Premier Kathleen Wynne ‘optimistic’ election can be averted
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Premier Kathleen Wynne is “optimistic” NDP Leader Andrea Horwath will support the minority Liberals’ budget, preventing an election next month.
In her first public comments since she and Horwath met Wednesday at Queen’s Park, the premier expressed hope the May 2 spending plan would see the light of day.
“It was a very productive meeting. We were able to talk about some of the concerns that we both share,” Wynne said Thursday in Vaughan.
“Our agreement was that we wouldn’t be talking about the specifics publicly, but I’ve said that I was interested in the idea of a . . . financial accountability officer,” the premier said.
That was one of Horwath’s three new demands of the Liberal government made in the wake of Finance Minister Charles Sousa’s budget containing a slew of NDP policies.
The New Democrat is also seeking more powers for the Ombudsman of Ontario and a rethink of the plan to toll carpool lanes.
While the Liberals will embrace the new $2.5-million Financial Accountability Office — modelled on the federal Parliamentary Budget Office — there is less enthusiasm for Horwath’s other requests.
The budget met previous NDP demands by promising a 15 per cent cut in auto insurance rates, a youth employment strategy, and increased money for home care health services.
Horwath and Wynne huddled for 25 minutes Wednesday in the premier’s office and all indications are an agreement is imminent.
“But she needs to talk to her caucus. We’re going to work to set up a meeting next week,” stressed the premier.
“It was a good collaborative conversation. I feel optimistic that there’s enough common ground to get the budget passed.”
NDP House Leader Gilles Bisson said “it looks like the government is moving” on some of his party’s conditions.
“We put in place some requests for the budget. The government delivered on them and our issue now is that we need to make sure there’s accountability,” said Bisson.
“This government is notorious for saying one thing and doing the opposite.”
With Horwath in the driver’s seat, the Progressive Conservatives, who want to defeat the government, have effectively been sidelined.
In the legislature, Tory MPP Peter Shurman (Thornhill) thundered against the NDP for conspiring to keep the Liberals in power.
“Secretly meeting with the leader of the third party in backroom talks does not instill confidence, in me or in the rest of Ontario, that (the) premier actually wants transparency,” said Shurman.
“The leader of the third party has made a deal with the devil.”
If the budget does not pass, the Liberal government would be toppled and Ontario plunged into a $92 million election 20 months after the last provincial vote.