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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Premier McGuinty’s Weak Debate Showing Allows Rookies to Easily Win

Today's Ontario leaders’ debate between incumbent Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty, Progressive Conservative (PC) Tim Hudak, and New Democrat (NDP) Andrea Horwath offered helpful information on what the three main parties would offer the province if they form the next government.  While there was no clear winner, there was a clear loser: Premier McGuinty.

All Ontarians were welcomed to submit questions to the news agencies covering the debates – TVO, CBC, CTV, and SUN – and the top six questions were posed to the leaders.  The questions focused on jobs, the economy, Ontario’s debt and deficit, seniors, post-secondary education, and “big ideas” to fix Ontario.

The debate began with a question on student employment in Ontario, and how an increasing number of students are unable to find work in their field after completing their degree.

Premier McGuinty was immediately put on the defensive when Hudak claimed that thousands of students are leaving Ontario for higher paying jobs in Western Canada. The Tory leader alleged students were fleeing the province instead of settling forthe “part-time, low wage jobs Mr. McGuinty has given Ontario.”  Though McGuinty tried to argue that within an uncertain global economy Ontario is faring well,  Hudak countered that in July 2011 alone Ontario lost more jobs than all the other provinces combined. Horwath also raised concerns about McGuinty’s broken job plan, noting that students get a university degree but cannot find a job, so they get a college diploma and still cannot find a job, so they settle into working part-time, minimum wage jobs, often in the hospitality industry, paying down their “mountainous” student debt.

McGuinty was also lambasted for his expensive plan to expand jobs in the green sector.

McGuinty claimed his green jobs plan could lead Ontario’s economic growth, arguing he wanted to be “the first in North America” to heavily invest in green technology.  Hudak countered by saying that every green energy job cost $1-2 million to create, and that creating one green energy job cost Ontario four or five jobs elsewhere.  Horwath clarified that McGuinty’s green energy plan was not actually giving Ontarians jobs, since McGuinty repeatedly outsourced contracts to companies in other provinces or countries, such as Samsung.

The debate also focused on unnecessary burdens being faced by seniors and hydro users.  One question came from one Ontario resident who said that, after being retired for several years, her husband had to go back to work just to pay their heating and hydro bill.  Hudak’s response was that their situation was simply wrong. If he were premier, he explained, he would help by unplugging McGuinty’s smart meters, which charge prime rates for electricity use between 7:00am and 7:00pm.  He also said he would stop forcing Ontarians to pay the debt retirement charge – a monthly fee added to hydro users’ bills to pay down the debt incurred by the former Ontario Hydro - since the debt incurred was actually paid off years ago.  Pathetically, the best McGuinty could do was promise the resident a seniors’ tax credit, designed to allow them to upgrade their home to make it more accessible and “friendly.”  But what good is a tax credit to renovate your home if you lose your home because you fail to pay the bills?

Also on the agenda were taxes.  McGuinty complained that he wished Hudak and Horwath would stop saying he had raised taxes, arguing he has not.  Yet, Dalton himself has acknowledged this just isn’t true. In his own CTV interview in 2007, when the Premier acknowledged “[in 2003] I told Ontarians I would not raise taxes, and I broke that promise, and I did raise their taxes.”  Hudak’s campaign ads have even called McGuinty “The Tax Man” for bringing in the HST, adding the health tax, adding the eco-tax, compelling smart meter taxes, and adding HST to hydro bills.

McGuinty even signed onto The Taxpayer Protection Act when he took office in 2003.  The law, enacted under PC Premier Mike Harris, says he will not raise taxes and not introduce new taxes without the express consent of Ontarians.  McGuinty raised several taxes anyway, and in 2007 McGuinty appeared in a Liberal campaign ad and again said “I won’t raise your taxes.

Now, for the third time, McGuinty’s Liberals claim they won’t raise taxes.  Hudak summarized Ontarians scepticism with the sound bite of the night; “With all due respect, sir, no one believes you any more.”

McGuinty was the clear loser in this debate. With an incument’s advantage and experience, the premier should have presented himself as a statesman, competent and comfortable with running Ontario’s government.  However, he appeared unprepared, repeatedly referred to his cue cards and unable to answer even the simplest questions. Hudak and Horwath, both considered rookies in the debate, were the obvious winners.  Both presented themselves as viable alternatives to McGuinty’s government, and both leaders highlighted Liberal failures which went unanswered or uncontested.

Regardless of your view on who won or lost the debate, it is important to cast your vote, either on October 6 or at an advance poll before September 30.  See http://wemakevotingeasy.ca/en/home.aspx for information on voting. 

If you have not yet reviewed the parties’ platforms, they are available at:

Progressive Conservative Party: http://www.ontariopc.com/changebook/