By Kathy Yanchus
Should an election be called as early as the spring, the Ontario Tories are ready and will hit the ground running said their leader, Tim Hudak, during an exclusive interview at the Flamborough Review on Monday.
“There’s the old adage that a week is a lifetime in politics so I guess you never know. I don’t think any of us ever would have bet the Liberals would have closed down the legislature and walked off the job last October by proroguing the House when the going got tough. But here’s the way I look at it, it could happen this spring, it could be the summer, it could be fall, whenever it happens you’ll know where we stand,” said Hudak.
“I just sense when I’m traveling across the province people want to see change. They know we can do a lot better than this. They know we can take a different path when it comes to jobs and balancing our books.”
Accompanied by Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale’s Progressive Conservative (PC) candidate Donna Skelly, Hudak spoke on a wide variety of topics, including the horse racing industry, public sector unions, jobs, the economy and the “circus” and “chaos” within the education system.
Jobs and the economy are Hudak’s priorities as well as reining in the overspending of the current government.
“At a time that the government’s focus should be on getting our economy moving, creating more jobs, it’s just dead wrong to plough under 65,000 jobs in the horse racing sector; it’s going in the opposite direction of where we should. If we don’t get our spending under control, if we keep running up the debt, that means we won’t have funds available to pay for things like helping autistic kids, making sure we have the best health-care system that Ontarians deserve.”
Clearly, the top priority for this particular part of the riding is the horse racing industry, said Skelly.
“I think it’s unfortunate and it’s really devastating what has happened just in the last year with the cancellation of the slots program. It’s already having an impact on the community,” said the local candidate, who holds the issue close to her heart. “It’s not just a political issue, we’re playing with people’s livelihoods.”
“It’s something we’ve seen so often with the Liberal government, they waste money when there are clearly areas where money should be spent,” said Skelly. “They’re not afraid to cancel a project to save Liberal seats at the cost of a billion dollars, money that could have easily been directed to families who are struggling with autistic children and also (to) long-term health care.”
With the Paths to Prosperity series, the PC Party has laid out a “bold plan,” said Hudak, “a very clear plan” that’s focused on ensuring Ontario is the best place for job creation.
“I want to make sure our province is the best place if you want to open up a business and see it grow, and second, to make sure that we cut up the credit card. We can’t keep running the province on credit,” he said.
In the last provincial election, the provincial Tories’ campaign centered on “what was wrong with the other guys” instead of detailing its vision for a prosperous Ontario. When the writ drops the next time around, Hudak says his party will focus on its plan to move the province forward.
“I think the truth is we have a stronger message now and people understand what we stand for,” noted Skelly. “We are pushing the message of jobs. It is about jobs.”
The Progressive Conservatives’ 15-point plan to transform the economy and allow the province to compete and create jobs in a very competitive international environment, focuses on balancing the books, reducing taxes and boosting skilled trades, said Hudak.
“We don’t do enough to encourage people to get into the skilled trades. I think we have a bright future when it comes to manufacturing in this province; the other parties think it’s a thing of the past,” he said.
The plan includes creating 200,000 jobs in the skilled trades by working closely with Ontario colleges and modernizing labour laws to improve apprenticeship ratios.
If elected premier, Hudak vowed not to allow public sector unions to run the province. “Elected politicians will; principals will run the schools as opposed to the union bosses,” he said.
“I think you’ve seen this government hand over far too much power to the union bosses. They’ve thrown more and more money at the issues but we haven’t seen a result in return,” said the party leader. “Education has been a circus these last number of months... It’s not the kind of province Ontario is.”
Tossing billions of dollars at education “for any issue that pops up” is not the solution, said Hudak.
“There are 250,000 fewer kids in our schools so a lot more money and fewer kids and the results are that test scores have flatlined at best, they’ve actually gone down in crucial areas like mathematics and we’ve had chaos in our schools.”
Although the Tories backed the government’s Bill 115, the Putting Students First Act, which imposed a two-year contract on the province’s teachers, Hudak said his party’s approach of across-the-board wage freezes was superior.
“That’s the approach we recommended and that’s what we would have done had we been in office. The Liberals brought in their Bill 115, they went after the teachers, particularly. If you treat everybody equally, if everybody feels like they’re not being centered out, then you have more likelihood of buy-in, and I think you’d have achieved the wage freeze without the workplace chaos.”
Hudak believes people are still frustrated and angry that Premier Dalton McGuinty shut down the House, particularly during a time of labour disruption and jobs and spending crisis.
For the government to walk off the job and turn the lights off was a significant betrayal of taxpayers, particularly those without jobs, said Hudak.
“I wish we were sitting today, we should never have prorogued, nonetheless, I hope we get back into session immediately after a new Liberal leader is chosen,” he said.
And Hudak’s first order of business – jobs.