Balancing books, stronger social safety net a priority: Wynne

Ontario's new premier, Kathleen Wynne, holds her first press conference at the Delta Chelsea Hotel in downtown Toronto, on the morning after her win at the Liberal convention.

Credits: MICHAEL PEAKE/Toronto Sun/QMI Media


TORONTO -- Incoming premier Kathleen Wynne says she'll balance Ontario's books and strengthen its social safety net at the same time.

"They are both priorities -- that's the reality," Wynne said Sunday during her first news conference after winning the Liberal party leadership.

"That's what being a Liberal is about."

Wynne said she will go back to economist Don Drummond's 2012 report on reforming public services to find more ways to reduce the province's $11.9-billion deficit.

But she also wants to take on youth unemployment, improve Ontario Works benefits -- as recommended by the recent Social Assistance Review -- at an estimated $340 million and make peace with teachers angry over an imposed, wage-freezing, benefit-reducing contract.

"Those are things that are very high on my priority list and I will be tackling them within hours," Wynne said, as the five men she beat for the leadership looked on. Her main rival, Sandra Pupatello, was absent for "family and logistical reasons."

Wynne stressed she will not "rip up" contracts imposed on teachers and added, "I've also been very clear that we have to engage in a conversation about extracurriculars."

She also promised to name a new cabinet and recall the legislature by Feb. 19. She had already spoken with Tory Leader Tim Hudak and hoped to soon chat with NDP Leader Andrea Horwath about ending the "rancour and viciousness" of the legislature.

Wynne, who said people don't want an election now, also addressed her ground-breaking status as Ontario's first female and married gay premier.

"I'm not a gay activist -- that's not why I got into politics," Wynne said. "But it is important to me that young people and people who are frightened see the possibilities and If I can help people to be less frightened, that's a wonderful, wonderful thing."

NDP MPP Gilles Bisson said he was pleased to see Wynne identify poverty reduction as a priority, and is hopeful that it's more than just talk.

Horwath is not interested in forcing a quick election and is prepared to work with the Liberals, he said.
Tory MPP Vic Fedeli signalled that the PCs will continue to pursue contempt motions against Energy Minister Chris Bentley over the cancelled gas plants in Mississauga and Oakville.

Ontario Tories immediately launched attack ads which dubbed Wynne "McGuinty's right hand" with an "expensive record of failures."

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