THE BLOG

The Ontario Election Ad Ban's Been Lifted and the Claws Are Out

05/23/2014 06:09 EDT | Updated 07/23/2014 05:59 EDT
Getty/CP

With week two of the Ontario election over and TV ads finally available, Ontario's political parties are beginning to shape their campaigns.

Last week, the release of Tim Hudak's Million Jobs Plan filled the news space about what Hudak's plan would and would not do.

Predictably, a portion of that news cycle was committed to fear mongering and the spin the Liberals and NDP attempted to put on Hudak's plan. Indeed, even with Hudak's Million Jobs Plan laid out in detail, the NDP and Liberals have stuck to the narrative that Hudak's plan would result in the "firing" of 100,000 public servants.

Of course, Hudak has never said that 100,000 public servants would be given pink slips on June 13 under a Conservative government. What he has said is that the size of the public service will return to 2009 levels, over several years, through a variety of reassignments, layoffs, and attrition. But that doesn't make for good news from the NDP or Liberals.

Finding those numbers is a bit of a mystery, however, since the Ontario public service refused to release its size.

Hudak also reminded Ontarians about the Liberals' $1.1 billion gas plant scandal, saying he would call a judicial inquiry to get to the bottom of that Liberal mess.

At the conclusion of the two-week mark, Ottawa South Ontario PC candidate Matt Young found a letter taped to the door of a resident that summed up the attitude of so many Ontarians. The letter is from a former liberal staffer who says they are fed up with the way the Liberals have "killed" Ontario, and that their daughter will be paying for the Liberals' numerous scandals until she's 38 years old.

As of May 21, Hudak's Progressive Conservatives continued their lead, with 35.8 per cent, compared to the Liberals' 34.3 per cent and the NDP's 23.4 per cent.

Also as of May 21, the Elections Ontario-imposed ban on paid print and broadcast advertising has been lifted, meaning all parties can ramp up the newspaper and television wars.

With that ban being lifted, the parties are beginning to reveal the narratives they are pursuing. The Progressive Conservatives continued to highlight their Million Jobs Plan by getting Ontarians back to work. The Liberals said they want "fair pensions" and attacked Hudak for wanting to make classrooms "more crowded." Surprisingly, the NDP has been the most direct at going after the Liberals' record, holding them to account for $2.83 billion in "wasted tax dollars" and calling for them to be "put in the penalty box." The NDP also took out a front page wrap ad in the Toronto Sun, saying they want to target "voters [they believe] are disenchanted with the Liberals but wary of voting for the Tories."

Two weeks into this campaign, Tim Hudak's Conservative platform continues to capture the media's attention and define the campaign. This may work to Hudak's advantage, but it might also serve to allow the Liberals to shift the focus from their own record and fear-monger on what a Conservative government might do.

Dickin's book on the legacy of Dalton McGuinty and Kathleen Wynne's Liberals, Liars: The McGuinty-Wynne Record, is available in paper copy through Freedom Press Canada and in paper copy and e-book format through Amazon.

Originally published for the Prince Arthur Herald