Liberals accused of pouring money into Thornhill, Niagara Falls byelections

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Ontario Liberals are pouring money into two upcoming byelections — $100 million and counting, opposition leaders say.

Premier Kathleen Wynne says $75 million in support for Ontario wines and a new Niagara hospital were planned well before Wednesday’s byelection call in Niagara Falls and Thornhill.

“In both these cases, whether it’s the grape and wine strategy or whether it is the hospital announcement, both of these things have been in the works for many, many months,” Wynne said.

PC Leader Tim Hudak, who hails from the Niagara area, said he doesn’t believe the locals will buy what he see as a line from Wynne.

“They’ll see through this sort of cynical old-school politics of suddenly finding all kinds of money for projects that weren’t even on the Liberals’ radar screen two weeks ago,” he said.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said local residents will no doubt welcome some government support in an area plagued by high unemployment.

“The throwing around of a little bit of money is something I think that is not unexpected — it’s the way Liberals do things — but you know (the residents are) looking forward to their hospital being planned, they’re looking forward to a little bit of attention, and you can’t blame them for that,” Horwath said.

The Wynne government announced this week that it would allocate $26 million to plan a new hospital in Niagara, and on Dec. 16 unveiled in the same region a new $75-million Wine and Grape Strategy.

The two Feb. 13 byelections will replace Liberal MPP Kim Craitor in Niagara Falls and PC MPP Peter Shurman in Thornhill at a cost to Elections Ontario of about $450,000 each.

Hudak said he believes jobs will be the number one priority of voters in both byelections, and he has released his Million Jobs Plan to lower taxes, cut provincial debt and stimulate job creation.

Wynne tweeted that she was excited to work with their experienced candidates — Vaughan Councillor Sandra Yeung Racco and Niagara Falls Councillor Joyce Morocco — to create jobs and grow the economy.

The Liberals wasted no time in bringing some federal star power to the race, inviting national Leader Justin Trudeau to an event Thursday in Thornhill.

The NDP will officially choose their party’s representative over the weekend but so far each riding has one declared candidate — Niagara Falls City Councillor Wayne Gates and, in Thornhill, Information Technology Project Manager Cindy Hackelberg.

Bart Maves, a former MPP and regional councillor, will run for the PCs in Niagara Falls, but have yet to confirm a Thornhill candidate.