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THUNDER BAY—He skipped the debate on northern Ontario issues, but Liberal Leader Dalton McGuinty was far from forgotten as his main rivals for the premier’s job took him — and each other — to task.
So did local farmer Peter Lang, who showed up with a hen named Henrietta and a sign reading, “Dalton’s chicken!” as NDP Leader Andrea Horwath arrived at the event hosted by the Northern Ontario Municipal Association.
To the chagrin of New Democrats and Progressive Conservatives, there was not an empty podium on stage in an airport hotel to symbolize the absent McGuinty, who was campaigning in the GTA while his challengers were quizzed on boosting the northern economy if they win the Oct. 6 vote. “We’d love to have an empty chair,” said one Tory strategist, adding the municipal association wanted to avoid controversy.
With the Liberals holding all but three ridings in northern Ontario, McGuinty’s decision to stay away showed northerners they should feel his government is “taking them for granted,” said Horwath.
The New Democrats hold three northern seats and the Progressive Conservatives none in a close province-wide race, making every riding a battleground.
McGuinty repeatedly was blamed for hard times in northern Ontario, such as a poor jobs picture and towns devastated by mill closures.
“It’s kind of par for the course . . . Dalton McGuinty has been AWOL,” Tory leader Tim Hudak told the sold-out crowd of 250.
He promised to share tax revenues from new mines with the municipalities and First Nations in which they are located, but said that can’t be done for existing mines because “we’ve got a significant deficit we need to cut.”
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