MISSISSAUGA, Ont. - The latest candidate for the provincial Liberal leadership says he would speed up plans to erase Ontario's deficit if elected premier.
Harinder Takhar says he would cut the $14.4-billion deficit by 2016-17, a year earlier than the target set out by Finance Minister Dwight Duncan.
Takhar made the pledge this morning as he formally launched his campaign to succeed Premier Dalton McGuinty in Mississauga, west of Toronto.
Speaking before a roomful of supporters, the former government services minister vowed to focus on job creation and helping out small businesses and families.
He promised to establish a tax credit for businesses that would cover 10 per cent of the first year's salary for new hires, and introduce several measures meant to protect consumers.
Takhar, 61, is the seventh and last candidate to jump into a leadership race packed with former Liberal cabinet ministers and MPPs.
Most of those vying for the Liberals' top job are from the Toronto area, with only Sandra Pupatello — who is based in Windsor — coming from outside the provincial capital.
Pupatello and Gerard Kennedy are the only leadership candidates who are not currently members of the legislature, but both are former cabinet ministers.
All of the other candidates — Kathleen Wynne, Glenn Murray, Charles Sousa and Eric Hoskins — had to follow McGuinty's order to quit cabinet before launching their leadership campaigns.
They'll square off in a series of debates around the province starting next month. The leadership convention will be held at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto Jan. 25-26.
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Dalton McGuinty's Scandals
When you lead Canada's biggest province for nine years you're bound to have some missteps. Ontario's Premier Dalton McGuinty has had his share of scandals and mistakes. <p>We highlight a few that caused him more headaches than usual. <p>Photo: Ontario Liberal Party
Back in 2004, a relatively new Liberal government under Premier Dalton McGuinty was forced to go back on a campaign promise not to raise taxes and instituted a health premium of between $300-$900. Photo: Alamy
In 2006, the Liberals tried to announce a new $46-billion energy plan that would see renovations of many of Ontario’s power plants. But the plan became a problem for the Liberals when <em>the Globe and Mail </em>revealed that the government tried to exempt their plans from environmental assessments. Photo: Shutterstock
The government’s plans to modernize medical records in the province ran into massive scandal when reports of overspending, waste and possible conflict of interest were revealed at <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EHealth_Ontario">eHealth</a>, the agency responsible for building a new electronic records system. The scandal forced the resignation of Health Minister David Caplan. <P>Photo: Shutterstock
G20 Police Laws
Dalton McGuinty and the Liberals were criticized for laws giving police greater powers to ensure security during the <a href="http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/story/2010/12/08/mcguinty-g20-ombudsman-report652.html">G20 in 2010</a>. The laws were seen by civil rights groups as draconian. Andre Marin, Ontario’s ombudsman also <a href="http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/torontog20summit/article/902817--ombudsman-charges-g20-secret-law-was-illegal">criticized the government</a> calling the laws and police action a massive violation of civil rights. <p>Photo: AP Files/Carolyn Kaster
Ontario’s air ambulance service, Ornge, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/tag/ornge-scandal">caused another headache for McGuinty’s Liberals</a> after reports of financial irregularities, cost overruns, huge salaries for managers being kept secret and reports of kickbacks began to emerge in the media. <P>Photo: CP/Globe and Mail
Canceled Power Plants
Hobbled by scandal and facing a resurgent Conservatives in the 2011 provincial election, the <a href="http://www.globaltoronto.com/timeline/6442734189/story.html">Liberals cancelled two power plants</a> in the GTA despite the fact it would cost taxpayers several hundred million dollars. The move would dog the Liberals and is seen as a factor in the resignation of Premier Dalton McGuinty on Monday night. <P>Photo: Michelle Siu/CP