TORONTO - Premier Kathleen Wynne's attempts to hammer out a fall legislative agenda with Ontario's opposition leaders appeared to falter Thursday in the face of growing talk about a fall election.
Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak said he came away disappointed from a private meeting with Wynne Wednesday because the premier had no new ideas to offer on jobs or the economy.
"What I'm concerned about is I see a focus from the premier around a lot of small ball when we need fundamental change," Hudak told reporters.
"We need a big picture change to get our economy back on track and to spend within our means, but I'm seeing no vision of that whatsoever."
The Liberals have no real plan to eliminate Ontario's deficit by 2017-18 as promised, said Hudak, and will not want to outline that fact in next spring's budget, which would be a confidence vote for the minority government.
"They know they can't get through the spring because we'll further deteriorate and it'll be exposed that they have no plans to balance the budget," he said.
"So maybe they're trying to gamble, to throw the dice, pull a fast one with an early election. I just expected better from Kathleen Wynne."
Wynne requested meetings Monday with Hudak and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath after warning that the Liberals would call an election if the opposition refused to help pass non-partisan bills like a local food act and a ban on teens using tanning beds.
Hudak was clearly frustrated the Liberals had told the media that he met with Wynne, saying that's not helpful if the government really wants to get things accomplished.
"I think it's important that leaders would be able to get together and talk about the issues without it being leaked to the media," he said.
"Dalton McGuinty played this game where even before I could have a meeting with him he'd be telling the media about the meeting and trying to spin it."
Wynne and Horwath have set up their meeting for next Monday, but in the legislature Thursday the NDP leader echoed Hudak's comments that the premier seems to have no plans, and dismissed all the election talk as posturing.
"The premier still hasn't set out an agenda," complained Horwath.
"She seems more interested in playing politics and making election threats that even she doesn't take seriously."
Hudak complained the procedural fight over the bill to ban teens from using tanning beds —which all three parties support — turned into a "circus" and shows the Liberals are itching for a quick election.
The Liberals say things are getting done, pointing out all three parties voted in favour during second reading of the tanning bed bill, as well as new consumer protection legislation and the creation of a new government spending watchdog.
"There is lots of room for continued wrangling on other issues, but where there is agreement, it seemed to me that it would make sense for us to agree that we would move ahead on those issues," said Wynne.
Deputy premier Deb Matthews, the Liberals' campaign co-chair, said they do not want an election this fall and want to make the minority legislature work.
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