Premier Kathleen Wynne is stepping up her attacks on Conservative Leader Stephen Harper as the federal election battle enters its final days.
With a fortnight to go until the Oct. 19 vote, Wynne used an Empire Club speech Monday to urge Canadians to cast ballots for Justin Trudeau’s Liberals.
Never mentioning Harper by name during her 26-minute address to 600 people at the Hilton Hotel, the Liberal premier said his Tories are “a party that is out of ideas and out of touch” on retirement security, federal-provincial co-operation, aboriginal issues and the environment.
“To be blunt, we cannot afford another decade of inaction,” she said, referring to the need for Ottawa to take the lead on measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.
“So far, almost all of Canada’s momentum on the climate change file has been generated by the provinces.”
Wynne said she hoped the next prime minister would be “willing to accompany the premiers to this fall’s Paris conference on climate change” so Canada can present a united front on tackling the issue.
“Sub-national governments are not waiting to be told that it is time to act — we are showing the way … but we need national leadership as well.”
The premier also repeated her call for a national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, which Harper has resisted.
“All of this requires an understanding of past wrongs and a commitment to change,” said Wynne.
Her voice dripping with scorn, she chided the Tories for trying to derail the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan that was a cornerstone of her election platform in June 2014.
“When a prime minister declares he is ‘delighted’ to thwart the will of a duly elected government with a mandate to improve retirement security … you’re darn right I’m going to fight back.”
Ontario only forged ahead with its own mandatory public scheme to complement the Canada Pension Plan because of “the lack of leadership from the federal government,” she explained.
“I find myself astonished listening to some of the voices on the federal campaign trail. Only the truly short-sighted could look at a pension contribution and describe it as a tax. We know better. You know better.”
Significantly, Wynne did not criticize Harper over international trade policy on the day Canada signed the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.
Speaking to reporters after her speech, the premier said while she had “concerns” about the deal’s impact on Ontario’s auto sector, she supports expanding free trade.
“We can’t walk away from those markets. It’s just unrealistic to suggest that we can compete in the global economy and ignore all of the countries that are in the Trans Pacific agreement,” she said, noting she will soon leave for her second trade mission to China in the past year.
“We’re balancing concern for some of our industries … but the flip side of that … we know that we need access to those markets. We know that we need to seize this opportunity.”