ON 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
If only we could have dug up a decent sex scandal at Queen's Park Friday, we'd have all the ingredients for a steamy summer movie.
The place was abuzz with who-did-what-to-whom gossip, as the pact the NDP and Liberals forged to get the budget bill passed fell apart.
It started Thursday, when Tories unexpectedly voted with the NDP on amendments to the budget bill.
"It's not our budget," fumed Finance Minister Dwight Duncan at a hastily arranged media scrum.
Premier Dalton McGuinty put out a statement threatening to call an election, but took the opportunity to invite opposition members to "work with them" (read cross the floor) to pass the budget.
Them's fighting words.
By Friday, McGuinty put himself on a pedestal to fight for his budget.
"I don't think anybody wants an election, but I have a higher responsibility to protect the heath and wellbeing of this economy."
Higher responsibility? Huh? This is the guy who's racked up some of the biggest deficits the province has ever seen. He's doubled the debt, refused to hold the line on public sector salaries - and now he tells us we have to get this budget through because we need to rein in spending?
He even suggested we need to pass this quickly because the credit rating agencies want this plan in place soon.
In fact, Moody's downgraded the province's credit rating and Standard and Poors put us on a negative outlook after the budget, so to suggest now that they somehow gave the budget a ringing endorsement is outrageous.
The Liberals paid economist Don Drummond for a wide-ranging report on ways to cut spending - and then ignored most of his recommendations. So McGuinty's getting religion on fiscal prudence a little late.
The Tories, for once, have played this brilliantly. They didn't support the budget - saying it didn't include any measures to hold the line on spending and create jobs.
Deputy PC leader Christine Elliott told reporters the Liberals and NDP should quit "bickering."
She said no one wants an election right now.
"We were sent here as a minority government to work together and I think what this government has come forward with is a half-baked budget that doesn't do anything to rein in spending and to create jobs," Elliott said.
Her leader, Tim Hudak, was in Hamilton and dismissed the unfolding drama as a "soap opera."
Liberal campaign chair Greg Sorbara said he felt as if Horwath and the NDP had, "stabbed him in the back," which may be a tad over the top, but it speaks to how angry the Libs are.
They're not used to minority government. They're used to getting their way.
Horwath and the NDP were trying to be too clever by far. They wanted to distance themselves from parts of the budget but wanted to do so without consequences - never thinking the Tories would vote with them.
The Tories are staring down a byelection in Kitchener-Waterloo, which may be tough for them to win. With leader Hudak's leadership in the balance, Tories might as well cut their losses now and go for a do-or-die general election.
McGuinty is getting ready to quit, so he may well be prepared to pull the plug.
Or he could prorogue, a la Stephen Harper.
No reason not to. It's a perfectly legitimate legislative tool.
McGuinty could woo the Tories on-side with a pledge to strike a select committee to probe the Ornge air ambulance scandal - something they've been demanding.
The budget's due to be passed Wednesday.
Someone has to blink - or we'll be going to the polls.
One thing's for sure. The Liberals will think long and hard before they enter into another deal with the NDP.