TORONTO — Premier Kathleen Wynne launched a direct attack against Doug Ford on Thursday, portraying the Tory leader as a wealthy business executive who would undo much of the progress made by the province.
Saying voters had a stark choice in the spring election between her Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives, Wynne warned that Ford would slash jobs and claw back programs.
"Doug Ford wants to take a bulldozer to a province that has worked so hard to get to this place," she said in a speech at the Economic Club of Canada. "We can go forward with the agenda I've outlined or we can go backward with Doug Ford. It's a choice between care, or cuts."
Wynne's criticism of the newly minted Tory leader came a day after the Liberals tabled a budget that contained billions in spending on health care and child care while moving the province back into deficit — a fiscal plan that has been slammed by Ford.
Wynne said her government made a deliberate choice with its plan for six straight years of deficits if it's re-elected this spring, repeating a much-heard refrain that residents of the province need support.
Ford would have to make deep cuts to balance a Tory budget, Wynne warned, and his policies would give corporations and the wealthy tax cuts they don't need.
"Big business executives and their shareholders are actually doing fine right now, and Doug Ford should know," she said. "He's one of them. It's the people working at those companies who are my priority."
Ford, a former Toronto city councillor and brother of the city's controversial late mayor Rob Ford, was selected Tory leader earlier this month after a campaign heavy on populist messaging. He has repeatedly said he wants to wrest power back from the "elites" and has lambasted the Liberals for their spending.
A Tory government, he said, would focus on tackling the provincial debt, which is projected to be $325 billion — or more than $22,500 per Ontarian — in 2018-2019, with interest payments this year that will cost $12.5 billion.
"You can't take care of the most vulnerable people in society when you have billions of dollars in debt," Doug Ford said on Wednesday. "We're paying a billion a month servicing the debt. Do you know how many families we could help for a billion a month? That's what we have to start focusing on, taking care of our finances."
'I'm not here to defend Mr. Ford'
This week's Liberal budget saw the government reverse a key promise to stay in balance and instead project a deficit of $6.7 billion in 2018-2019, followed by deficits of $6.6 billion and $6.5 billion in each of the subsequent years.
Ford did not speak to reporters Thursday to respond to Wynne's attacks, with Tory legislator Vic Fedeli pushing back at the premier's attacks instead. Asked why Ford wasn't answering questions himself, Fedeli repeated one of the new leader's campaign slogans.
"I'm not here to defend Mr. Ford," he said. "I'm telling you that relief is on the way."
Ontario's spring election will be held June 7.
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