TORONTO — Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne vowed Friday to keep fighting against Stephen Harper in the federal election campaign, saying she’s doesn’t know how much more dysfunctional her relationship with the prime minister can get.
“The reality is that the relationship with Stephen Harper has been a difficult one,” Wynne said.
“I have tried to work with him. The fact is that it has deteriorated, and what I’m saying now in a federal election campaign is that we need someone in that chair as prime minister who understands that working with provinces is important to the country.”
The Liberal premier has made no secret of her frustrations with Harper and his Conservative government, but insisted she was simply “standing up” for Ontario on a host of issues including pensions, infrastructure investments and climate change.
“I ran in an election a year ago and was given a majority mandate to implement the plan we ran on, and that is what I’m doing,” said Wynne. “In order to do that, in the most efficient way possible, it would terrific to have a federal partner on all of those files.”
It’s not unusual for a provincial politician to weigh in on a federal campaign or vice versa, added Wynne.
“There was lots of campaigning during our election from all sides of the political spectrum and at the federal level,” she said.
Wynne again blasted Harper for refusing to meet the provincial premiers — a position she noted he repeated during Thursday’s leaders’ debate — and said Canadians need a prime minister who is willing to work with the provinces.
“This is not personal,” said Wynne. “This is about the strength of this province and the strength of this country, and those two fates are intertwined.”
Wynne wouldn’t say if she thought her attacks on Harper could backfire if he is re-elected prime minister, and said she would try again to work with him if that’s the outcome of the Oct. 19 vote.
“I’m not sure how much more dysfunctional the relationship can get,” she said. “Obviously I will try to work with this federal government should Stephen Harper be re-elected.”
Wynne had weighed in with her criticisms of Harper on Day 1 of the federal campaign, saying his refusal of any federal help to create an Ontario pension plan was “petty” and “mean-spirited in a pretty big way.”
Harper shot back by saying when he first became prime minister he was advised his best relations would be with premiers who were doing a good job in their own provinces.
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Keith Leslie, The Canadian Press