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Updated: Sat, 10 May 2014 07:14:29 GMT | By CBC News, cbc.ca

Tim Hudak compares equalization payments to welfare



Ontario PC leader Tim Hudak speaks at a breakfast town hall meeting about balancing the budget in two year if elected during a campaign stop in Barrie, Ont., on Friday, May 9, 2014. Nathan Denette/Canadian Press

Ontario PC leader Tim Hudak speaks at a breakfast town hall meeting about balancing the budget in two year if elected during a campaign stop in Barrie, Ont., on Friday, May 9, 2014. Nathan Denette/Canadian Press

Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak says Ontario needs to get off the "welfare rolls" of equalization payments from the federal government.

In an interview on CBC Radio's The House, host Evan Solomon asked Hudak if he would stand up to Ottawa on transfer payments.

"I think we should get off the welfare rolls," Hudak said.

"I know that the premier's goal is to get more and more equalization payments because we're a 'have-not' province — I think it's embarrassing."

Equalization payments redistribute federal tax revenues to some provinces to off-set differences in revenue and maintain a balanced level of services. Ontario was for many years a net contributor to the equalization payments system, but growing resource revenues in several provinces and the downturn in Ontario's economy have seen Ontario on the receiving end of transfers in recent years.

Standing up to Ottawa and Prime Minister Stephen Harper has become a theme in the early days of the Ontario election.

Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne has said that Ontario needs a partner in the federal government and needs "a premier who is willing to stand up to Stephen Harper."

Part of the spat is over transfer payments to the province, which are being reduced by $641 million this year according to the provincial government, because of a change to the formula announced in February's federal budget.

'Out of ideas'

Wynne has called on the federal government to cancel the reduction in payments, which she says are unfair to Ontario.

Hudak doesn't agree and said other transfers — for health, education and social services — are growing and that the province is only losing a small amount in equalization.

He said Ontario gets the payment because it's on the "welfare roll" and losing jobs, adding his solution is to create jobs.

"You want more revenue for the province, you negotiate from a position of strength. You show you've got your act together. You show you're creating jobs, not chasing them away," Hudak said.

In a statement, Rebecca MacKenzie, director of media relations for the Ontario Liberal campaign, said "it’s disappointing that Tim Hudak continues to blame Ontario rather than standing up to his Conservative buddies in Ottawa."

The battle between Wynne and the federal government has dominated the first few days of the campaign.

Harper has called Wynne's proposed Ontario Retirement Pension Plan an unnecessary "tax-hike." Treasury President Tony Clement said Wynne is attacking the federal government because she doesn't want to talk about the scandals plaguing her government, including the gas plant controversy.

Hudak echoed that sentiment on The House.

"I think this is what weak leaders do, when they run out of ideas. I mean one of the oldest tricks in the books is if you can't find a solution yourself you try to find somebody else to blame," he said.

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