August 8, 2012
Ont. byelections set for Sept. 6
By Jonathan Jenkins, Queen's Park Bureau
VAUGHAN, Ont. -- It’s back to school byelections for Vaughan and Kitchener-Waterloo as Premier Dalton McGuinty tries to reclaim a majority on his education record.
“I’ll let voters decide what they think is most important,” McGuinty said, using newly renovated full-day kindergarten classrooms at Mackenzie Glen Public School as a backdrop to announce the twin Sept. 6 votes.
“But I can say, speaking in my most important capacity as a parent, making sure that things are working well in our schools -- well, that couldn’t just be more important to me.”
McGuinty said his Liberals will run on their record of investing in education since first elected in 2003 -- pumping billions more into the system and establishing full-day kindergarten in Ontario.
The byelections are needed to replace retiring Liberal Vaughan MPP Greg Sorbara, who resigned last week, and Kitchener-Waterloo’s former PC MPP Elizabeth Witmer, who left in April.
Liberal largesse for education has also helped put the province in a $15-billion deficit hole and McGuinty is now trying to address that in part by convincing all teachers to accept a wage and partial salary grid freeze.
If a deal isn’t in place before Sept. 1, McGuinty said he may still recall the Legislature to force a settlement on teachers, even though he conceded he won’t get help from either the New Democrats or Progressive Conservatives.
“The PCs, for example, they would put money into horse racing before all full-day kindergarten,” McGuinty said.
“I think that’s the wrong choice.
“The NDP are saying they would give teachers pay increases and that money would come out of the classroom. Again, I think that’s the wrong choice.”
A victory in both byelections would hand effective majority control of the legislature back to the minority Liberals.
“Voters have a really serious decision to make about whether they want to hand this government a potential majority,” NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said, adding her party wants to keep the attention on what she called the Liberals’ “pattern of cynicism.”
Both the NDP and the Tories say the Ornge air ambulance scandal and the $190 million cost of moving a planned gas plant to Sarnia from Mississauga will be central to their campaigns.
“I think we can probably take both,” PC MPP Peter Shurman said.
“They (voters) very much care about the fact their money -- their hard-earned, tax dollars -- are being taken and wasted ... on political ends that are opportunistic for the Liberals.”