TORONTO — Ontarians are already casting their ballots, as advanced polls opened this weekend, and Doug Ford is disrespecting them by not presenting a full platform, the NDP leader railed during Sunday’s provincial election debate.
Recent polls have suggested the NDP has surpassed Ford’s Progressive Conservatives in popular support, making party leader Andrea Horwath the main target in the third and final televised debate of the campaign. But she shot back at Ford after he slammed the NDP over an error in the party’s platform that means it will cost $1.4 billion more per year than expected.
“We did admit that there was a mistake and we fixed it right away,” she said.
“We haven’t even seen any numbers from Mr. Ford. People started voting yesterday, Mr. Ford — Where is your platform? Where is your respect for the people now, when they’re already at the polls and you haven’t provided them any information about what it is you plan to do in our province? What are you going to cut?”
Questions about funding Ford’s pledges have largely been met with vague promises of finding “efficiencies.” The Liberals and NDP say that just means cuts to public services, but Ford has said his efficiencies wouldn’t result in a single job loss.
Ford and Horwath’s attacks during the debate focused almost exclusively on each other, as polls suggest the two are leading the race to become the next premier.
Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne, meanwhile — whose approval ratings plummeted below 20 per cent as premier, and whose party is a distant third in the polls — slipped a hashtag-worthy phrase into her opening statement.
“Here’s what I want to say about the last five years: sorry not sorry,” she said. “I’m really, genuinely sorry that more people don’t like me. But I am not sorry about all of the things that we’re doing in Ontario to make life better.”
Wynne used her question in a leader-to-leader section of the debate to challenge Horwath, who said she couldn’t imagine a scenario in which she would use back-to-work legislation — as the Liberal government did to end a five-week strike by college faculty last year.
“I know that you are beholden to the unions on this,” Wynne told Horwath.
“Oh Kathleen, wow. That’s really sad,” Horwath replied.
Wynne argued there needs to be a tool to end labour disputes, while Horwath said such legislation isn’t a tool, it is a removal of constitutional rights.
But largely the debate had Horwath and Ford sparring.
When the NDP leader said her leader-to-leader question was for Ford, he said he “wouldn’t expect anything different” and she replied, “Well, that’s good, you’re catching on.
“Show us the plan, Mr. Ford,” Horwath said, repeating her call for him to release a fully costed platform with less than two weeks to election day.
“You wouldn’t buy a used car without looking under the hood. Why should anybody buy your plan without seeing it?”
Ford, who has refused to say when he would release his full plan except to say it would be before June 7, warned that an NDP government would bring economic turmoil, invoking former NDP premier Bob Rae in suggesting businesses will move to the United States.
“The NDP will annihilate, my friends, the middle class,” he said. “We’ve seen it before.”