UPDATE: Round one of the Ontario election debates in the books
Doug Ford was the main target in the first debate ahead of Ontario's provincial election, with his rivals suggesting Monday that the Progressive Conservative leader, who is leading in the polls, would slash jobs and shrink services if elected premier.
Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath spent much of their time warning about what a Tory government would bring, while Ford hammered home his key messages of finding "efficiencies" and "respecting the taxpayers."
The race officially begins Wednesday, but the debate set the stage for the campaign and provided the leaders of the three major parties an opportunity to test-drive their slogans.
When both Horwath and Wynne used their questions during a leader-to-leader portion to ask Ford exactly what he would cut, the Tory leader repeated his key phrases.
"The other Conservative leaders, Mr. (Tim) Hudak, Mr. (Mike) Harris -- they were very up front about what their cuts are going to look like," Horwath told Ford.
"Why don't you have the guts to tell people what your cuts are going to look like? What is in store for the people of Ontario?"
Ford didn't provide specifics, though he has promised to cut four per cent from the budget.
"I'm going to make sure we run a government that respects the taxpayers," Ford said during his closing remarks. "You know me. I'm for the little guy."
Horwath repeated that voters "don't have to choose between bad and worse," several times stepping back when Wynne and Ford began to spar, attempting to set herself apart from them.
Wynne said the election features "some pretty stark choices," between what she calls her plan for care and Ford's plan for cuts.
The premier also suggested that Ford's plan to find "efficiencies" really means firing nurses and teachers -- harkening back to the Liberals' warnings about former Tory leader Tim Hudak's 2014 proposal to cut 100,000 public sector jobs.
But Ford vowed, "Not one single person is getting laid off under our administration."
Ford also used the debate to announce that he would commit $5 billion more than what has already been allocated to build a regional transportation system in the Toronto area, including subways, relief lines, and two-way GO Transit to Niagara Falls.
The Ontario election takes place June 7.