TORONTO - A deficit-obsessed Tim Hudak would hurt employment and damage Ontario's economic recovery if his Progressive Conservatives form the next government, Premier Kathleen Wynne said Thursday as she touted her Liberal government's fiscal track record.
Speaking to a business audience, Wynne blasted the Tory leader as a destructive throwback to the cost-cutting ways of former Conservative premier Mike Harris.
"Tim Hudak stands for cuts at all costs," Wynne said. "It's clear (he) wants to finish what Mike Harris started."
Hudak's election pledges, she said, were based on faulty math and a wrongheaded approach to eliminating the province's $12.5-billion deficit.
The Tory leader, she noted, has pledged to fire 100,000 public-sector employees if elected.
She accused him on being "hell-bent" on balancing the budget "on the backs of Ontarians" and risk throwing the province into recession.
Her own fiscal plan, which calls for a slower path to black ink, was balanced and responsible, she said.
Wynne's speech received a prolonged standing ovation from the large crowd.
Speaking afterward, Toronto's deputy mayor, Norm Kelly, praised the Liberal leader as the best choice to govern the province.
"This city needs a city-friendly leader and this province needs a city-friendly premier," Kelly told the Canadian Club.
"Kathleen, that leader and that premier is you."
The crown applauded warmly.
Kelly said he did not consult scandal-plagued Mayor Rob Ford about his decision to endorse Wynne.
"No. He's in rehab," he said.
Also Thursday, the Liberals said they had found yet another mistake in Hudak's economic platform — this one to the tune of $2.15 billion.
That's the amount of money the Tory leader has pledged to save each year with a public-sector wage freeze if he replaces Wynne after the June 12 election.
However, the Liberals said their proposed budget contained no money for wage increases.
To cut $2.15 billion, a Hudak government would have to go on a "frenzy of slash and burn," the Liberals said.
Hudak is either misleading voters or is "grossly incompetent," said Brad Duguid, Liberal minister responsible for post-secondary education.
The Tories fired back at what they called "another desperate attempt" by the Liberals to distract from their "reckless overspending and waste."
They argued the Liberals have no wage freeze in effect, and their budget made no mention of such a freeze or accounted for any related savings.
"It even talks about continued wage increases for the broader public sector," the Tories said of the budget that Wynne is promising to reintroduce if re-elected.
Hudak is already under fire by a number of economists who say he apparently used faulty math in his pledge to create one million jobs over eight years. He has insisted his plan is sound.
"In our plan, one plus one makes two," Wynne said. "It does not magically make 16."
After a meeting with several mayors earlier in the day, Wynne pleaded with voters to give her a chance to prove that the scandals — such as the $1.1-billion gas plant fiasco — that have bedevilled the Liberal government are a thing of the past.
"What I'm taking to the people of Ontario is my integrity and my commitment to them that we will do everything in our power to make sure that such a decision doesn't get made again," Wynne said.