09/16/2011 11:16 EDT | Updated 01/12/2012 01:35 EST

McGuinty denies trying to fool reporters by firing up plant for photo op

WINDSOR, Ont. - Premier Dalton McGuinty is fighting accusations that his campaign fired up an idled solar panel plant just for the cameras, a day after his main rival had to field similar questions about one of his election photo ops.

No one was trying to fool reporters Tuesday when he toured what appeared to be a busy assembly line at Toronto's Eclipsall Energy, even though the company has halted production, McGuinty said Friday.

Production has temporarily shut down because Eclipsall went through their inventory faster than expected, which is a "great news," he added.

But the Liberal leader couldn't immediately say whether the assembly line was re-started just for the cameras.

"You'd have to speak to the folks there about that," he said after touring another plant in Windsor, Ont., that makes the towers for massive wind turbines.

"All I know is that everybody there was on the payroll, and they went through their inventory faster than expected."

Eclipsall said it has 85 employees and "routinely adjusts production levels in response to the needs of our customers and our business plan."

"We were in production last Tuesday when Premier Dalton McGuinty visited the plant," it said in a statement.

"And we anticipate ramping up production again next week."

McGuinty makes frequent campaign stops at factories that manufacture clean energy components to promote his jobs plan for the province.

The Liberals have hitched their plans for economic growth on creating a renewable energy manufacturing sector in the province that will attract investment from around the globe.

The Tories have promised to kill key parts of the plan, such as ending the feed-in-tariff program and scrapping a $7-billion deal with Samsung to build four manufacturing plants as well as green energy projects.

The deal guarantees the Korean giant space on Ontario's limited transmission grid, plus premium rates for the electricity it generates.

The Tories have derided the agreement as an untendered "sweetheart" deal and that the Liberals should have allowed an open bidding process.

At a campaign stop in Toronto on Friday, Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak said McGuinty's green jobs plan has been a failure.

"Dalton McGuinty has to answer this question -- families are paying more and more on their hydro bills that you say is going to create jobs, but the jobs aren't there," Hudak said Friday during a campaign stop in Toronto. "This has been a failure of a policy that has been abandoned in other parts of the world."

If demand for solar energy components is indeed slowing down, it's because the Conservatives are threatening to rip up the Samsung contract and other key green energy initiatives that will kill thousands of new jobs, McGuinty said.

"We've got a couple of parties that are putting a bit of a chill -- more than a bit of a chill -- on the growth of the clean energy sector here in Ontario," he said Friday.

"There's only one way that we can warm up Ontario once again, make sure we stay on track and keep moving forward together and secure these jobs and secure the future of this plant: that's by moving forward with the Ontario Liberal party."

The accusations over manufactured photo ops comes just a day after Hudak was accused of using a parents group for political gain while touting his campaign promise to make Ontario's sex offender registry public.

The Windsor Star reported Thursday that the community members beside Hudak while he was outlining details of his justice platform in Leamington on Wednesday weren't part of a parents group that protested the placement of a sexual predator near a town school.

The Liberals pounced on the report, calling it a "staged event" which set a "startling new record for deceit."

Hudak sidestepped questions Thursday about the allegations, saying when a child predator moves into a neighbourhood, "the whole community is up in arms and the whole community protests."

McGuinty was also confronted Friday with allegations that someone gained unauthorized access to thousands of private email accounts at the University of Windsor for partisan purposes.

The university is investigating the breach, which resulted in thousands of people receiving pro-Liberal messages promising cash for students in return for re-electing the McGuinty government.

"I understand the university is going to look into that and that's something I fully support," McGuinty said. "But I can tell you I'm very, very proud of our plan to reduce tuitions for low- and middle-income families."

The premier also stopped Friday in Cambridge, where he toured a training facility for youth apprenticeships and touted his promise to create a new Southwestern Ontario Economic Development Fund if the Liberals are re-elected on Oct. 6.