TORONTO - Premier Kathleen Wynne and NDP Leader Andrew Horwath — the only Ontario politicians who can plunge the province into a general election this spring — appear in no hurry to do so following two byelections in Niagara Falls and Thornhill.
After suffering defeat in both votes Thursday, Wynne downplayed chances of an early election and said she will introduce a budget as scheduled, likely next month.
"I don't know when there will be a general election, and we're in a minority Parliament," Wynne said Friday at an event in Cambridge, Ont.
"Many people in the media and beyond did't think I'd be standing today, a year later, so we'll see. We're going to develop a budget, and in the meantime I'm going to continue to do my job."
Despite their big win in Niagara Falls, a riding that had been Liberal for a decade, the NDP leader refrained Friday from saying whether she will continue to prop up the Liberal government or trigger a spring election at budget time.
"We're going to take our cues from the people of this province and we're not going to be focused on election fever like the two other leaders may be," said Horwath.
"I'm not going to be spending time talking about whether or not we're going to be in an election this spring."
The Progressive Conservatives held on to the suburban Toronto riding of Thornhill and blamed their loss in Niagara Falls on the "union elites."
PC Leader Tim Hudak said the Tories were in a "David and Goliath" battle against hundreds of paid union activists who flooded the riding in support of the NDP.
"They don't discriminate between whether it's a Liberal vote or an NDP vote, they want those members in their back pockets and that's where they are today," said Hudak.
"Give me a level playing field in Niagara Falls, we win that seat, but when you give that oversized influence to big labour, they buy influence with members."
The NDP barely managed to get six per cent of the vote in Thornhill, and had equally dismal showings in byelections last summer in Ottawa and Toronto, added Hudak.
"I think what this demonstrates is the excessive and powerful influence of the special interest groups, particularly big labour," he said. "When they get behind somebody, you saw it in Niagara Falls, it is a massive showing."
Horwath said Hudak is entitled to his opinion, but insisted the NDP had a wide range of supporters working for their candidate, Wayne Gates, including small business owners and even the CEO of the Fort Erie Race Track.
"I know from being in that campaign that quite often, day after day after day, we had all kinds of different people on that campaign," she said. "We had quite a bit of diversity in our campaign, and we were proud of that."
After writing off the byelections as "skirmishes" that aren't indicative of how things will go in a general election, Wynne vowed that the Liberals will do better whenever the campaign is held.
"I know people are looking for change in this province," she said. "Well I'm the change. My plan is the change. My team is the change, and that's the change we're going to take into the next election."
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