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Premier Wynne answers alcohol & electoral reform questions on Reddit AMA

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne speaks to premiers from across the country and National Aboriginal Organization leaders during a meeting in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., on July 24, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Aaron Lynett

Premier Kathleen Wynne allowed Ontario voters – and anyone else – to “ask her anything” during a Reddit AMA on Tuesday.

She joins a long list of politicians and famous faces – including U.S. President Barack Obama and Bill Gates – who have answered questions on the websites.

Before the chat began at 11:30 a.m., there were over 130 questions and comments for Wynne.

She took shots at Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak, briefly addressed voting reform in Toronto and said the government would soon be focusing on adult mental health.

Wynne also addressed more personal questions, saying she planned to do more 5 km and 10 km running and two of her favourite books are Margaret Laurence’s The Stone Angel and Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce.

Click here to read the entire Reddit AMA and check out the highlights below:

Changes to liquor laws not coming soon

Wynne was asked about the province’s liquor laws and if beer and wine could be sold at corner stores and grocery stores.

“We need to make sure we make socially responsible decisions about the distribution of alcohol,” Wynne wrote.

While praising Ontario companies like the Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery in Barrie, Wynne also said Ontario’s “controlled distribution system” was in place and working well.

“I understand that people want this to be more convenient, but my job is to weigh that against social issues like public health and the safety of minors. But we are in conversation with the Ontario Craft Brewers Association and we’re looking at ways to modernize beer distribution,” she said.

Ontario a long way from electoral reform

Wynne then responded to a question about electoral reform. There is an enormous grassroots push to move Ontario (and Canada) away from the first-past-the-post voting model and into a more fair system.

“In our first mandate, after 2003, we set up a citizen’s assembly so people could give their input on this,” she wrote.

“There was a referendum in 2007 and the people of Ontario decided that they wanted to stick with the first past the post system. Interestingly, the City of Toronto has recently asked about the possibility of having a ranked ballot and we’re looking at that.”

Ontario government’s plan to address mental illness

Wynne said that Ontario’s plan to address mental health issues focused on children and youth first, and the province was in the fourth year of its Youth Mental Health Strategy.

“We’ve put resources in place so schools are better equipped to identify students with need and connect them with resources in the community. We have ensured that every school board in the province has a funded mental health coordinator, because it’s important that the services and people available to help are working together effectively,” she wrote.

The second phase, which will focus on adult mental health, is currently in development. Wynne said she hoped it would be introduced next year.

“I really want to reduce the stigma associated with mental health and increase awareness about how widespread this issue is,” she wrote.

Salary caps coming for hydro execs but little relief for consumers 

Wynne said the government had introduced the Ontario Clean Energy Benefit and other programs, which will “help families, businesses and farms manage their electricity prices,” and that legislation will soon be introduced to set sector specific salary caps.

However, she did not say prices would drop anytime soon.

Tories and Grits far apart on job creation strategies

When asked about job creation in the province, Wynne took a jab at Hudak.

“Creating jobs is an absolute priority. Unlike Mr. Hudak, I don’t believe you can create decent jobs by cutting services, programming and undermining unions. We have a six point Ontario Jobs Plan. We’re going to invest in infrastructure, skills development and youth jobs,” she wrote.

“Already, our Youth Jobs Strategy has provided opportunity to 7000 young people. We’re going to maintain a responsible approach to balancing the budget, support small business and invest in building our knowledge economy and play to our strengths in industries like aerospace, agriculture and high tech. Our plan is about partnering with business, communities and post secondary institutions, so they have the support they need to succeed. I believe that government’s role is to build people up, not tear them down. If I help the people of Ontario to do their best, they will create jobs, grow the economy and show the world what we can do.”