Tempers flared and partisan bickering drowned out debate as the Ontario legislature returned from its summer break yesterday, with a feisty Premier Dalton McGuinty accusing the opposition of having a hidden agenda.

The Conservatives and NDP went on the attack during the first question period of the session, accusing the Liberals of making life unaffordable with energy polices that drive up hydro bills and an HST that added eight per cent to gasoline and home heating bills.

McGuinty, who usually shrugs off such criticism, reminded voters that the previous Conservative government of Mike Harris closed hospitals and fired nurses — and that current Tory Leader Tim Hudak was in the Harris cabinet.

“So when this gentleman gets up and talks about health care, Ontario families better ask themselves what’s their secret agenda when it comes to health care,” McGuinty said in the legislature.

“What’s going to happen to their hospitals, their nurses and their doctors?”

Recent polls suggest more voters actually think it’s McGuinty who has a hidden agenda, rather than Hudak, which could be one of the reasons behind the premier’s blunt attack on the Tory leader.

Outside the legislature, McGuinty said he wants voters to see the clear difference between his Liberals and Hudak’s Tories.

“They see the Ontario family as being exclusively concerned with income, revenues and expenses, and those are real issues for Ontario families,” said McGuinty.

“(But) we’re also concerned about the quality of education and health care. We will not take our eye off the other concerns families have.”

Outside the legislature, the opposition leaders said they weren’t surprised to see McGuinty being so defensive.

“If anybody is trying to hide things from the public, it’s Dalton McGuinty, when he brought forward that change in the laws around the G20 summit, tried to sneak in that eco-tax grab behind the HST,” said Hudak.