The public rarely sees or hears from the strategists, pollsters and communications experts who plot every detail of the parties' campaign, from the platforms to the stump speeches. But putting together the right corps of power brokers can often determine the outcome of an election.
In their bid for a third mandate, the incumbent Liberals are sticking with the tried-and-true team that helped them win two majority governments, with some minor changes.
McGuinty is relying once again on former Pollara executive Don Guy — the mastermind behind his successful 2003 and 2007 campaigns — as campaign manager.
Former finance minister Greg Sorbara is serving again as campaign chairman. But he has more help this time around, with Transportation Minister Kathleen Wynne and former party president Gord Phaneuf assisting as campaign vice-chairs.
Health Minister Deb Matthews — who has also served as party president — was also called on to find suitable candidates for all 107 ridings.
"We have worked mightily hard to make sure that our candidates are really reflective of the real face of Ontario," Sorbara said in an interview.
Current party president Yasir Naqvi — who was part of the team last time around — and Chris Morley, McGuinty's chief of staff who's been with the premier since his awkward days in Opposition, round out the core group.
The process of assembling the election platform fell to Labour Minister Charles Sousa, party policy vice-president Julie Dzerowicz and McGuinty's current policy gurus, Jameson Steeve and lawyer Alex Johnston, the daughter of Gov. Gen. David Johnston.
"He's one of the brightest young people that has ever been assembled around a premier's office," Sorbara said of Steeve, who replaced McGuinty's longtime policy wizard Gerald Butts, one of the main architects of the Liberals' successful 2003 platform.
Operations veteran Dave Gene — who worked on the successful 2003 and 2007 elections — and Laura Miller are organizing campaigns on the ground, identifying voters and getting them out to the polls. London MPP Khalil Ramal and party vice-president Nikki Holland are getting ridings organized for the campaign.
Sault Ste. Marie MPP David Orazietti and party member Mark McKinnon are helping in the war room along with perennial strategist Warren Kinsella, who is once again volunteering his time for the Grits.
The former federal Liberal staffer played a key role in the party's successful 1993, 1997 and 2000 national campaigns, but is no stranger to controversy.
Kinsella's friendship with the party's former national director, Rocco Rossi, flamed out after Rossi defected to the Ontario Conservatives to challenge veteran Liberal Mike Colle in his Toronto riding.
Kinsella, who supported Rossi in his failed bid for Toronto mayor, retaliated by calling him a "scumbag" on his website and posting embarrassing excerpts from Rossi's emails.
In 2009, Kinsella was brought in by the federal Liberals to run a war room when then-leader Michael Ignatieff was promising to force an election. When the threat fizzled, Ignatieff replaced his inner circle, precipitating a public falling out with Kinsella.
Also on the communications side is Toronto MPP Laura Albanese and party spokeswoman Christine McMillan, who is running the new media committee with Mississauga MPP Bob Delaney.
Like their rivals, the Liberals are using social media tools like Twitter and Facebook — as well as non-English publications — to reach out to voters, said Sorbara.
"As far as communicating more effectively with voters in an variety of languages, we are going to do a much more comprehensive job of bringing our message to the ethnic media, whether that is television, radio or print," he said.
With Tim Hudak making his first foray as leader of the Progressive Conservatives, the Tories have kept the team light and tight — employing just a few people with plenty of federal experience to keep his campaign focused.
Mark Spiro, a political operative with close ties to the federal Tories, is top dog on Hudak's campaign. He was a key architect of Hudak's leadership bid and worked on Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's campaign when he was in provincial politics.
Spiro led the federal Tory war room's target seat management unit during their successful 2006 and 2008 campaigns, and has international campaign experience in countries like Australia and Israel.
Hudak's chief of staff, Lynette Corbett, and communications strategist Jason Lietaer also bring some federal experience to the table.
Corbett, a lawyer, was director of strategy and policy in the Prime Minister's Office and served as chief of staff to Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz and former natural resources minister Lisa Raitt. Corbett is working on communications, quick response and issues management.
Lietaer, who started out working for local MPPs during the Mike Harris years, was communications director for the federal Tories in the last election.
Carrie Kormos, Hudak's childhood friend and former staffer, serves as Hudak's principal secretary and has worked on many of his previous election campaigns. This time around, she's working on communications and tour issues.
Hudak's team also includes John Toogood, a management consultant at Toronto's Boston Consulting Group who worked for Harris as a policy advisor, and Chad Rogers, Spiro's business partner and research expert.
Rogers, an indie rock fan who has put his musical stamp on Hudak's campaign events, started out as a staffer to MPs and senators in Ottawa. He served as a senior advisor to former Nova Scotia premier John Hamm from 1999 to 2003 and coached political leaders in countries like Bosnia, Georgia, Pakistan and Iraq.
Parties tend to shy away from publicly discussing their strategies close to election time, which could give their rivals an advantage.
But Tory insiders have said they'll be targeting "switchers" — working-class and middle-class voters who helped propel their federal cousins to power in Ottawa. So there will likely be major efforts behind the scenes to target specific demographics — a method perfected by Harper's former chief election strategist Patrick Muttart.
The New Democrats have also put together a team that mixes experienced election operatives with fresh blood.
Campaign director Gissel Yanez organized Horwath's leadership campaign and has been her chief of staff for two years. Yanez has managed campaigns across the country and helped co-ordinate the federal NDP's 2008 campaign in Ontario — a race that saw them pick up more northern seats.
The provincial party has three veterans as campaign co-chairs: director of organization Norm MacAskill, provincial secretary Darlene Lawson and longtime MPP Gilles Bisson.
MacAskill, who works at the performer's union ACTRA, was the Ontario director in the federal campaign in 2008 and a key player in Jack Layton's leadership bid in 2002.
Lawson, another experienced campaigner, was chief of staff to current Hamilton NDP MP David Christopherson, back when he served as one of the most skilled cabinet ministers in the Bob Rae government. The party has described her as a leader on women's issues who recently served as executive director of the Barbra Schliefer Commemorative Clinic, which helps women experiencing violence.
Michael Lewis — a member of Canada's socialist dynasty — is heading up candidate recruitment. The son of former federal NDP leader David Lewis and brother of ex-Ontario NDP leader Stephen Lewis, Michael has been working on campaigns for decades and helped in the recent federal effort that saw the NDP elevated to the Opposition for the first time in its history.Suggest a correction