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politics

Live Blog: Fact-Checking the Provincial Leaders’ Debate

Follow along as we evaluate the claims made by Tim Hudak, Kathleen Wynne, and Andrea Horwath during the provincial election debate.

Tim Hudak and Kathleen Wynne photos by Christopher Drost; Andrea Horwath photo courtesy of the Ontario NDP.

Tonight during the second provincial leaders’ debate, Ontario’s three major parties will share their plans to boost the province’s faltering fortunes. The June 12 general election comes at a time of stalled productivity and job losses, particularly in Ontario’s formerly mighty manufacturing sector.

The campaign of Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak has earned a great deal of attention thus far—particularly on social media—but not all of it has been favourable: many have reacted negatively to his plans to cut 100,000 public sector jobs and reduce taxes on corporations. Premier and Liberal party leader Kathleen Wynne has campaigned mainly on her recent budget, which both opposition parties refused to support. New Democratic Party Leader Andrea Horwath has made waves by pitching a decidedly populist message, one that has angered many NDP loyalists, particularly in Toronto.

Coming into the debate, many polls suggest a close race between the Liberals and PCs for the popular vote, with the NDP significantly behind in third. Of course, how that will translate into actual seat totals is unclear. Tonight’s debate may well sway undecided voters—according to an Ipsos Reid survey published yesterday, roughly 40 per cent of voters will decide which party to support only once the debate is over.

As the debate proceeds, we’ll be on-the-fly fact-checking the statements and claims made by the candidates in order to provide more context and establish what holds up. Statements that we judge to be outright wrong will get a FALSE rating, while half-truths and exaggerations will get a QUESTIONABLE rating.


7:56: Interestingly, Steve Paikin signs off the debate by telling viewers, “Even if you decline your ballot, we encourage you to vote.” Declining one’s ballot, or voting “none of the above,” is allowed in Ontario, and is counted separately from spoiled ballots.

7:53: Kathleen Wynne’s hand gestures make her look as if she is treading water, which is perhaps appropriate.

7:45: Tim Hudak claims he would freeze MPP salaries, while the other parties would not. In May the Liberals tried to pass this legislation, but it was blocked by the NDP and Conservatives. Hudak then pledged to freeze wages in late May. FALSE

7:43: Ontario spends almost $50 billion a year on health care. It hasn’t even been mentioned in this debate.

7:37: Tim Hudak, who has a masters degree in economics, says he’s good at math. Given his “Million Jobs Plan,” we rate this QUESTIONABLE.

7:33: Tim Hudak suggests that gas taxes only build transit, and only in certain parts of Ontario. According to the federal government, this is not true. FALSE

7:33: Kathleen Wynne takes a moment to pander to Colleen from Cobourg, who complained that she didn’t want to pay for Toronto transit. Cobourg, of course, is just like every other tiny little village in Ontario in that it would be a wasteland without the tax revenues Toronto generates, considering we generate about 40 per cent of all public revenue in this province, but no, it’s too tough for Colleen from Cobourg to maybe pay us back?

7:31: Tim Hudak, who refused to attend the northern issues debate entirely, complains that he’s tired of Horwath and Wynne pitting one part of Ontario against another.

7:30 “Dirty diesel” already runs constantly through all kinds of GTA neighbourhoods, as anyone who takes the GO train knows.

7:23: In her responses, Kathleen Wynne has sounded almost breathless at times. Her tenor is more hurried and frantic than her two opponents. Wynne’s response on transit is more controlled. Perhaps she is more confident on this file.

7:19: Andrea Horwath suggests that she can balance the provincial books and pay for new infrastructure investments with a 1% corporate tax hike. Corporate taxation collected approximately $12 billion in the interim 2012-2013 budget. A 1% corporate tax hike represents an additional $1 billion (approximately) per year – obviously nowhere near close to what Horwath is promising, considering the deficit is over $10 billion. FALSE

“You can only reduce spending by reducing spending”: the always quotable Tim Hudak.

7:17: Hudak, out of context: “Just because you say it over and over again doesn’t mean it’s true.” A good thing to remember.

7:16: Tim Hudak tells a long story about how his grandparents went bankrupt and it was humiliating, because a family is just like the provincial economy! Oh, wait, they’re nothing alike at all and in fact work on completely different economic principles.

7:14: Tim Hudak says “Dalton McGuinty” three times in the hopes that it works like the movie Candyman and McGuinty will show up and scream and scare all the voters into supporting the Tories.

7:13: Major provincial issues that have not been mentioned after 4 of 6 questions in this debate: immigration, social housing, aboriginal affairs, Ontario Works (welfare), disability supports, legal aid, student tuition.

“Taxes are the price we pay for looking after each other,” Kathleen Wynne, continuing her track record of running to Andrea Horwath’s left.

7:09: Horwath says that there’s no doubt Hudak’s “Million Jobs Plan” has a million math mistakes. An excellent line.

Ontario’s corporate tax rate is fourth lowest in Canada, after BC, Alberta, and New Brunswick. (It’s small business tax rate, though, is higher than every other province except Quebec and NB).

Every single stupid story where they meet some average person who tells them a story that illustrates some half-wit political lie: FALSE

7:04: Tim Hudak claims that if his plan doesn’t work, he will resign. Call us cynics, but: FALSE

7:02: Hudak states that he’s so confident in his “Million Jobs Plan” that he would resign if he doesn’t work. Which would eliminate another job, which is an interesting way to go about it.

7:02 Mathematical errors apart, there’s no evidence that the Million Jobs Plan will create “good jobs” vs minimum wage jobs. FALSE

6:59: Tim Hudak suggests that Ontario’s fiscal situation is comparable to Greece and Detroit. Greece, in 2012, had a debt-to-GDP ratio of about 161%. Detroit, in 2013, had a debt-to-GDP ratio of about 90%. Ontario’s debt-to-GDP ratio in 2013 was 37.4%. The situation is not remotely comparable. FALSE

6:58: Hudak compares Ontario’s fiscal situation to Greece and Detroit. Since governments are essentially bankrupt, this is quite the stretch. QUESTIONABLE

6:53: Hudak cites his “Million Jobs Plan,” and says that the province needs to downsize bureacracy. He takes a couple of minutes to mention that he will layoff 100,000 civil servants, leads the viewer to believe that there are 1.2 million provincial employees when there are fewer than that, and doesn’t spell out how this plan will work. Additional data from Statistics Canada shows Ontario has fewer general government workers and fewer health care workers, per capita. than any other province. Ontario ranks in the middle of the pack of people employed in crown companies; 342 people for every one employed in that sector. Alberta has the leanest crown agencies with 638 Albertans for every one working in the sector. FALSE

6:50: Oh, no! Massive industrial wind farms, says Hudak. How on earth will we survive?

6:48: Four minutes into a debate on energy policy, and no one has brought up the question of balancing the environmental costs of energy generation with the financial costs.

6:45-ish: Hudak repeatedly conflates the Oakville closure and the Mississauga gas plant closures; the Oakville closure came before the 2011 campaign. FALSE

6:40: Hudak characterizes the detailed criticism of his “Million Jobs Plan” as a simple disagreement among economists. It’s a lot more than that. Hudak’s assumptions counts each job eight times, assumes that each incoming worker contributes $27 million in economic impact, and that Ontario will enjoy nine to 10 per cent GDP growth over each of the next three years. His numbers aren’t just a disagreement among economists, they represent a disagreement with basic math. FALSE

6:39: Tim Hudak claims that the govermment’s purchase of the MaRS building “takes money away from health care.” While purchasing the building does come out of public funds, it’s not coming from money targetted for health care spending. QUESTIONABLE

6:35: Andrea Horwath says the Liberals are planning to bring in a “Harper-style Ontario pension plan.” Not sure what this means, but Horwath herself proposed the same plan in 2010.

6:33: While Horwath criticizes Wynne for wasting money on the gas plant cancellation, she doesn’t explain what she would do differently—all parties supported the cancellations at the time they were made.

6:31: Steve Paikin manages to avoid pointing out how many women are present tonight at this debate.

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