Two days after winning his party’s leadership in a short, but hard-fought contest, newly minted PC leader Doug Ford says he plans on building a “big tent” Progressive Conservative Party that will be focused on getting elected so that they can fix the province’s finances.

“I’m going to bring a whole new dimension to this party,” Ford told CP24 in a sit-down interview Monday. “We have a big tent. I want the NDP voters, I want the Liberal voters, I want the Green voters to come on board and join the PC Party because we have a big social heart, but we’re staunch fiscal conservatives. The only way we take care of people is by taking care of our finances.”

He said his win was the result of a “grassroots movement” across the province, but also acknowledged that the leadership process – marred by voting problems and a since-dropped challenge to his win by runner-up Christine Elliott – was messy.

“I’m the first to admit we had problems in the nomination under LEOC (the Leadership Election Organizing Committee),” Ford said. “All the people under LEOC are no longer there. I can assure the 125,000 people that weren’t able to vote – we’ll never do that again.”

He said he saw seniors “with tears in their eyes” because they were left out of the vote and he promised to “clean up the mess.”

“On behalf of the party I apologize – that’s never going to happen again,” he said.

Reflecting on why he wanted to win the leadership, Ford said he’s been contemplating it for several years and said one has to make a choice to seize the moment when the opportunity “falls in your lap.”

He also echoed some of the populist rhetoric that helped sweep his late brother Rob Ford into the mayor’s office in Toronto in 2010.

“I felt that our province needs a change and I’ll bring that change – I’ll respect the taxpayers, I’ll put money back in their pocket instead of the government’s pocket,” Ford said. “We’re going to make this province the most prosperous region anywhere in North America to do business in.”

Looking back on his time as a Toronto councillor, Ford said he couldn’t have had better training for politics.

“I call it the Navy SEAL training ground of politics,” Ford said. “You debate all day long for four or five years straight. You debate in hallways, you debate in council, you debate in committee, you learn a tremendous amount.”

He also said he’s wiser now than he was before he held a council seat.

“I’m a lot smarter after that experience than I was down there. I understand budgets, going line item by line item. We did an incredible job on the financial side.”

He added that the province is in a “financial disaster” right now, with massive debt and thousands of lost jobs. He vowed that if he becomes premier, he will reduce hydro rates, get rid of the carbon tax and implement a zero per cent tax rate for those making less than $30,000 a year.

“I’m going down to the border and putting this big neon sign up and saying “Ontario is open for business” and I really look forward to that,” Ford said.

Ford also said he spoke with Premier Kathleen Wynne on Monday morning and looks forward to facing her in the campaign.

“I have the utmost respect for her. I can’t wait to debate her and campaign. It’s going to be exciting,” he said. “We have different visions for the province, but make no mistake about it – I have a great deal of respect for the premier on campaigning and never underestimate her. But then again she’s never been in the ring with Doug Ford, so there you go.”

Despite their chat, Wynne wasted little time Monday drawing a contrast between herself and Ford, telling reporters that voters will have a “stark choice” to make in the June 7 election.

In a separate sit-down interview with CP24, Wynne said that while Ford may have won the PC leadership contest, his policies were similar to those of the other candidates.

“They were promising that they were going to stop fighting climate change. They were promising that they were going to make cuts across government and what that will mean is that there will be fewer teachers, fewer nurses, fewer community supports,” Wynne said.

She said by contrast, the Liberals plan on moving forward with free tuition, free pharmacare and a higher minimum wage.

“Those are the things that we are putting forward as important for the people of the province. Whatever he brings is going to be different from what we’re bringing,” Wynne said. “The reality is that yes, he’s a different personality from the other three, but he’s bringing forward a plan that I think is not good for the people of the province.”

She also challenged Ford’s assertion that the province has been bleeding jobs.

“The reality is that we have seen the creation of jobs, net new jobs in the province over the last four years,” Wynne said. “We have seen hundreds of thousands of jobs that have been created and we have seen businesses come to the province. Are there businesses that have left? Absolutely. But there are businesses that have come and we are seeing jobs being created in the province.”

Wynne said her government is planning on running a deficit in its latest budget because although the provincial economy is growing, there are many people who are not yet feeling the benefits.

“The reality is that there are people who have a lot of uncertainty in their lives,” Wynne said. “They don’t know what their next job is going to be, they don’t know what their kids’ job is going to be.”

 She said with the economy changing rapidly, the province still needs to invest “in people.”

Addressing low approval ratings for her and her party, Wynne said she knows the upcoming election will be “a challenge,” but said she’s come out on top in other election challenges before.

She said that the election will offer voters a choice between a view of government as an institution that needs to be cut to save money or government as a force for good in areas where people can’t help themselves.