By Stew Slater
Opposition members of the provincial Legislature from the Perth, Huron and Oxford Counties lost little time in adding their takes on the recent victory of Kathleen Wynne as provincial Liberal leader — and, by default, Premier-elect of the province.
Huron-Bruce MPP Lisa Thompson was quick off the mark; her constituency office sent out an email even prior to the weekend leadership convention, inviting media outlets to interview the Conservative MPP once the dust had settled.
“Kathleen Wynne doesn’t seem to recognize that Ontario has a jobs and an economic deficit,” Thompson told Regional Country News on the afternoon of Monday, Jan. 28, referring to what she said was Wynne’s first official interview following her victory. Thompson suggested that, in that interview, the Premier-elect didn’t mention jobs but rather touched on the topic only when prompted by the reporter.
It was an entirely different interview by an entirely different top-ranked Liberal, however, which may have garnered the most response in this region from Opposition MPPs. That interview — also referred to by Thompson in her Jan. 28 interview — was given by Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs minister Ted McMeekin to his home-town Hamilton Spectator newspaper.
News releases sent out by the constituency offices of a number of Conservative MPPs, including Oxford’s Ernie Hardeman and Perth-Wellington’s Randy Pettapiece, noted the following: “In a surprisingly frank admission, (McMeekin) said his Liberal government ‘dropped the ball’ on the horse racing issue. In a recent media interview to a Hamilton reporter, the minister was quoted as follows: ‘I’m having a helluva a good time and, you know, when I see issues like the horse racing issue, which I think our government dropped the ball on, and when I see issues like the windmills’.”
“There’s no question (McMeekin) opened himself up to questions about both of those issues, when the Legislature resumes sitting,” Thompson said. She added that’s expected to happen immediately after the Family Day holiday, with MPPs returning to Queen’s Park on Feb. 19.
Asked if her party will move immediately to attempt to force Wynne to call an election, the Huron-Bruce MPP said her party is not necessarily bound and bent on sending Ontarians back to the polls.
Instead, she said, the Conservatives’ main goal is “forcing this government to be accountable. What we’re going to want to see is if, under Wynne’s watch, this government is going to provide full disclosure on a number of key files.”
For Thompson, the information she’d like to see revealed includes the reasons behind the cancellation of the Toronto-area gas-fired generation plant, and what she charges are pages and pages of unreleased Ministry of the Environment documents linking large-scale wind turbine projects to adverse health effects. Such deficiencies in openness, she argues, “leaves one to wonder what else is this government hiding?”
And, to be sure, she wants to see the government revisit the Slots at Racetracks decision that has had so many repercussions throughout Ontario’s equine sector.
Asked about Wynne’s leadership campaign commitment to appoint herself as Agriculture Minister in an effort to make stronger connections between the Liberal government and rural Ontario (a commitment which, to date, she has not followed through on), Thompson was unimpressed.
“I guess I’m wondering how she’ll do that, and represent her own constituents. There’s a bit of disconnect there.”