Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Harinder Takhar Says He Can Pull Ontario out of the Red If Chosen Premier

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Harinder Takhar Says He Can Pull Ontario out of the Red If Chosen Premier

Article excerpt

Takhar says he can pull Ontario out of red

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TORONTO - If he wins the race to replace Premier Dalton McGuinty, Harinder Takhar would be the first visible minority to hold the top job in Ontario.

But the former minister and businessman says he never thinks about the prospect of smashing the race barrier.

"I've been in Ontario and Canada for about 38 years," Takhar said.

"I got married here. I built my business here. My kids were born here, they were educated here. I'm as Canadian and as Ontarian as anybody else. So that thought never crosses my mind."

Even though the outcome of the race could see Ontario mark a new milestone in diversity, what matters most to people are the ideas and policies of the candidates, Takhar said.

"People are looking for real leadership and somebody who's going to look after their interests, rather than the partisan interests," he added.

Takhar, 62, was first elected in the Liberal sweep of 2003 to represent a riding in Mississauga, west of Toronto. He was elevated to cabinet after the Liberals won a second majority government in 2007 and served in a number of portfolios, including minister of transportation.

Married with two daughters, Takhar previously worked as chief financial officer of the Peel District School Board. He also held various senior positions at a number of corporations, including president and CEO of Chalmers Group -- a private manufacturing company in which he has a controlling interest.

Takhar has emphasized his private sector experience during the campaign, painting himself as a fiscal hawk among the leadership candidates -- a businessman and accountant who isn't afraid to make the tough decision to eliminate Ontario's deficit a year ahead of schedule.

Ontario must slay its $14.4-billion deficit early, he said. The province has a $272-billion debt, and if the government keeps sinking further into the red, the debt will continue to climb, requiring the province to pay billions more in interest costs.

"So then you have to start chopping up the health care and the education," Takhar said.

"I really want to make sure that we manage our expenses, we manage our interest costs. …

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