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Area NDP candidates laud Horwath's Southwestern Ontario platform, while Liberals say the math doesn't work out

Commitments were made Tuesday by the NDP to support high-speed rail from Toronto to Kitchener—Waterloo and an end to so-called 'hallway medicine' in Ontario
20180421 NDP Nomination Meeting KA 05
Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath speaks during a nomination meeting held last month in Guelph. Kenneth Armstrong/GuelphToday

As NDP candidates for the region are lauding party leader Andrea Horwath’s plans for Southwestern Ontario, the Liberals say the NDP’s plans are based on a miscalculation.

NDP candidates for Guelph, Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge appeared together in Kitchener Tuesday to support the party’s Southwestern Ontario Platform, which includes commitments to high-speed rail, an end to so-called 'hallway medicine' and protection of prime agricultural land and water.

In the NDP’s Southwestern Ontario Platform, the party commits to continuing the high-speed rail environmental assessment process, as well as honouring commitments for all-day, two-way rail service between Toronto and Kitchener—Waterloo and year-round rail service between Niagara and Toronto.

In an NDP press release, Catherine Fife, candidate for Waterloo, said the commitments made Tuesday will offer smoother commutes for families in Southwestern Ontario and are critical to the region’s economic development.

“After 15 years, the Liberals can't be trusted on this or any other project,” said Fife. “New Democrats know that fast and reliable passenger rail service along a dedicated corridor through the Southwest is possible. We’re going to get answers to the questions that remain, and get shovels in the ground.”

But the Liberals said the NDP are making a mess of their promises, because they are based on the province’s fiscal track for 2017 instead of 2018.

This detail, which the Liberals call a ‘mistake of basic competence’ removes billions of dollars for programs like high-speed rail, women’s shelters, children’s autism services, funding of the opioid strategy and funding for apprenticeship spaces.

Because of the alleged error, the NDP Southwestern Ontario Platform is incoherent and unrealistic, said Kathryn McGarry, Ontario Liberal candidate for Cambridge, in the Liberal press release.

“Their platform is now missing billions of dollars in key commitments that have already been made – including critical projects for our communities in Southwestern Ontario, like High Speed Rail. It is a mess that now requires a complete do-over.”

Asked about the alleged error on Tuesday, local Liberal candidate Sly Castaldi said she has heard the same messaging.

“I don’t have the particulars about that, but I have heard the same thing," said Castaldi.

The NDP countered that the figures in their platform were accurate, with leader Andrea Horwath saying the Liberals were being 'pretty dishonest' with their criticism.

"This is a party which has consistently challenged the independent officers of the legislature, not agreeing with the auditor general, not agreeing with the financial accountability officer," said Horwath. "I want to assure people that the NDP numbers are in fact correct."

Guelph NDP candidate Aggie Mlynarz was not immediately available for comment on this story.

— with files from The Canadian Press