TORONTO - Kathleen Wynne has created three dozen different panels to advise the Ontario government since she became premier last February because the Liberals are tired and out of ideas, Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak said Tuesday.
"Thirty-six panels in nine months has to be some kind of record," Hudak said as he launched an attack against Wynne during question period. "Why is it the only way you can get a good job in the province of Ontario is to be on another Liberal panel?"
The New Democrats also wondered why the Liberals needed so many expert panels to advise them when they've been in power for more than a decade.
"If they haven't figured out what the people of this province want and need in terms of good government, then they've been asleep at the switch for an awfully long time," said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.
A fired-up Wynne told the legislature she wasn't about to apologize for consulting the public on issues such as funding public transit, supporting Ontario's horse-racing sector and increasing the minimum wage. The previous Conservative government always acted without first talking to people, added Wynne.
"If the party opposite, when they were in government, if they had consulted, if they had talked to anyone about the sale of the 407, if they had talked to anyone about cutting social assistance rates, if they had talked to anyone about amalgamating cities and amalgamating school boards ... we would be in this province in a very different position," she said. "But the decisions that were made by that government undermined the social fabric of this province."
The Liberals also have panels advising the government on jobs and growth, payday loans, the towing industry, a long-term energy strategy, the scope of practice for nurses, changing the mining tax, putting calorie counts on restaurant menus, university course loads and even bee health.
"I'm not going to apologize for being a government that understands that talking to people outside the walls of this building is a very important aspect of making good decisions," said Wynne.
The premier set up all the advisory panels to distract from the fact the Liberals haven't come up with a plan to boost the economy or create jobs, said Hudak.
"You seem to define jobs by how many panels you can instruct. Look, it's getting to the point of ludicrousness, premier," he said. "You appointed a panel to study taxes for transit and then you appointed a panel to study your panel. You can't make this stuff up."
Horwath admitted she too likes to consult the public before the NDP take positions on certain issues, but said eventually the time comes for real decisions and the Liberals don't seem to be able to make them.
"There is definitely value in consultation, but at some point you have to get to the actual action," said Horwath. "The problem is while all of these panels are doing their various bits and pieces of work, not much is happening in the province except for the things New Democrats are forcing Liberals to take action on, like youth job creation and lower auto insurance rates."
Wynne said the government has taken steps to help 1,500 young people find jobs with the help of a youth employment fund, and has helped create more than 60,000 other jobs across Ontario.
"We must make investments in people and in infrastructure, and we have to talk with business to make sure we create an environment that is going to allow them to thrive," she said. "That's what we're doing."