that "Nobody believes you any more" seems to be the most quoted line in early media coverage." (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn/)
Throughout the Debate, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath used her turn to direct debate back to the original question and away from digressions into McGuinty and Hudak talking points. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn)
One of Hudak's best lines came on the subject of Ontario's many boards and agencies and the need to cut back. "My little girl at home can take those little fridge magnets with the letters, put any three letters together and get a board or an agency." (Flickr: lylamerle) Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly attributed the quote above to NDP Leader Andrea Horwath. This version has been corrected.
The new Harmonized Sales Tax was one of the hottest topics during the debate. Hudak and Horwath hammered McGuinty for what they called a tax hike during tough times. Both promised to remove the HST from hydro bills if elected. McGuinty responded that neither of his rivals would remove the HST fully if they were elected, because both know it's good for the province. McGuinty also stressed that the tax is making Ontario more competitive internationally. (Flickr: Diego3336)
Another memorable jab for Horwath came after Tim Hudak promised to remove the HST from hydro bills, a proposal shared with the NDP. "You like that idea of ours eh?" she asked. (Flickr: portland general)
Corporate tax rates were another hot button issue during the debate. Hudak asked McGuinty repeatedly why he was criticizing the NDP plan to raise corporate taxes when the Liberal government had raised taxes on businesses while in office. McGuinty refused to address the past and instead focused on the future, promising to cut corporate taxes if elected. Hudak wouldn't let the issue die, repeatedly asking McGuinty to address the seeming contradiction in his position. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn)
The final question of the night was whether any of the parties would support privatizing aspects of the health care system in Ontario. None of the leaders were eager to admit considering any privatization. Neither McGuinty nor Hudak said they supported privatization, but neither ruled it out completely either. Horwath, on the other hand, frequently asserted during this part of the debate that the NDP would never consider privatizing elements of Ontario's system. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn)
Hudak and Horwath attacked McGuinty over the costly effort to digitize Ontario's health records. The scandal over the cost of the program forced then-health minister David Caplan to resign, but McGuinty defended the program during the debate. He argued eHealth is an important part of moving Ontario's system into the 21st century. McGuinty attacked back by reminding Ontarians that the health accord which governs health transfer payments from Ottawa to the provinces will be up for negotiation in 2014. McGuinty asked "Who do you want to be sitting at the table for Ontario?" hinting that it wasn't another Tory. (Flickr: MSVG)
At one point during the debate, McGuinty criticized Hudak over what he called the Tory Leader's attitude toward "foreigners." Early in the campaign, Hudak used the term in criticism of a Liberal plan to give a tax credit to companies that hire skilled immigrants. Hudak claimed he used the term only because it was the way the Liberals initially described it and successfully moved on to other issues.
Horwath landed another solid blow against McGuinty on the subject of the northern debate, a discussion which McGuinty did not attend. The NDP leader offered McGuinty a geography lesson when speaking about a man she met in Dubreuilville. "Don't know if you know where Dubreuilville is," she said. "It's near Wawa." (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Brent Linton)
Thank you for joining us. We'll have more commentary and analysis on Huffingtonpost.ca. Don't forget to cast your vote on October 6th.
The big advantage Dalton McGuinty had was the big picture. He brought up the global economy more times than we could count, brought up Ontario's relationship with Ottawa, the health accord, the global economy...
But does that matter to voters? An angry, out of work Ontarian might not care much about the health accord or the global economy.
Andrea Horwath did her best to stay out of the sometimes heated debate between Tim Hudak and Dalton McGuinty.
The upside? It meant that she didn't get a chance to land any big blows on her rivals but made her messaging a lot easier.
The downside? You lose momentum and the adrenaline that comes from the jabs and blocks of any good debate.
Horwath's goal was to appear as a viable alternative to both men... It's tough to say she did that.
Not quite. Hudak got in a good hit with his "nobody believes you anymore." But it's not anything you haven't heard before if you've listening to any of the ads.
McGuinty tried to paint Hudak with that awkward "foreign workers" statement... but Hudak managed to blunt that.
Horwath tried to stay above it all and for the most part did...
McGuinty: When a global recession hit Ontario it hit us hard. So we rolled up our sleeves and got to work together...
We're headed in the right direction...
Hudak: Can you afford four more years of Dalton McGuinty?
He increased taxes on families, increased taxes on business.
We need to chart a different course.
Horwath: You can choose a status quo that isn't working or choose a party that's offering something different.
Choose one of the same old suits or choose the kind of change that puts people first.
McGuinty tries to defend eHealth... saying that 10 million Ontarians will have electronic records by the end of next year.
Horwath doesn't attack eHealth and reminds the viewers that the NDP is committed to public health care system.
"McGuinty says health care was his no. 1 priority. A moment ago he said education was his no. 1 priority... he hasn't had his plan costed by an economist."
Says there's going to be a -billion hole in that plan.
And eHealth comes back again...
And the debate is almost over... didn't think it was going to take this long.
Horwath lays out NDP plans, ideas
McGuinty goes straight to the health accord. Reminds voters that that's going to be up for negotiation soon. "Who do you want to be sitting at the table for Ontario?"
McGuinty is basically hinting that you don't want Hudak, another Tory there.
McGuinty tries to bring up the 'foreign' attack over the 'foreign workers'/new Canadians job tax credit.
Hudak got pretty fired up as soon as it was brought up.
McGuinty slams Hudak... says he hasn't asked him about education at Queens Park once.
Hudak fires back... mentions the -million foreign scholarship program. Hudak wants to improve the apprenticeship program.
This question on education is really the NDPs to own. Horwath needs to throw an elbow or two and get her message out.
Hudak can't say much about this... Horwath lays out a tuition freeze, dropping interest off loans, points out that Ont. students have the second highest amount of post-secondary education.
Hudak isn't attacking Horwath. Tries to answer the question and ping Dalton McGuinty.
Hudak and Horwath jumped on this plant cancellation.
The Post's John Ivison says it could hurt McGuinty.
“Compensation in the range of hundreds of millions of dollars will have to be be paid for lost profits over the 20-year term of the contract and for sunk costs like down-payments on key components. The cost of the plant in Oakville [cancelled by the Liberal government last year] was -billion, with a rate of return of 10%, so that’s 0-million a year. The cost of Greenfield [in Mississauga] was 0-million, so that’s another -million a year,” he said.
The Liberals won’t say how much they will have to pay in compensation to TransCanada Corporation for either cancelled project but said Saturday that they are responding to local pressure to “move” a project that is so advanced the developer has already poured concrete to build the foundations. The plant sits in the riding of Liberal Labour Minister Charles Sousa, who is in a close race with Conservative challenger Geoff Janoscik.
McGuinty is doing better in this segment... he's got a record he can work with and he seems a little more excited when he's talking about GO Train investment, car plants, etc.
Horwath tries to paint Hudak with the Mike Harris brush. Brings up electricity deregulation and says Hudak "might've been around the cabinet table" when that decision was made.
Dalton McGuinty has brought up this line several times: That Ontario is the second-most preferred destination for foreign investment after California.
Tim Hudak's attack line: Dalton McGuinty's government has been unable to set priorities. He's been using it to great effect.
McGuinty vs. Hudak: We're rebuilding our electricity system. It's going to be hard.
We've adopted the HST. It's helping us catch up to 140 other countries across the world that have that kind of tax.
Hudak: It's not a hard thing to raise taxes. One that you've always done Mr. McGuinty.
You're always asking families to tighten their belts and not tightening yours.
Dalton McGuinty claims that the tax helped keep Ontario efficient. Not sure if that's going to be a believable line.
Hudak slams McGuinty over all these "taxes" that McGuinty brought in. HST, "sneaky eco tax", smart meters (which he's calling a tax too)
The sparks tonight are flying between McGuinty and Hudak. Horwath is at times sidelined... is it good for her?
McGuinty brings up the spectre of Conservative hospital closures (despite the fact the segment is between him and Horwath).
Horwath answers back with a comment on the HST.
In comes Hudak who also wants to get rid of HST and those smart meters which he calls "tax metres"
McGuinty: Tax credits on energy, property taxes, etc.
Also noticing that McGuinty is a big-time hand talker tonight.
Horwath: Take HST off hydro, gas. Cap gas prices to "stop gouging at the pumps"
We're going to stop downloading to municipalities, help pay transit fares.
McGuinty: Bring back house calls. Increase home care.
Painting McGuinty's Liberals as high spenders... the NDP and Liberals both as "high tax" parties.
McGuinty isn't firing back at the fact that he spent money to save jobs, etc. when the recession hit in 2008. It's a missed opportunity.
Horwath: My cabinet will be 20% smaller. We'll review each of Ont.'s 630 boards and agencies.
"My little girl at home can take those little fridge magnets with the letters, put any three letters together and get a board or an agency" - Nice line!
"Blank cheques for companies"
Like her federal counterparts Ont.'s NDP isn't fond of corporate tax cuts either.
Horwath doesn't answer the question and instead talks about tax cuts for families...
Hudak: McGuinty's Liberals has increased govt spending by 80%. Has your health care system gotten 80% better, have your roads gotten 80% better.
Vows to cut by 2 cents on every dollar.
Horwath: Where will the 2 cents come from?
A clear fault line tonight is going to be whether Dalton McGuinty can sell his green jobs plan. Hudak's Tories say that the plan is a waste of money and a boondoggle, it's also raised energy costs and hurt other industries.
Horwath: "I'm glad you've been to Thunder Bay lately. Mr. Hudak and I were there lately and we missed you."
A cute dig at McGuinty turning down an invitation to a northern debate.
Hudak and McGuinty are duking it out over green energy...
Horwath: Give tax cuts and tax breaks to companies that are creating jobs.
McGuinty: "I'm not saying it's all sunshine and apple pie."
We've created more jobs than the all of Canada combined. In June more jobs than all of U.S. combined.
First Q: How will you help Ontario grads find work?
Hudak: "I want to be Premier to help Ontario families get good jobs..." Mentions the PC five point jobs plan.
McGuinty: Canada doing well, Ont. doing well. More jobs since January than all of U.S. Liberals want to reduce tuition by 30%Hudak to McGuinty: "I'm hearing the opposite." 300,000 of manufacturing jobs have been lost.
Tories want to treat energy policy as economic policy, not social program. Cut red tape, update apprenticeships, cut red tape, cut taxes
McGuinty: Creating the most competitive work force. We're already the most educated in the OECD. We've already been lowering taxes.
Important for us to invest in the clean energy sector. We're #1 in producing cars, I want us to be #1 in producing green energy tech.
Hudak: Your green energy jobs are nothing but a shell game.