TORONTO - Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak's "dangerous ideas" to slash 100,000 public sector jobs will drive Ontario back into recession, Premier Kathleen Wynne warned Wednesday as she picked up a major endorsement for the June 12 election.
"He's talking about cutting twice as many jobs as Mike Harris did, and here's the spoiler alert: that's a recipe for recession, and it's wrong for Ontario," Wynne said while campaigning at a school in Guelph.
"What we are seeing every day in this election campaign is that there's a clearer and clearer choice between the plan that we are putting forward and the set of dangerous ideas Tim Hudak is putting out that will push us back into a recession, that will undermine the very foundation of our economic recovery."
At an earlier stop in Mississauga, Wynne was endorsed by the city's mayor, the influential 93-year-old 'Hurricane' Hazel McCallion, who praised the Liberals for working closely with municipalities and took shots at the Tories and NDP.
McCallion said she didn't know what the NDP's polices were, warned that Hudak's public sector job cuts would hurt municipalities, and said the gas plants scandal — the Liberals' $1.1-billion cancellation of plants, one of them in Mississauga — was "water under the bridge."
McCallion's comment didn't sit well with Hudak.
"If they get away with that gas plants scandal, you know they're going to do it again," he warned.
For his part, Hudak laid out his plan to eliminate the $12.5-billion deficit by 2016 and even have a small surplus, and said only health-care spending would increase under a Conservative government.
During a speech in Toronto, Hudak also talked about education and said he would increase class sizes, change full-day kindergarten so teachers and early childhood educators aren't in class at the same time, and kill a 30 per cent tuition grant for post-secondary students.
He again defended his plan to slash public sector jobs and impose a two-year wage freeze on anyone paid by taxpayers to save $2 billion a year, and said he would take steps to force cabinet ministers to be more careful with taxpayers' money.
"I'm actually going to tie cabinets' pay to performance, so if my cabinet doesn't hit their goals on reducing red tape to help small business create jobs, if my cabinet doesn't hit their goals on balancing the budget and keeping spending affordable, I'll dock their pay, and I'll dock my pay as premier as well," said Hudak.
"Don't you think it's time we actually put politicians money, your money, where their mouths are and them to their promises? I sure do."
New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath, meanwhile, promised to cut government spending by $600 million a year, and said she would run a leaner cabinet by reducing the number of ministers by one third, although she'd add a new minister of savings and accountability.
"There are a lot of people around the cabinet table whose business it is to spend the money," Horwath said during a news conference at the legislature. "What I want is someone there that can save the pennies."
Horwath admitted she doesn't know yet which eight ministers she'd eliminate, but said there is waste and duplication across government and its agencies that should be rooted out, starting with the energy sector.
"One of the most obvious examples that (the Liberals) continue to refuse to take on is the one in the electricity system," she said while promising to merge four of the five provincial electricity agencies.
"I am confident that there are many types of that overlap in the government, and the problem is that no one is charged with the responsibility to actually find it."
Hudak guffawed when asked to respond to the NDP's call for a minister of savings.
"Only the NDP could create a new bureaucracy to reduce bureaucracy," he said.
— With files from Maria Babbage, Will Campbell and Colin Perkel.
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