Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Ontarians waiting for details from Liberals

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Ontario's Liberals have created a fast-paced schedule to get themselves a new leader and already two former cabinet ministers have jumped into the race. While it's good to see Glen Murray and Kathleen Wynne putting themselves forward so quickly, these candidates -- and all those who follow -- need to spell out the details behind their leadership-campaign promises.

Without a quick and definitive explanation of how they intend to pay for clearly expensive proposals, their platforms will be nothing but vague promises. And now, more than ever, that would be a waste of time.

Ontarians are painfully aware their province is in a financial Vise-Grip. Just on Tuesday, the Conference Board of Canada released a report that predicts slowing growth -- with an added warning that dark economic times will hamper the government's ability to pay for high-quality education and health care.

While all the details are not yet entirely clear, Murray, the former minister of universities and colleges, has provided some explanation for his proposal to let university students defer payment until they get a paying job.

It's a creative idea. A lot of parents who worry they'll never be able to retire after paying for their children's education will love the plan for a "no-money-down" university degree. Murray says it will be a partnership with private lenders, but where exactly will Ontario taxpayers get the money to pay for their piece of it?

Murray also needs to spell out more details on his plans for a middle-class tax cut. He gives a basic breakdown of plans to make this happen. But who, exactly, classifies as "middle class?" And where will the money come from for tax breaks for small businesses?

When he announced his candidacy, Murray pledged to renew government by taking it from the "railroad era to the smartphone era." It's a great phrase. Tell us precisely what you mean by it.

Wynne, the longtime education minister, announced her candidacy on Monday with a warm and inspiring speech that lacked any details.

She is calling for a greater focus on cities, with new transportation services tailored to each region, and is promising to negotiate peace with Ontario's labour unions. But she offered no new information on how the province will afford, for example, new transit, since it hasn't yet come to grips with the gridlock that grips the Toronto region.

Nor did Wynne offer a convincing explanation of how she intends to patch up the Liberal government's tattered relationship with public-sector unions without putting at risk plans to balance Ontario's budget by 2017-18.

That isn't good enough. All Liberal candidates should take heed. With such a short campaign -- just over 11 weeks until the Liberals' leadership vote Jan. 25-27 -- and Ontario's financial problems so well-known, there's no time for vague generalities.

The Liberal party will choose its next leader, and the province's next premier, but the public is in no mood for political charades. Just give them the facts.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 8, 2012 A15

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