TORONTO - People are swamping a toll-free hotline and a website set up by Ontario's New Democrats to gather feedback on whether or not to support the minority Liberal government's budget or force an election, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said Monday.
"Notwithstanding where people sit on the issue of an election or not an election, what they all pretty much agree with is this government needs to be held to account," said Horwath.
"The (Liberals) are not very trustworthy when it comes to prioritizing Ontarians' dollars to get things done for them, as opposed to using those dollars for their own political interests."
Some in the NDP caucus feel the government should be defeated for spending at least $585 million to cancel gas plants to save Liberal seats in Oakville and Mississauga, but others want to support a budget that addressed many of their party's concerns.
The general public seems split on the election issue itself, said Horwath.
"The reality is that people are kind of mixed in terms of their response, with the commonality the real frustration with the Liberal government's lack of accountability around making sure their dollars are spent wisely," she said.
The Liberals addressed most of the NDP demands in the budget by promising a cut in auto insurance premiums, increased welfare rates and more money for home care services, but with sometimes vague wording that worries many New Democrats.
"It creates a lot of concern for us and for Ontarians that we're going to see the same old status quo from the Liberals," said Horwath.
"We got elected in this minority parliament to try to get things done for people and we're going to try to do that, but what we won't accept is a government that just pays lip service to the kinds of things that Ontarians have told us they want to see."
The NDP caucus meets Tuesday and will debate whether or not to support the budget or join with the Progressive Conservatives to defeat the government, but hasn't decided when it will wrap up the public consultations.
"The government took a couple of months to put the budget together," said Horwath, "(so) the very least we could do is take a little bit of time to engage Ontarians on the budget."
The Liberals consulted 600,000 people as they prepared the budget, and "assumed" the New Democrats also consulted the public before making their budget demands, which the government addressed "in its own way," said Premier Kathleen Wynne.
"The reality is now we've had all those conversations and now I think it's time to make a decision, I really do," she said. "I do not believe the people of Ontario want an election at this point."
The NDP must eventually decide if they'll vote for the budget, abstain like they did last year and allow the Liberals to pass it themselves, or join with the Conservatives to defeat the minority government.
PC Leader Tim Hudak urged the NDP Monday to support his party's non-confidence motion on the gas plants scandal, saying the Liberals should face a vote in the legislature on the politically motivated decisions.
"We owe it to Ontarians to have a vote, an up or down vote on whether you think the cancellation of the gas plants to save Liberal seats was a big deal, or is that just the cost of doing business under the Liberal government these days," said Hudak.
"I think Ontarians who've seen money blown to save Liberal seats that could have gone to creating jobs or building subways, they want a vote on this."
The Tory non-confidence motion will likely not be voted on in the legislature because the Liberals still have control over what bills get called to the house for debate, and have said the best opportunity for a confidence vote will be on the budget.
The gas plants issue was expected to heat up again Tuesday when former premier Dalton McGuinty testifies under oath at justice committee hearings into the cancelled energy projects.
McGuinty has already taken responsibility for the decisions to cancel the gas plants.