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Social services 'priority' to incoming premier Kathleen Wynne

By Jonathan Jenkins, Queen's Park Bureau

Premier Kathleen Wynne. (DAVE THOMAS/Toronto Sun files)

Premier Kathleen Wynne. (DAVE THOMAS/Toronto Sun files)

Toronto - 

Incoming premier Kathleen Wynne has asked bureaucrats to start planning to put a recent report on improving social services into effect.

“The social assistance review was our government’s report — we asked Frances Lankin and Munir Sheikh to do that report,” Wynne said Tuesday before heading into lead her first caucus meeting since winning the Liberal crown.

“That is a priority of mine and it’s something that I hope both (opposition leaders) Tim Hudak and Andrea Horwath would want to talk about because a lot of what is talked about in that report is making the system work better.”

The Lankin/Sheikh report calls for an increase in social assistance rates and other reforms that would reduce barriers to recipients getting work. It also calls for an end to the special diet allowance and comes with an estimated price tag of $340 million.

Wynne also said she had a “very nice exchange” with Toronto Mayor Rob Ford over dinner on Monday night and was hoping to have a meeting with him soon.

One area of friction between the two is almost certain to be the mayor’s opposition to new taxes or tolls to fund transit, something Wynne says is necessary.

“It’s not whether we’re going to create a revenue stream, I’ve said it’s which of those tools we’re going to use,” she said.

Wynne also confirmed she intends to serve as her own agriculture minister and downplayed suggestions she would struggle to smooth over the disappointments of the more than two dozen members of the Liberal caucus who didn’t support her in the leadership race.

She sidestepped a question on Horwath’s demand for a public inquiry into the $230-million relocation of two gas plants, saying merely she hoped to meet with the New Democrat leader soon and discuss “a broad range of issues” with her.

Health Minister Deb Matthews, who co-chaired Wynne’s campaign, said losing candidates Harinder Takhar, Eric Hoskins and Charles Sousa were there and vowing to work with the winner.

“They all spoke and it was wonderful,” Matthews said. “There was overwhelming support for Kathleen and support for the process. I think those candidates deserve a lot of praise for keeping the tone of the whole race high.” 


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