OTTAWA — Kathleen Wynne wasted no time Sunday flexing Ontario's electoral muscle, wading into the federal election on Day 1 of the marathon campaign to call for the defeat of Stephen Harper's Conservative government.
The Liberal premier of Ontario - home to more than one third of the 338 seats up for grabs on Oct. 19 - said Canada needs to replace Harper with a prime minister who will work collaboratively with the provinces.
"I have said for some time and I will continue to say that we really need a change," Wynne said in a phone interview.
"We need a new approach from a new prime minister. In this country, we need a federal government that will work with, and not against, provinces."
In particular, Wynne said Ontario needs a federal government that will "work in partnership" with the country's largest province.
She criticized Harper for refusing to work with Ontario on development of a supplementary pension plan.
"It's really, in my opinion, pretty unprecedented and mean-spirited in a pretty big way."
She also slammed Harper, who is seeking his fourth mandate as prime minister, for funding infrastructure projects that were not on the list of priorities submitted by her province.
"It's the disrespectful way that this relationship has evolved that I think is really problematic. And it's disrespectful not of me or the government, I'm not as worried about that as I am about the disrespect for the people of Ontario."
More generally, Wynne accused Harper of being dismissive of the provinces, refusing to call first ministers' meetings. She said he's never bothered to discuss Senate reform with the premiers, yet is now acting in an "almost petulant" manner, refusing to fill Senate vacancies in a bid to pressure the provinces to come up with a plan to reform or abolish the discredited upper house.
Wynne said she'll be working to elect Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, whom she's convinced would be willing to work together constructively with the provinces. She said she doesn't know as much about NDP Leader Tom Mulcair but said her goal is to ensure whoever wins will work with Ontario.
Mulcair has promised to meet annually with the country's premiers.
Federal and provincial governments working hand in hand is needed for the country to be "at its best" and strongest, Wynne said.
"Because when you sit down with a group of leaders, you can find ways to solve problems and come up with new ideas and that has never happened in my experience with this prime minister."
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