With the kick-off to Ontario's 40th general election on Oct. 6, The Huffington Post Canada kicks off its coverage with lively, ongoing debates between three of the smartest and most plugged-in politicos in the province: John Duffy arguing for the McGuinty camp; Jason Lietaer in Hudak's corner; and Heather Fraser duking it out for Horwath. Check in with HuffingtonPost.ca every weekday for the freshest and best election coverage on the web.
John Duffy (Liberal):
Hello, Jason and Heather. I'm really looking forward to talking with you about the issues in the provincial election campaign for HuffPost Canada readers, so let's get right down to it.
After a kick-off day of broad thematics yesterday, today's campaign activity really puts the issues squarely on the table. For the premier, it's about jobs. Today's new green-energy manufacturing plant announcement by Premier McGuinty puts 200 high value-added manufacturing jobs in a part of the province that needs to recover its manufacturing strength. This is the public gain that comes from a lot of political pain associated with making Ontario a leader in green technology. At a time when the OECD is warning about gathering economic clouds worldwide, and Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney is signaling a shift in priorities to try to keep jobs and growth coming, the economy has been rising on the public's list of concerns. Mr. McGuinty's announcement today hits that rising concern right on the mark. It shows that positive public policy leadership can make a big difference in addressing the serious economic challenges families and communities are facing.
The contrast with Mr. Hudak's day is striking. The PC campaign today focused on electricity rates with an event in Ottawa in which he went through a utility statement with homeowners and promised to take the HST off of their bills. This is an important issue, but one that feels as though it's been eclipsed in the public mind. There's no doubt that containing household costs is a key public concern, and it has been for some time. The globe's worsening economic outlook, however, and Ontario's relatively strong performance in weathering it, seems a lot more relevant just at this moment.
Dalton McGuinty is in London delivering jobs. Andrea Horwath is in Sudbury promising to try to create jobs in Northern Ontario. Tim Hudak feels out of the swim. Am I missing something? Or is the PC campaign missing the moment?
Jason Lietaer (PC):
I'm really looking forward to this. It should be a blast.
The start of every campaign sets the tone and always brings a couple of surprises.
So far, we've had a platform leak, a hunger strike and a great indie band get some free publicity.
John raised jobs. It's a curious theme for Dalton McGuinty to press. The Liberals used to claim their strength was education. But jobs? I don't think Ontario families buy it from a premier who has lost 300,000 manufacturing jobs on his watch while doubling Ontario's debt.
The real story for the first couple days of this campaign has been Dalton McGuinty's new Affirmative Action program. Liberals are in hysterics over our response -- calling the PCs racist, divisive and "tea-partiers."
The only problem for them: the Waterloo Region Record, the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Sun and the National Post -- and average Ontarians born here and those who have immigrated -- have all come out against their scheme.
Talk radio and local newspapers are filled with negative feedback for this idea for a very simple reason: it's not fair. You know, many politicians enter election campaigns with campaign promises that would put their jurisdiction first. When is the last time an Ontario politician launched a jobs campaign that specifically excludes only those born in Ontario? It defies explanation.
We're going to campaign on lower taxes and against this unfair, discriminatory program. I'm looking forward finding out where the NDP stands on it -- once they figure out how to feed the ink-stained wretches on their bus...
Over to you Heather.
Heather Fraser (NDP):
Hello John and Jason -- great topic for our first round.
Economic growth has to mean good jobs and a living wage that families can depend on.
Liberal and Conservative governments like to cut corporate taxes, reward their friends and then cross their fingers that it will create jobs. That's just not working. It's time to stop giving corporations tax breaks with no guarantee that it will create jobs. Andrea Horwath proposes a much more sensible approach -- let's reward companies that actually create jobs instead of shipping them out of the province.
In Sudbury today Horwath proposed legislation to ensure that resources that can be processed in Ontario won't be shipped away, keeping jobs in Ontario communities. That's the kind of leadership folks are looking for on the economy.
Another important difference is the NDP wants to reward job creators that are creating jobs for all Ontarians, not one specific group. We know employment can be an issue for Ontarians whether they have been here for three months or three generations, and from Toronto to Temiskaming.
The NDP will ensure that these are good jobs throughout Ontario. We will do this by rewarding companies for training their employees, raising minimum wage, helping small businesses through four per cent small business tax reduction.
The Liberals have had eight years to deliver on job promises and haven't. They have not protected good jobs, they froze minimum wage and have let employment standards go unchecked, and that has hurt new Canadians.
And Jason, the word is that the veal and cappuccino are coming right up.
John Duffy (Liberal):
Heather and her campaign are on the right page about jobs. Along with the McGuinty government signature pieces of education and health care, the issue that has the fastest-growing salience in the public mind right now is the economy and jobs.
The Liberals have a pretty decent story to tell about their economic management; thanks to the hard work of Ontarians and their government, we've led North America in job recovery since the recession.
The Ontario Liberal Plan has created 20,000 new clean-energy jobs for Ontario families and is on track to create 50,000 by the end of 2012. Both opposition parties have said they'd scrap our clean energy plan. They'd kill the 50,000 jobs our clean energy plan is creating.
Liberals will be pointing to dramas like today's and saying that they neatly illustrate the contrasting priorities of the different parties in a serious and somewhat forbidding global context. Campaigns that focus on this zone are likely to do somewhat better in this environment than overtly-political attempts to engineer a populist wave.
Jason Lietaer (PC):
Heather -- I don't know about you but every time a Liberal starts reciting stats like "20,000 clean energy jobs" I put on my PJs and get under the covers. It's just such a great bedtime yarn.
What happened when the Ottawa Citizen looked into these Liberal "green jobs?" They concluded in an audit released Feb. 7 that the Liberal claims are "both exaggerated and vague." Examples: Dalton McGuinty claimed DMI Industries, a Fort Erie based turbine tower manufacturer, has 238 employees. The Citizen found they had 165. Ditto for SunRise Power Corp (McGuinty claimed 35 jobs, the actual was 15).
We think it's back to basics for job creation: lower taxes for individuals and small business. Getting rid of job-killing red tape. Fixing the apprenticeship system. And putting Ontario workers at the front of the line -- not the back.
John, can you explain to me this foreign jobs plan? How will you explain to an unemployed auto worker in Oshawa that the most generous program you have -- a $10,000 direct grant to any employer who will hire her -- is not available to people born in Ontario? And what will you say to the mom who worries about the job market for her kid that's just graduating university who isn't eligible for the same payment? How is that fair?
Oh, and in unrelated news -- Dwight Duncan promised not to raise taxes today. Yeah, right.
Heather Fraser (NDP):
Well Jason -- I think the truth is when it comes right down to it voters do doze off when the parties start to recite the stats. The fact is unemployment has been flat for the past year.
All across Ontario people know that their bills are growing but their paycheques aren't. That's that stat they're concerned about. They know that Andrea Horwath will put their interests ahead of corporate interests and the other parties won't.
As for Duncan's promises not to raise taxes, it's like a headline ripped from The Onion, rather than a serious promise. Simply unbelievable.