The best zingers and attack lines from last night’s provincial leaders’ debate

The best zingers and attack lines from last night’s provincial leaders’ debate

Kathleen Wynne, Andrea Horwath and Doug Ford participated in their first three-way debate last night. The 90-minute discussion, held at CityTV’s studio at Yonge-Dundas Square, was one of only three debates planned in the run-up to election day, on June 7.

These debates can get pretty fractious, and last night was no exception. The three leaders had months’ worth of animosity to work out, and nobody escaped unscathed. Here are some of the night’s most biting attack lines.

When Kathleen Wynne called Doug Ford out

In response to a question about policing, Ford, who is running on a platform of widespread cuts to government spending, accused Wynne of starving the province’s police forces for funding. “I will make sure the police have the resources,” he said. “You’ve been cutting their resources.”

Rather than flatly contradict Ford, Wynne took the opportunity to put him on the spot: “What are you talking about, Doug?” she asked.

“The Toronto Police, you cut resources,” Ford said. “When it came to guns and gangs, you cut resources.”

Ford’s reply lacked specifics, leaving the meaning of his words open to interpretation. Was he referring to TAVIS, the “anti-violence” policing initative that the province defunded after years of criticism that the program primarily targeted black people?

“The money that went into the TAVIS force went into community policing,” Wynne said. “The money was not cut, it was redirected into community policing. You should know that, Doug.”

When Doug Ford paid the price for his Greenbelt waffling

In February , Ford made an off-the-cuff pledge to open up a “big chunk” of the Greenbelt for development. The promise was made at a private appearance, and only came to light months later when video of Ford’s speech reached the press. The incident was a gift to the Liberal party, who used it to paint the PC leader as a crony capitalist.

After some criticism from media and the public, Ford reversed his position—he now says he will preserve the Greenbelt “in its entirety”—but Wynne isn’t quite ready to let it go. Early in the debate, she used the issue to deflect one of Ford’s favourite attack lines.

“Kathleen, do you understand that [for] two days of work, he gets paid $16,000 a day,” Ford said, referring to Hydro One CEO Mayo Schmidt, whose generous compensation package the Liberals have said they will oppose. (Hydro One is no longer controlled entirely by the province, because Wynne’s government sold a majority stake in the company to private investors.) “In two days,” Ford continued, “he makes more than people who make minimum wage all year. You continue to keep defending him. You’re all for the back-room deals—”

And then Wynne interrupted: “No, no, no, Doug,” she said. “That was you and the Greenbelt in the back room.”

When Andrea Horwath was the adult in the room

As the debate’s moderator tried to end Ford and Wynne’s argument over Hydro One’s executive compensation, Horwath interjected with a rhetorical sideswipe. “This is the problem with Ontario right now, folks,” she said, gesturing at the two other party leaders.

When Kathleen Wynne subtly reminded viewers about Doug Ford’s alleged hash-dealing days

Ford denies that he was a hashish dealer in the 1980s, but a Globe and Mail investigation into his past argues that he’s not being completely truthful. The PC leader’s possible participation in the illegal drug economy adds a note of irony to the notion that he might soon be in charge of implementing a system of legal marijuana retail in Ontario.

Wynne didn’t reference any of this history directly, but she did take an opportunity to make it seem like Ford wants to flood the province’s streets with weed. “We don’t want cannabis sold in corner stores on every corner. I know that was what Doug Ford had put forward,” she said. “We want to make sure that there’s a controlled rollout, because that’s another culture shift that we’re going through.” (Ford hasn’t made any specific promises about cannabis sales, but he has suggested that he would allow some private retailers to sell the drug.)

When Doug Ford cut a $5-billion cheque

Ever the showman, Ford made a new campaign promise mid-debate, flummoxing his opponents. In response to a question about how he would encourage more people to use public transit, the PC leader pledged $5 billion in new funding for subways and GO transit, essentially mirroring an earlier promise by his ousted predecessor, Patrick Brown. “We’re putting $5 billion over and on top of whatever else is allocated,” Ford said, “to make sure we have proper transit not only here in Toronto, [but] that will extend right into the GTA.”

When Andrea Horwath called Doug Ford a coward

“I want to ask you this,” Horwath said to Ford. “The other Conservative leaders—Mr. Hudak, Mr. Harris—they were very upfront about what their cuts were going to look like. Very upfront. They were honest about it. And I want to know: why don’t you have the guts to tell people what your cuts are going to look like?”

“Unlike both of you, I’ve actually helped run a government,” Ford said to Wynne, the Premier of Ontario, and Horwath, a 14-year veteran of Queen’s Park. His previous experience as an elected official was a four-year term as a city councillor for Toronto’s Ward 2.

When Doug Ford accused Kathleen Wynne of having no soul

At the end of the debate, Ford seized an opportunity to pose a question directly to Wynne. “I truly believe you got into politics for the right reason,” he said. “My question is, very simply, when did you lose your way?”

Wynne, seemingly caught off guard by the leading question, didn’t deny that she had “lost her way.” Instead of attacking Ford, she spent precious minutes defending her accomplishments.