COBOURG, Ont. - Companies have had little choice other than to take government grants given high taxes and energy costs, Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak said Wednesday.
Speaking at a plastics manufacturing plant that has benefited from millions in public money, Hudak defended his host while touting his own plan to end such subsidies.
"If your taxes were going through the roof and your energy bill was skyrocketing, I don't blame any business leader for trying to get some of that money back," Hudak said.
"A better approach is not to take all that money out of this plant to begin with."
Hudak's aides would not allow the media to speak to Peter Garvey, owner of Horizon Plastics, whom they quoted as being supportive of the Conservative plan. They later said it was at Garvey's request.
The Tory leader argues lower taxes and power rates would be of more use than government handouts, part of his campaign platform for the June 12 election to end "corporate welfare."
He blamed the Liberal government under both Premier Kathleen Wynne and her predecessor Dalton McGuinty for steep job losses in the province's manufacturing sector, and for throwing money at the problem rather than fixing it.
"I understand why companies are going to ask for handouts because the Liberal government is in the handout business," Hudak said.
"The problem is it tends to reward the well connected, those that hire the fancy Liberal lobbyist, and others get stuck paying the bills."
He also accused Wynne of failing to understand how the "real economy" works.
Hudak is pledging to create about half-a-million new jobs over eight years if elected by cutting corporate taxes â€” they would be the lowest in North America â€” and electricity costs, among other measures.
He's also promising to slash 100,000 public sector jobs, but has not specified which jobs would go out the door.
At a time that 300,000 manufacturing jobs were being cut, the "McGuinty-Wynne" Liberals were adding as many workers to the public-sector payroll, he said.
Speaking in Windsor, Ont., Wynne warned against measures that would damage economic growth.
Firing 100,000 people would "create a negative ripple effect in the private sector," Wynne said.
"We are on track of getting rid of the budget deficit by 2017, and we will do that by making sure that this economy grows â€” not that this economy stops."
Hudak argued lower tax and hydro costs would mean factories can invest in new machinery and people.
The Tories are also promising to cut red tape and expand the number of skilled-trade apprentice positions.
Horizon Plastics attempted to roll back wages for their employees at their Cambridge plant after opening a "satellite" operation in Mexico's tax-free zone, the Liberals pointed out in a statement.
The company locked out the employees in January 2014. The lockout ended Jan. 28, when employees faced the prospect of their jobs being exported to Mexico.
Hudak later stopped by at a stereo-equipment manufacturer in Peterborough, Ont., before heading to Ottawa to spend the night.