Ontario PC leader Tim Hudak talks to Y! Canada News about wage freezes, lessons learned on the campaign trail and the end of a tumultuous year

In the summer of 2011, Ontario progressive conservative leader Tim Hudak was the 'premier-in-waiting.'

The pollsters had him leading premier Dalton McGuinty by double digits.

But a funny thing happened on the way to election day: for whatever reason voters soured on him and his party and he ended up as opposition leader to a minority Liberal government.

After a somewhat tumultuous year for Hudak that saw the PCs lose the media limelight to a resurgent NDP and two summer byelection losses, Hudak seems to be, once again, coming into his own.

A recent poll even suggested that his party could win a majority.

Hudak spoke to Yahoo! Canada News about his party's past year, about the contentious wage freeze bill, and about what he learned from the past election.

[ Related: Ontario's minority government turns one; will it make it to two? ]

Here are some excerpts from his interview:

Yahoo! Canada News: Last Saturday was the one year anniversary of the last election. How would you grade your party's performance over the past year?

I think very well. We've been the only party standing up for fiscal sanity and private sector job creation.

There's definitely two options I guess: you have the NDP and the Liberals who just don't seem to have come to grips with the jobs crisis or the deep pitfall that we're in.

And then there's the PC party who has put on the table, a thoughtful optimistic vision of how we can turn Ontario around, create jobs and get out of debt.

From an outsiders perspective, it looks as if it's been a year of dysfunction?

In a minority government situation, the premier has not tried with the other parties to bring their ideas forward. He seems very much, in my view, out of ideas. If he is, then I'm glad to lend him some of ours.

It just seems that a year has gone by, we've lost more jobs, we're deeper in debt and we've seen a lot of waste and scandals [like the] $650 million to move two natural gas plants out of Liberal ridings...and an Ornge Ambulance scandal that saw precious healthcare dollars go in the pockets of well connected Liberals.

I had hoped for better, I had expected better and it has been frustrating that we have not taken on — as a whole — the big issues of jobs and government spending.

[ Related: Hudak says Progressive Conservatives won't reopen abortion debate ]

The wage freeze issue has been the big issue of late.

I finally got Dalton McGuinty saying wage and freeze in the same sentence. I think there's some progress there.

I sat down with him at his office back in November last year and I laid out a plan to stop the overspending and get our economy going because I was worried that if we didn't, we'd get a credit downgrade.

Unfortunately, at the time, he rejected all of my suggestions including a cross-the-board wage freeze. And then we did get the credit-downgrade when Moody's slapped us because the budget took us down the wrong path and that has increased the cost of borrowing.

I do hope they will pick up our idea which is a cross-the-board wage freeze for all us in the broader public sector. That means whether you're a MPP, a teacher, firefighter, a doctor. We're all in this together.

I think it's very reasonable to say a minimum 2 year wage freeze. It will save us $2 billion.

We're at a tipping point in Ontario. We're in jeopardy of falling into a deeper hole. A single percent increase in interest rates — we know that's going to happen sooner or later — will mean we'll have to pay an additional $500 million on interest.

So, let's get at it. Let's not kick it down the road another several years.

Your party's wage freeze proposal would require the re-opening of existing collective agreements. Would the proposal withstand the imminent court challenges?

We wouldn't bring forward an idea unless we were confident. In fact this has been done in the past.

Is the wage freeze bill something your party would be willing to go to an election over?

I live in the real world. I know they may not support all of my ideas. But I have a good straight forward approach.

We'll look at their bills [with] a principle test.

Will it actually reduce the size and cost of government? Will it create private sector jobs, or 3, will it bring greater transparency to government for the taxpayers that pay the bills.

If it passes all those tests I'll support it, if it doesn't we'll vote against it.

This latest [wage freeze] proposal by the Liberals does not pass those tests.

Your party was expected to win the 2011 election but didn't. What lessons have you learned from that campaign?

We're putting the lessons into action today. We're laying out a positive conservative vision for a stronger more prosperous province of Ontario.

Of course we'll throw elbows in the corner — I won't apologize for that. But we're not simply opposing we're also proposing.

[ Related: Hudak paper calls for GTA subways over light rail ]

And that's why you can see at OntarioPC.com our Paths for Prosperity [whitepapers] —an optimistic vision of how Ontario can grow again.