Tough-talking NDP leader says people fed up with Liberal ‘betrayal and lies’
Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath came out swinging at Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne during Monday’s election debate in Thunder Bay — calling the Liberal government corrupt — before the pair addressed the economic needs of northern communities.
Horwath’s sharp tone came in her opening statement of the debate on northern issues, a one-on-one with Wynne in the absence of Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak, who said a scheduling conflict kept him from taking part.
Wynne stayed focus on questions about northern communities, asked by local mayors, on what can be done about high energy costs, how to provide skilled workers for the mining sector, how First Nations can reap economic benefits from mining, and how long will it take to have infrastructure in place to mine the massive Ring of Fire region.
Both Horwath and Wynne promised to spend $1 billion on an all-season transportation corridor to the Ring of Fire. “It’s a national project at least as important as the oilsands in Alberta,” Wynne said during the event in a Thunder Bay hotel ballroom.
Wynne has been promising to spend the money over 10 years to help build the much-needed transportation route to the remote area — roughly 500 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay — even if the federal Conservatives don’t help out.
Horwath on Monday said an NDP government would spend at least the same amount. She said northern voters have “no confidence in the Liberals on development, because 5,500 jobs have been left on the table year after year.”
“If it takes more than $1 billion, we are committed to that,” Horwath added.
‘It’s a national project at least as important as the oilsands in Alberta’
– Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne
The Liberal Party of Ontario issued a news release during the debate, scoffing at Horwath’s $1-billion pledge, saying the NDP campaign platform “specifically allocated zero dollars for the Ring of Fire.”
The New Democrats said the commitment was confirmed during a technical briefing on the party’s platform last Thursday.
Horwath promised “widespread discussion and consultations with First Nations communities” on helping them secure jobs and other economic benefits from the Ring of Fire.
Wynne, too, said several First Nations communities will be part of the discussion, “project by project.”
“It’s a $60-billion opportunity … and there are going to be a lot of spinoffs from the Ring of Fire,” she said.
All three major parties vying to form the next government in the June 12 election have made different promises to woo northern voters, including developing the massive chromite deposit.
Hudak has proposed bringing the federal government to the table along with private companies for the development.
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