With the kick-off to Ontario's 40th general election on Oct. 6, The Huffington Post Canada kicks off its coverage with lively, ongoing debates between three of the smartest and most plugged-in politicos in the province: John Duffy arguing for the McGuinty camp; Jason Lietaer (@jasonlietaer) in Hudak's corner; and Heather Fraser (@ottawafraser) duking it out for Horwath. Check in with HuffingtonPost.ca every weekday for the freshest and best election coverage on the web.
Jason Lietaer (PC):
Tim Hudak started today in Leamington.
He met with a group of parents who were extremely concerned when, a little while back, a convicted sexual predator had moved into their neighbourhood. Right beside the local elementary school, in fact. The woman has been convicted of webcasting the sexual assault of a two-year-old.
The community has been up in arms for weeks since they found out this woman was in their community. They made a big deal out of it. They called politicians and demanded action. Tim Hudak's idea is pretty simple: a mandatory online registry for sexual predators as well as GPS tracking bracelets for them as well. Outside the event of concerned parents, Liberal operatives handed out "gag" GPS bracelets. Good one... it really got some laughs.
Now, I'm not above the odd stunt -- we announced our participation in a northern debate the day that Dalton McGuinty is going to Thunder Bay, for starters. I've had staffers dress up in ridiculous costumes. But a stunt at a meeting of concerned moms worried about child sexual predators? Nope.
It does make the differences on this issue pretty clear. Liberals (and the NDP) don't believe in this stuff. They ridicule our plans to put prisoners to work. They think GPS bracelets on sex offenders is a dumb idea. And a website that tracks sexual predators? Ridiculous.
I'm looking forward to John teaching me how none of these ideas will work and that they intrude on the rights of prisoners. I ask, though: if not these ideas, what? Is Dalton McGuinty satisfied that he's doing enough? The parents in Leamington didn't think so.
Now I'm just guessing, but I think there's a chance we might hear from Heather on the subject of debates. Just a hunch.
Heather Fraser (NDP):
You raise a very serious topic Jason. As a mom with two young children I can identify with the worries and concerns of the parents and community members in Leamington. My heart skips a beat every time I lose sight of my kids at the park -- even for a moment. We all want safe communities for ourselves, our children and our neighbours. We need to take very seriously the concerns that they have raised. Exploiting these concerns for political purposes is simply wrong. It's the kind of politics I reject, my leader rejects and my party rejects.
Instead we need a measured, thoughtful response. Andrea Horwath and the NDP have a better approach. We are committed to work with law enforcement officials and to listen to the community to keep children safe from predators. The NDP will sit down with the Chiefs of Police and the OPP to discuss how we can make our communities safe for everyone.
And since you raised the topic of debates: Yes, we are pleased that Mr. Hudak has agreed to a northern Ontario debate. Well done. We await Mr. McGuinty's reply. It's a great opportunity for the Liberals talk about your record and for all the parties to put forward you new ideas. How can you resist?
John Duffy (Liberal):
Folks can read what the leaders are saying on this and other issues in any one of our province's fine media outlets. In a nutshell, the premier pointed out that Mr. Hudak is misinformed on several aspects of corrections and crime prevention policy. The one thing I could add to that would be that Mr. McGuinty's hard-hitting discussion of the effects of the PC program on municipalities today links in some ways to "feet on the street" -- the fact that the Liberals have funded 2,300 additional police in Ontario and that Mr. Hudak's fiscal pressure on municipalities will make it harder for them to maintain police services.
But I can't argue this stuff as well as the premier. What I can do is suggest once again that the Conservative switch to law and order today confirms that the week one headliner, the proposed tax break to speed hiring of skilled Ontarian newcomers hasn't worked out the way the PC campaign likely hoped it would. Glad to see them moving on.
John Duffy, political strategist for the Ontario Liberal election campaign, is also the founder of StrategyCorp and author of author of 'Fights of Our Lives: Elections, Leadership and the Making of Canada.' Jason Lietaer, the Hudak campaign's communications director, is also the vice president of public affairs of Enterprise Canada. Heather Fraser, representing the NDP, is the director of communications for the Canadian Union of Public Employees.