August 4, 2015
By Rob Ferguson
The lingering Cold War between Conservative Leader Stephen Harper and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne is getting hot on the federal campaign trail.
At issue is Wynne’s request for federal help running the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan (ORPP). It would require the two-thirds of Ontarians without pensions at work — and their employers — to contribute cash.
Harper calls it a job-killing “tax” while Wynne, who unsuccessfully urged him to enhance the Canada Pension Plan, maintains the ORPP is crucial to boosting retirement incomes and notes the feds help Quebec and Saskatchewan with their provincial pension plans.
Employment Minister Pierre Poilievre vowed last Thursday that the Conservatives would make the ORPP a “big issue” in Ontario, a key battleground province, leading up to the Oct. 19 vote.
Wynne has also been frustrated that Harper has not met with the premiers as a group since 2009, and just five times with her: Feb. 22, 2013 and Dec. 5, 2013; March 6, 2014 and Oct. 24, 2014, and — after a wait of 396 days — on Jan. 5 of this year.
A sampling of the rhetoric between the two leaders:
December 2014: “I wish that kind of personal tension hadn’t entered in to it . . . . It’s not personal for me. I hope it’s not for him.”
— Wynne on her complaints that Harper had refused to meet with her for more than a year
May 2014: “He kind of smirked at one point . . . this is being framed by them . . . as a tax and it’s not a tax. It’s a saving tool.”
— Wynne, during last spring’s provincial election campaign, recalling a private meeting with Harper in his office the previous December
May 2014: In response to the “smirk” accusation below, a Harper spokesman issues a statement: “Presumably she made the comment to distract from her mismanagement of the Ontario economy and the fact she can’t run on her party’s record.”
Aug. 1: “Modern elections don’t require months and months of electioneering . . . politicians cannot manipulate the date or length in our province.”
— Wynne slams Harper’s early campaign call
Aug. 2: “No matter what the prime minster thinks of the ORPP . . . It’s blatant disrespect for the people of Ontario.”
— Wynne on Harper after urging voters to turf him from office
Aug. 3: “Kathleen Wynne is mad that I won’t help her do that . . . . You’re bloody right. The Conservative government is not going to help bring in that kind of tax hike.”
— Harper on Wynne’s apparent frustration over his unwillingness to support the ORPP.
Aug. 3: “Stephen Harper and his ministers prefer to play political games rather than work with provinces in the best interests of the people.”
— Wynne in a statement
Aug. 4: “I will observe what a senior official told me when I took office . . . you will have your best relations with the premiers who are doing a good job in their own jurisdiction.”
— Harper on testy relations with Wynne
Aug. 4: “Ontario needs a new federal government to work with . . . At a time when the national economy appears to be slowing down, the federal government needs to do better.”
— Wynne in a statement
“I think I will observe what a senior official told me when I took office. They said your best relations will be with the premiers who are doing a good job in their own jurisdiction.’’