Up to opposition to make minority government work after throne speech: Wynne

TORONTO – There will be something in next week’s throne speech for both opposition parties, but it’s up to them to decide if they want to work with the minority Liberals, Premier Kathleen Wynne said Friday.

Her talks with Opposition Leader Tim Hudak and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath have been “positive” and “productive,” but that doesn’t mean it will be smooth sailing, she acknowledged.

“I know that there will be issues that we’re going to have to deal with, and I know that there will be points of friction,” Wynne said.

“But I also know that the people of Ontario want this government to work, and so I’m going to do everything in my power — we’re going to do everything in our power — to make that the reality.”

Wynne needs one of the opposition parties to support the throne speech to avoid triggering an election. The next test will be the spring budget, which is also a confidence motion.

She’s been labelled a more left-leaning successor to former premier Dalton McGuinty, but Wynne says she wants to balance social justice with fiscal accountability in the face of a $12-billion deficit.

So she’s brushed up on her business credentials over the past few days, meeting with Bay Street bigwigs and the provincial chamber of commerce to discuss their ideas to improve productivity, competitiveness and Ontario’s economy.

Wynne wouldn’t go into specifics Friday about the Feb. 19 throne speech, where the government traditionally outlines its agenda at the start of the legislative session.

The New Democrats have given Wynne a list of ideas they want her to implement.

They include a 15 per cent cut in auto insurance premiums and $30 million to eliminate home care waiting lists and institute a five-day guarantee for seniors who need health services at home.

Horwath said she also wants Wynne to close $1.3 billion in corporate tax loopholes, spend $200 million to create jobs for youth and call a public inquiry into cancelled gas plants.

The Tories have floated plenty of ideas in a series of so-called “white papers,” but haven’t given Wynne a shortlist.

“We want to see fundamental change in Ontario,” said Progressive Conservative Monte McNaughton.

“We don’t want to see more of the same from the Liberals. Their decisions over the last 10 years got us where we are today.”

Conservative insiders say they’re looking for a more holistic approach to the province’s fiscal problems.

The Liberals don’t necessarily have to adopt every one of their ideas, but if they don’t, the Tories want to see a plan that achieves the same goal: eliminating the deficit while doing more to create jobs.

The Tories say they’re taking the same approach as economist Don Drummond, who’s part of Wynne’s transition team.

He released a major report last year on how to reduce costs without raising taxes, which included some controversial recommendations, such as bigger class sizes.

Drummond made it clear that all 362 recommendations must be implemented to eliminate the deficit by 2017-18 and avoid the same fate that befell debt-plagued Greece.

If the government can’t implement his recommendations, it must do something to compensate by either cutting somewhere else or finding a new source of revenue, he said.

Wynne said she’s optimistic that there will be something for everyone in the throne speech.

“I believe that there is a lot of common ground with the Tories and with the NDP, but it will be up to them to look at what is there, to determine whether they can work with us going forward,” she said.

“I really hope they can. I hope we’ll be able to find a way to work together.”