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McGuinty takes on Tories
By Mike Murphy
The Ontario Liberal party's skipper dropped anchor at Western yesterday and warned an assembly that Ontario's sunny skies may actually be full of storm clouds.
In an unscripted, hour-long address in the law building, Dalton McGuinty said the apparent general prosperity the province now enjoys was not enjoyed by all Ontarians.
To prove his point, he cited reports indicating the average Ontario family income is on the decline while poverty rates were rising. These figures, he said, prove while some economic indicators, such as Gross Domestic Product and unemployment, point to a thriving economy, some Ontarians continue to suffer.
"I'm not an economist. I'm just a lawyer, but my understanding is that it's pretty rare to uncouple general economic growth and general prosperity," he said, adding he believed this uncoupling has occurred in Ontario.
McGuinty said Mike Harris' Progressive Conservative government has endangered some of the province's most valuable social programs. McGuinty attacked the Conservatives for what he said was under-funding to post-secondary education.
"No province invests less in its young people on a per capita basis than we do here in Ontario," he said. "We have to stop being a province of imitators and start being a province of innovators, which means more [Research] and [Development] and more money to post-secondary education."
McGuinty added if he and the Liberals had won last June's election, they would have rolled back tuition rates by 10 per cent and implemented a plan for increased post-secondary funding, which would have brought the Ontario government's levels up to the Canadian average by 2004.
During the brief question and answer period following McGuinty's speech, Michael Rubinoff, president of the law society, asked for a little elaboration. "Under-funding of post-secondary education is reaching a crisis, especially in professional faculties like law and medicine," he said. "Where do you propose to find that funding?"
McGuinty said some of the additional money must come from Ottawa. He added a healthy chunk of the looming provincial surplus could be allocated to education and health care, instead of going toward the deep tax cuts proposed by the Conservatives. "Harris would spend 60 per cent [of the surplus] on tax cuts. I'll spend 60 per cent on reinvestment," he said.
Janet Allinson, a second-year law student, said McGuinty came across as sincere. "He has a genuine interest in exploring alternatives to the Harris position," she said.
However, she was skeptical of McGuinty's ability to sway baby-boomer voters, who she said constitute a large portion of the population and are generally sympathetic to the policies of the current government.