Here’s our daily look at what’s making news in the lead-up to the next provincial election.
- Interim Progressive Conservative leader Vic Fedeli told MPPs and party staff yesterday that the “rot” he discovered when he took over from Patrick Brown in January is now gone and that the new Tory leader “will inherit a party that is ready to fight and win the next election.” Fedeli said that “excessive spending that occurred in the past has been reined in,” computer systems have gotten “much-needed updates” since they were hacked last fall, and “contracts for unknown services have been cancelled.” Fedeli did not elaborate on what those unknown services were.
- Complaints about the voting process the PC party has set up to choose its next leader keep coming. TVO’s Steve Paikin reports that Bob Runciman, a former interim leader of the party and a current supporter of Caroline Mulroney’s leadership bid, is still waiting for organizers to send him the PIN he needs to vote. “I'm becoming increasingly concerned that if half the people can't vote, this result will be illegitimate,” he said.
- Kathleen Wynne was peppered with tough questions at her latest town-hall meeting, in Ancaster, Tuesday evening — from, among others, an autoworker angry about his industry’s having been exempted from new employment standards laws, a woman who works at a private cannabis shop upset over the Liberals’ plan to hand over marijuana sales to government-run stores, and people concerned about the economy and Donald Trump’s tariff threats.
- Andrea Horwath responded to news that the Liberals are introducing legislation to reduce the persistent pay gap between men and women: “This Liberal government has had 15 years to tackle the gender pay gap in Ontario,” she said in a statement. “If it were a priority for Kathleen Wynne and the Liberals, they would have already done it.” Horwath argued that the bill is actually a step back on the pay equity front, since it “does not even match current obligations under the Ontario Pay Equity Act or the planned federal legislation, both of which apply to both private and public sector employers with 10 employees or more. Wynne’s version only applies to the public sector.” The province’s Equal Pay Coalition has echoed Horwath’s criticisms, calling the proposals “timid.”
- Caroline Mulroney’s efforts to win over PC leadership voters in northwestern Ontario have gotten a boost thanks to a key endorsement, TVO’s Jon Thompson reports. Greg Rickford is running as the Tory candidate in Kenora–Rainy River and is already the most successful northwestern Ontario conservative politician in a generation, having been federal MP for Kenora from 2008 to 2015. But Thompson notes that Rickford’s support, while helpful, is no guarantee: he supported Christine Elliott in 2015, and she was soundly beaten by Patrick Brown in all but one of northern Ontario’s ridings.
- A new poll by DART Insight and Communications for Newstalk 1010 Radio shows that 81 per cent of Ontarians want a change in government. Of those who want the Liberals out of office, 54 per cent would vote Progressive Conservative, 30 per cent would vote NDP, and 16 per cent would vote for a different party. The poll was conducted between February 19 and 27 and surveyed 962 Ontarians online; it is considered accurate within 3.6 percentage points.
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What to watch for
- Hot off the heels of yesterday’s town hall in Ancaster, Kathleen Wynne holds another town hall Wednesday evening, at Toronto’s Design Exchange. The event is in honour of International Women’s Day, which is tomorrow.
- Finance Minister Charles Sousa is expected to announce the date of the Ontario budget at a speech in Toronto to the Economic Club of Canada today.
- NDP leader Andrea Horwath continues her tour of Ontario communities today with a stop in Kitchener to talk about hospital overcrowding.
- If you want live coverage of the PC leadership decision, watch The Agenda on Twitter starting at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday.