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Vow to cut public sector 'unfairly thrust upon caucus': Interim PC leader

By Antonella Artuso, Queen's Park Bureau Chief

PC Interim Leader Jim Wilson. (ANTONELLA ARTUSO/Toronto Sun)

PC Interim Leader Jim Wilson. (ANTONELLA ARTUSO/Toronto Sun)

TORONTO - 

The Ontario Progressive Conservatives shot themselves in the foot with a surprise election pledge to cut 100,000 public sector jobs which even most PC MPPs didn’t like, the new interim leader says.

Simcoe-Grey MPP Jim Wilson, chosen by a vote in the PC caucus Wednesday to lead until a permanent replacement for Tim Hudak is elected, said the MPPs believe there’s a need to hit the reset button after last month’s disappointing provincial election campaign.

“Really no criticism of past leaders but we’ve had a period of about a decade where caucus has felt badly disenfranchised, that they really haven’t had a say in the major decisions, that they were given policies that they were asked to sell that probably weren’t even popular in their own ridings,” Wilson said. “And they certainly didn’t always believe the policies in their heart.”

Wilson said a prime example was Hudak’s election promise to cut deeply into the public sector payroll which came as a surprise to his own MPPs.

“That was unfairly thrust upon caucus and upon our candidates and we can’t do that again,” he said.

The PC caucus likes Hudak, who has stepped aside as leader, but believes he took “bad advice,” he said.

Wilson won’t set policy and intends to give critics and MPPs more freedom to direct the party’s response to the majority Kathleen Wynne government, the throne speech Thursday and the upcoming reintroduction of the spring budget.

In the future, the PC caucus members want a stronger role in decision-making and to adopt a friendlier tone that does not make needless enemies of various groups in Ontario, he said.

“We’ve been attacking people for a decade and in my heart and in my caucus colleagues’ hearts, we’re not that type of people, we like everybody,” he said.

While Wilson didn’t name names, it’s well known that the PCs have made enemies of public sector workers such as teachers, nurses and firefighters.

Liberal Government House Leader Yasir Naqvi said he’ll welcome an opportunity to work collaboratively with the PC members.

“But we also have a mandate from Ontarians,” he said. “We had a 41-day campaign where Ontarians have elected a majority Liberal government and we’re very much looking forward to working on Ontarians’ priorities which is around growing our economy, creating good-paying jobs, investing in transit and transportation infrastructure and retirement income security for hard-working Ontarians.”

The Ontario legislature returned Wednesday with a mass swearing-in ceremony of MPPs followed by the election of a new Speaker.

Wilson said he hopes the party chooses a new leader shortly and expects many strong candidates to enter the race.

Whitby-Oshawa MPP Christine Elliott has officially announced she will run for the party’s leadership.

In the meantime, Wilson said he will be guided by his fellow caucus members and will save the policy making for the future leader.

“Other caucuses like Alberta, they have happy MLAs and we should have happy MPPs in the PC caucus,” he said.


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