The first leaders debate of the provincial election campaign was waged in Ontario’s north today, but only two of the three main contenders showed up.Tim Hudak says his schedule didn’t allow for this debate so it was just Liberal leader Kathleen Wynne and NDP leader Andrea Horwath, both of them committed to funding infrastructure to help develop the Ring of Fire. That’s a deposit of chromite 500 km north of Thunder Bay that could be, in Wynne’s words, as important to the country as the oil sands are in Alberta.Chromite is used to make stainless steel and there’s about $60 billion of it in the Ring of Fire, but it could cost more than a billion dollars just to build the roads up there. Both the NDP and the Liberals committed to that.Observers found that Kathleen Wynne sped through her speech as if she had somewhere else to be. “The north is going to be an economic driver again. It’s going to be an economic driver because of those resources. We need that chromite, but we also need your talent, ingenuity and determined spirit,” Wynne said. Andrea Horwath got kudos for taking the gloves off right away. “I’m pleased that Wynne has decided to join us today. Hudak’s absence sums up his opinion of northerners,” she said. That was as much credit as she was willing to give the Liberal leader, saving significant criticism for the gas plant scandal.“Ms. Wynne was at the centre of it, she was a Senior Cabinet Minister, she endorsed it all.”Wynne disagreed, and tried to redirect the conversation.“I understand people are angry about the gas plant relocation and I have apologized for it, but the fact is we must make investments in the future of this province.”In separate appearances, both leaders poked at the absent Tory. “Our plan is the diametric opposite of Tim Hudak’s proposal. He’s going to start to grow the economy and consolidate the recovery by cutting the knees out from under the recovery, taking 100,000 jobs out of the economy,” said Wynne.“Mr. Hudak thinks firing 100,000 people will get us good jobs. I dont’ know how he does his math,” said Horwath.