TORONTO - Ontario deserves a premier who will be willing to ensure the province gets a fair deal on the renegotiation of the health-care accord, former premier and interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae said Friday.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper called this week for a conservative "hat trick" in the province that would lead to fellow Tory Tim Hudak elected in October.
The possibility of Tory governments at both the federal and provincial levels would mean that two allied parties would be negotiating a new health-care accord for Ontario.
The accord stipulates how much money the federal government transfers to the provinces for health-care spending.
The next agreement will more than likely be negotiated by the winner of the fall election. The current deal expires in 2014.
Rae was the province's NDP premier when negotiations started in the 1990s that would lead to a new deal with the federal government over the transfer of money for health care.
He pointed out that he "started this battle back in 1992 with respect to ensuring Ontario's getting a fair shake in the federal bargain."
"I think it's important that we can expect a premier from this province to continue with that effort and I think Premier McGuinty's been doing that very clearly," he told reporters in his Toronto-Centre riding.
The interim Liberal leader dubbed Hudak, Harper and conservative Toronto Mayor Rob Ford as the three "dark horsemen of the apocalypse."
The notion that the Tories would be unable to negotiate a competitive deal for Ontario is "nonsensical," said Rocco Rossi, Progressive Conservative candidate in the Toronto riding of Eglinton-Lawrence.
"People don't care what level of government is responsible for delivering, they just want it done because there's only one taxpayer," he said. "They don't want politicians who are busy posturing but are busy solving problems by working together."
He declined to give any more details about what the provincial Tories would be looking for from the federal government if they were negotiating a new deal.
The party has promised $6 billion in new spending on health care.
McGuinty has been pushing the federal Conservatives to agree to a new 10-year deal on health-care transfers.
The current deal has a built in "escalator clause," which increases the amount of money transferred from the federal government to the provinces by six per cent every year.
Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has committed to extending that deal for two years after 2014, but will not say what the plan is after that.
An NDP government would treat the negotiation of a new deal as an opportunity to move forward on initiatives like a national home-care program and solving the national doctor shortage, said Leader Andrea Horwath.
"You don't succeed if you're not going in with a committed direction in mind," she said. "If you're going in without a plan and without a vision, then your likelihood of negotiating anything at all on these kinds of issues is not going to happen."
The party will also be pushing for a new 10-year deal with the six per cent escalator clause, she said.
The administration of health care is solely a provincial responsibility as defined in the constitution.
Provinces cannot afford to pay for it on their own, however, making it necessary for the federal government to transfer money to the provinces to help administer health care services.
The federal government provides roughly 20 cents of every dollar the provinces spend on health care.
Rae also said he would be actively supporting McGuinty in the upcoming provincial campaign. The Ontario premier declined to campaign for Rae's predecessor, Michael Ignatieff, during the last federal election.
The provincial Liberals appear to be in tough against their Tory opponents.
Polls conducted in the leadup to the fall vote have Hudak's Progressive Conservatives in the lead.