POLITICS

Tim Hudak goes casual, spends Saturday shaking hands with strangers

09/17/2011 01:18 EDT | Updated 11/17/2011 05:12 EST
TORONTO - Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak stepped away from the microphone Saturday, opting instead to do some glad-handing at a street festival in Toronto.

It was a change of pace for the Tory leader, who normally spends most his time on the campaign trail delivering policy-based remarks and emphasizing key talking points.

The campaign rhetoric and ragging on political rivals took a back seat as Hudak cracked jokes, cooed at kids, and introduced himself to as many people as he could.

There were high-fives, shaking of hands and, at one point, some grilling from a passerby as Hudak made his way through the crowd.

Hudak was caught slightly off-guard when a man speaking rapid French asked him about his plans for seniors and quizzed the PC leader on why he isn't bilingual.

Hudak had to ask for a translation, but took it in stride.

"I will work on that," he said of his French as he outlined parts of his platform for Igor Kurok in English.

After conversing with Hudak for a minute or so, Kurok said it was "very disappointing" the Tory leader couldn't speak to him in French.

"I said: 'Try to learn, try to polish your French because you won't make it here'," the 72-year-old Kurok said in an interview.

"It bothers me. This is a bilingual country; you should be able to speak French and English."

But despite falling short on the language front, Kurok said the Tory platform seemed to be the one he'd support in the end.

Hudak was accompanied on his stroll at the Ukrainian Festival in Toronto by his wife Deb Hutton and their three-year-old daughter Miller.

Operating in full family-man mode, Hudak helped Miller play a game of ball-toss with two other little girls, and talked schools and parenting with several people.

The scene was similar to one last weekend when NDP leader Andrea Horwath spent her Saturday mainstreeting in her Hamilton riding and met with her 18-year-old son midway.

While Horwath injected a bit more of her platform into her discussions with pedestrians, Hudak focused on keeping things casual, asking those he met to call him "Tim."

"I don't usually get that kind of respect in politics you know," he joked when one man addressed him as Mr. Hudak.

Hudak has previously noted that some candidates are francophones and fluently bilingual, and the Tory platform is available in French and about 15 other languages.

About 582,000 francophones live in Ontario _ about five per cent of the population.