TORONTO – Justin Trudeau was greeted like a rock star as he arrived at the Ontario legislature Tuesday for a meeting with Premier Kathleen Wynne, and rewarded her campaign efforts on his behalf with a promise of federal help for a provincial pension plan.
Wynne, one of Trudeau’s most ardent supporters during the federal campaign, gave the prime minister-designate a big hug as he stepped out of his car while virtually the entire Liberal cabinet and hundreds of Liberal staffers applauded and cheered.
Trudeau and Wynne met for only a half hour in her office before both left to attend the funeral for Ken Taylor, the former ambassador to Iran.
After the meeting, Wynne’s office issued a statement saying she and Trudeau would be “active partners” in a national discussion on pension enhancement, including the Canada Pension Plan and the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan.
“Once it takes office, the incoming federal government will direct the Canada Revenue Agency and the Departments of Finance and National Revenue to work with Ontario officials on the registration and administration of the ORPP,” it said. “The ORPP is being designed to integrate with any future CPP enhancement.”
That’s a major reversal of the position taken by outgoing Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who said he “delighted” in refusing all federal co-operation with the ORPP, something he described as a job-killing payroll tax. It also means Ontario will get the same federal assistance on its pension as Ottawa gives Quebec and Saskatchewan.
Wynne has said Ontario will plan to start payroll deductions for the ORPP on Jan. 1, 2017 unless and until there is agreement to enhance the CPP. She added that the only reason the provincial pension was conceived in the first place was due to Harper’s flat refusal to look at increasing deductions and benefits under the CPP.
Neither Wynne nor Trudeau held a media availability after their meeting, ducking most questions from the media during their photo op — but not all.
“Cabinet will be sworn in next week and there will be lots to say in the following days,” Trudeau said. “I’m here for a funeral, and I’m glad to have accepted the premier’s invitation to come and sit with her.”
The two Liberal leaders did issue a joint statement saying they also talked about the importance of investing in infrastructure, which is good news for Ontario’s 10-year, $130 billion plan for roads, bridges and public transit projects.
They also discussed climate change and the upcoming COP21 meeting in Paris, and their commitments to hold a national inquiry on missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.
There was no mention if they discussed other federal-provincial issues such as assisted suicide or the legalization of marijuana.
As he dashed away after the meeting, Trudeau said he and Wynne had “just a great conversation on a range of issues” and added he looked forward to their working relationship.
Trudeau’s visit to Queen’s Park shows how dramatically the federal government’s relationship with Ontario has changed since the Liberals won a majority last week.
Wynne launched a public campaign to get a meeting with Harper after he had dismissed all requests for a get-together with the premier for more than a year, an example of the animosity between the two governments that is now gone.
“We look forward to a new and positive relationship between the new government of Canada and the government of Ontario, one based on mutual respect, common goals and shared values,” they said.