Premier Dalton McGuinty holds press conference at Queens Park discussing the budget and the possibility of a summer election Friday June 15, 2012.
Credits: Craig Robertson/QMI AGENCY
TORONTO - Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty is warning he will call a snap election for mid-July if opposition MPPs don't backtrack on significant changes they made to his budget document.
McGuinty issued a stern written statement late Thursday after NDP and Tory MPPs teamed up at committee to support amendments to Bill 55.
The premier called the actions a betrayal of a deal his minority government reached with NDP Leader Andrea Horwath in exchange for her party's support of the budget.
"If we cannot pass this budget we will take it to the people in a general election," McGuinty said. "If any member of either opposition party wants to put the provincial interest ahead of their party's own interest, we'd be happy to work with them. Otherwise, Andrea Horwath breaking her word a second time at this late stage has left us with absolutely no choice - we will be forced to take this to the people."
Finance Minister Dwight Duncan later said the opposition "gutted" the Liberal budget, removing his government's ability to achieve its fiscal goals.
The NDP and the Tories stood by their votes in committee.
NDP House leader Gilles Bisson said his party's amendments rewrite about one-third of the budget - the sections dealing with privatization, the environment and arbitration.
Bisson said his party has held up its end of the deal with the Liberals by ensuring that the budget motion made it through the Ontario Legislature.
"New Democrats don't want to call an election," Bisson said. "This is a Liberal budget. If the government calls this bill forward, we're going to allow the budget bill to go forward with amendments and that's the process that we've all agreed to."
Horwath was clear that she intended to introduce amendments to the budget, and the Liberals were told in advance this would happen, Bisson said.
In a surprise to both the NDP and the Liberals, the Tories voted to support those amendments at committee.
Tory MPP Monte McNaughton said his party has been up front as well that it would not back the Liberal budget.
"This is going to be up to the NDP and the Liberals to sort this out," McNaughton said.
Duncan said the committee has another chance on Monday to change its mind or McGuinty will visit Lieutenant Governor David Onley, instigating a July election.