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Weighing in on the Ontario leaders debate

By Maryam Shah, Toronto Sun

Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne (Jack Boland, Toronto Sun)

Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne (Jack Boland, Toronto Sun)

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Toronto - 

We asked Ontarians what they thought of the provincial leaders debate:

  • Gayle McFadden, vice-president of campaigns and advocacy for the York Federation of Students:

“Nobody wins when we don’t talk about access to post-secondary education and youth issues. All parties present at the leaders debate showed no commitment to post-secondary education and the future of our province, or one that was lacklustre at best. At a time when students in Ontario are paying the highest tuition fees in Canada while sitting in the largest classroom sizes with the worst teacher-to-student ratio, and being subjected to the lowest per-student funding in the country, there is no excuse for not taking student issues seriously. As the first generation in Ontario to be worse off than the generation before us, students and youth must ensure that all parties make tangible commitments to our future. No party did this.”

 

  • Candice Malcolm, Ontario director at the Canadian Taxpayers Federation:

“In a debate that addressed many of the major policy concerns of Ontario, hydro costs, congestion, taxes, balancing the budget, and government corruption, Tim Hudak appeared calm and confident, while Andrea Horwath came out swinging and landed some great zingers.

And Kathleen Wynne? The sitting Premier of Ontario? Surprisingly, she appeared frazzled, flustered, and at times, just plain uncomfortable. Having to defend the Liberal record is not easy. Wynne had to repeatedly apologize for the political decision to cancel gas plants. Hudak aptly pointed out that cancelling the plant was not a “mistake,” it was a political calculation. Wynne then refused to answer simple questions about how she will balance the budget, and couldn’t name a single program or spending item she would rein in to eliminate the deficit and address the debt. Instead, Wynne resorted to fear-mongering, saying that Hudak would push Ontario into a recession.

Earth to Premier: Ontario is already in a prolonged recession, thanks to your government!”

 

  • Linda Haslam-Stroud, president of the Ontario Nurses Association:

“My assessment is that Kathleen Wynne and Andrea Horwath held their own, and Tim Hudak withered under their two-pronged attack. Wynne presented a compelling case that the cuts proposed by the PC party of Ontario would cause irreparable harm, while Horwath also took aim at the severe impact of the cuts on people and communities. Hudak was unable to withstand or respond to this barrage of pointed criticism from Wynne and Horwath. It is clear from the debate that Ontarians do not support cuts and do not believe cutting jobs will create jobs. For Ontario nurses, more nurses mean better, safer patient care — more time with each patient, shorter waits, fewer complications and lower death rates for patients. Nurses feel the risks to patient care are just too great if Tim Hudak’s Conservatives are elected. Nurses will choose care, not cuts when they vote on June 12.”

 

  • James Schultz, a writer who lives and works in Toronto:

“Who won? Andrea Horwath.

Why? The debate was a mess and all three leaders seemed unlikeable (especially Hudak, who reminded me sometimes of a precocious child at a dinner party). I’m giving Horwath the edge because she came out of the ruck relatively unscathed, at least compared to the other two.

Wynne looked like she was drowning, and her scandal got a lot more attention than Hudak’s. Hudak’s answers felt overly rehearsed and there was a weird zealotry behind everything he said. You can tell he’s frothing at the mouth for a chance to govern, which makes me uncomfortable.

I still don’t know how I’m voting, and for the first time, I’m seriously considering taking Steve Paikin’s advice and spoiling my ballot.”

Ranking:

1) Andrea Horwath

2) Tim Hudak

3) Kathleen Wynne

 

  • Susan Eng, vice-president advocacy at CARP (Canadian Association for Retired Persons):

“There were no knockout blows but on balance Kathleen Wynne was the winner tonight. She was the only adult in the room and rose above the personal attacks to stake out a clear vision of a better economic future — available to young and old alike. She commanded the floor and had the best grasp of the important issues. Whether you agree with her prescriptions or not, at least you know what her plan is, that she believed in it and the style of leadership she would bring to the task. She did not resort to rehearsed attack lines and so projected authenticity. She faced down pointless interruptions and anodyne anecdotes that the other two used to get into the game. Of all the leaders, she showed the most readiness to govern. She will energize her base without offending potential swing voters.”

Ranking:

1) Kathleen Wynne

2) Tim Hudak

3) Andrea Horwath

 

  • Chris Koropeski, a part-time paramedic who works in the Thunder Bay area:

“There are five parties that could, technically, form a majority government late next week, yet sadly only three were invited. If this debate was to truly be a leaders debate the Libertarians and Greens would be included. But, moving on...

Tim Hudak didn’t impress me. Maybe it was the fake smile, maybe it was the useless stories or maybe it was the singular idea of jobs that he kept bringing forward. At least Kathleen Wynne talked about different aspects of her plan. Although, as Andrea Horwath mentioned early on, you can move the seats around the table, but you still have the same people sitting there. With the Liberals, this is true.

Andrea Horwath outperformed the others. Not only did she make several (albeit brief) mentions of northern issues (highway maintenance, ring of fire, Thunder Bay Generating Station), which directly affect me, she also was able to make several mentions of her platform.

I could get into specifics about each party platform, but what matters to me may not matter to you. I heard the most from Andrea, I heard Wynne defend, and I heard Hudak ramble.”

 

  • Gesilayefa Azorbo, a writer, photographer, and emerging filmmaker:

“In terms of sheer aggression, I want to say Andrea Horwath takes the cake for this debate. She goes on the attack early on and doesn’t let up, even trying for a knockout punch à la Mulroney with her line: “Why did you choose not to stand up for Ontarians?” Best line of the night though: “You shouldn’t have to choose between bad ethics and bad math.” However, I didn’t come away with any clearer sense of what, exactly, she would be bringing to the table in terms of the NDP platform. Wynne, on the other hand, stayed on message and held on tight in the face of both Hudak’s and Horwath’s attacks on her credibility and ethics due to the gas plants scandal. Her focus on the camera instead of the other candidates was off-putting, but was presumably meant to connect to viewers. Hudak’s responses were a bit too smooth and just vague enough to be disturbing (like how he “feels in his heart” that his plan will work), and his promise to step down if he doesn’t carry out his plan came across as manipulative, despite his assurances that he was the most honest candidate.”

 

  • Michael Quinsey, a high school teacher and wrestling coach a University of Toronto:

“Kathleen Wynne was the clear winner of the debate. Wynne consistently focused on answering the questions, rather than carping back and forth. Wynne’s answers were detailed, substantive and demonstrated knowledge of the issues at hand. It came out that Horwath does not know how long it takes to build a highway and that Hudak does not understand public transit. I found Hudak’s continual references to his own children to be sleazy and his repeated insistence on his honesty, his emotional tone, and his forced smile to be manipulative — like a shady salesman. An honest person doesn’t need to insist he is honest. He still thinks you can balance a provincial budget like a cheque book. However, he placed second in the debate. Horwath looked like the complete amateur of the three, making generally incomprehensible comments, interrupting frequently, not to mention needing to read just about everything from her cue cards.”

 

  • Pauline Beange holds a doctorate in Canadian and comparative politics and has taught at the University of Toronto:

“As an awards ceremony, most personable leader goes to Andrea Horwath; most improved public persona goes to Tim Hudak; most wooden, humourless presentation goes to Kathleen Wynne. Hudak and Horwath effectively presented their party positions and addressed critiques with detailed responses. Wynne repetitively apologized for failures of the Liberal Party but refused to acknowledge that her government had not punished those responsible for the spending scandals of eHealth, closed gas plants, ORNGE or the MaRS real estate deal. Instead, she stoked fear that the Conservative plan would stall the economy. Hudak forewarned viewers he would not be the most charismatic leader on the program. He did a great job of personalizing the problem of Ontario debt by relating it to family credit card debt. Points to Horwath for holding Wynne’s feet to the fire. Who won? Toss-up between Hudak and Horwath. Who lost? Definitely Wynne.”


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