Premier-designate Kathleen Wynne is shrugging off new Progressive Conservative radio attack ads now hitting the airwaves.
“It’s the Conservatives’ choice if they want to run attack ads. I can’t control that,” Wynne told CBC Radio’s Ottawa Morning on Monday.
“But what I can control is my response and my response is not going to be a response in kind,” she said in an interview with Robyn Bresnahan.
“I am not going lash out and attack back because I don’t think that’s what people want to see.”
The 30-second radio spots paint her as a big-spending Liberal “Ontarians can’t afford.”
In a separate interview with CBC Radio’s Metro Morning, Wynne told Matt Galloway that she “can’t take the bait.”
“I am not going to react negatively and get worked up about an ad. That’s a political calculation that the Conservatives have made,” she said.
Wynne, who won the Ontario Liberal leadership on the third ballot of a convention on Saturday, said she wants to meet with PC Leader Tim Hudak and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath to get the minority legislature working again.
“I am going to do my utmost to bring jobs to Ontario, I am going to do my utmost to have a respectful discussion with the education sector. I am going to do my utmost to reach out to people in rural Ontario and work with people in small towns and in agricultural communities,” she said.
“That’s the work that I have ahead of me.”
Premier Dalton McGuinty briefed Wynne in his office for more than 40 minutes Monday.
“She got all the wisdom that she needs. I have every confidence in her. I am very proud of my leader,” McGuinty said of the incoming premier, who was elected to head the Ontario Liberal Party on the weekend.
Walking through the halls of Queen’s Park, Wynne said she is still working out a time with Lieutenant-Governor David Onley for her swearing-in ceremony.
“It’s all in the works right now . . . I said Feb. 19 we are going back to the legislature so we are going to work back from that date,” she said.
Wynne also told Ottawa Morning that she has spoken with the heads of the teachers’ federation currently warring with the Liberal government over the imposition of contracts that froze wages for two years, banned strikes, and rolled back perks like bankable sick days.
Wynne emphasized “there isn’t any more money to put into this round” for the unionized teachers.
However, she conceded the Liberals did not handle things well with Bill 115, the controversial law that imposed the deal.
“It was not a respectful discussion on both sides,” she told Bresnahan, adding she hopes to convince the unions to lift their curbs on doing voluntary extracurricular activities with students such as running clubs and coaching teams.
“There’s no magic in this. It’s about being honest with each other. This process didn’t work.”
She stressed to Galloway that “we’ve got to work this out and I am going to be a willing partner I getting us back on track.
“There has to be a way for us to talk about the local issues that aren’t going to cost anything in terms of the fiscal situation. There has to be a way to put a better process in place for the next time around and that’s the conversation that I want to have with the (unions’) leadership.”
Wynne also said on Metro Morning that she didn’t think the Liberal brand is mortally wounded after nine years in power at Queen’s Park.
“I don’t buy that . . . it is dead,” she told Galloway, noting that she has been asked repeatedly about how she is going to rebrand the flagging Ontario Liberal Party.
The new leader said undoubtedly some people were disillusioned with some of the “challenges that we faced in the last year for sure.”
“People are not happy that their kids don’t have extracurriculars in school, people are not happy in some of the rural communities about the placement of wind turbines and concerns about the Green Energy Act . . . people were not happy with the timing of the decision around the gas plants,” she said.
“I do not think that it’s about being tired of a brand. I think about needing to understand how we are going to go forward.”
On a personal note, Wynne told Bresnahan that the Ontario Provincial Police, which protects premiers round-the-clock with an entourage of elite security officers, have told her she can no longer drive her Subaru station wagon.
“That is bizarre. I’ve been driving since I was 19 years old, so I don’t think I’ve fully integrated the changes in my life,” said the 59-year-old Don Valley West MPP.
It’s not yet clear when Wynne will be sworn in as premier and appoint her new cabinet.
Wynne, who lives with her partner Jane Rounthwaite, is the first female premier in Ontario history and Canada’s first openly gay premier.
Tory Leader Tim Hudak said he is not cutting Wynne any slack whatsoever. In fact, he expects her to have some kind of plan to trim government spending within a week.
“We don’t have time to lose . . . I do hope to see some urgent action starting this week to rein in spending,” Hudak told reporters at Queen’s Park.
“We are actually facing the most serious debt and job crisis in our lifetimes.”
Hudak made no apology for airing ads attacking Wynne even before the flood lights at the weekend’s Liberal convention were cold.
“I am concerned that the first 48 hours are sounding too much like the last nine years,” he said.
“When I heard that the incoming premier wants to continue the Dalton McGuinty legacy, it’s the opposite direction we need to go.”
Even so, Hudak said he looked forward to sitting down with Wynne to talk — “we got a good personal relationship” — and provided her with a number of ideas the Tories have to slash spending and create jobs.
While pledging to work co-operatively with Wynne, Horwath immediately through down a gauntlet.
She demanded the minority Liberal government call a public inquiry into the politically motivated scrapping of natural gas-fired power plants in Mississauga and Oakville that cost taxpayers at least $230 million in cancellation and other fees.
Ironically, the NDP opposed the Mississauga plant and campaigned in the 2011 Ontario election on a promise to scrap it.
But Horwath maintained a public inquiry — to be established as soon as possible, produce an interim report in three months and a final report in six months — would “prevent the legislature from being tied up in knots again.”
A decision by Wynne to call such an inquiry on an issue that prompted McGuinty’s decision to suspend the legislature Oct. 15 would also prove Wynne is willing to do things differently, Horwath said.
The timing the NDP has set out for the interim and final reports is worth noting, because it would mean they could come out with information potentially damaging to the Liberals in time for a spring or fall election campaign.
Horwath was slated to talk with Wynne on Monday, and said the NDP will release details in the coming days of measures she wants to see in the Liberal government’s upcoming throne speech and budget — which will need support of some opposition members to pass and prevent an election.