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.
John Duffy (Liberal):
The formal campaign clock runs from last Wednesday's writ issuance to Election Day, approximately three weeks from now. However, the rhythm of the campaign is organized into workweek blocks. Accordingly, one conventional measure of the campaign's progress is to measure who "won" the week.
The first week was a thriller, featuring a real clash between the two major parties on a specific issue. Both the Liberals and the PCs put significant resources of energy and time into defining the new entrant tax support in a way that would favour their chosen narratives.
After a week's struggle in which by most accounts the Liberals got the better of the fray, the two sides moved this week to prosecute their campaigns on separate patches of ground. Premier McGuinty stuck to his message of jobs and growth, lobbing long-range attacks on Mr. Hudak's platform, its effect on municipal services and other alleged ills. Mr. Hudak launched a law-and-order drive, seeking to portray the government as soft on crime. Neither side really gave battle, each preferring to advance their own story rather than confront the others'. The NDP hung back in week one, gathering resources to launch the major effort begun this week to introduce the largely unknown Ms. Horwath on favourable terms.
Looking ahead, the progress of the NDP through the next week will be interesting to watch. We'll see how the effort to brand Ms. Horwath goes. One key dynamic to watch will be whether the PCs get crowded by the NDP effort and start to respond.
My own sense is that Mr. Hudak and Ms. Horwath are fishing from the same pond to a greater extent than conventional analysis would have it. Both are arguing that it's time for a change. Both are pushing for tax reductions on household expenses. Both take issue with the government's green energy policies. Some NDP lawn signs even have a big band of blue running across them.
Jason Lietaer (PC):
John's right. It's a good time to take stock. We've been through a couple weeks of campaigning with about three to go.
I think we fundamentally disagree on who won the skirmish over the affirmative action program last week. We can argue about poll methodology all night, but the only poll to come out on this issues has it in the Tory favour. We'll see what the other purveyors of public opinion have to tell us.
The Liberal campaign playbook from '03 and '07 is being repeated: roll McGuinty into a friendly environment, launch a broadside against his opponents with a smile on his face, and then tell everyone how positive he's being. His chosen backdrop in this campaign is "green energy" jobs. One problem: these facilities are starting to struggle.
The National Post's John Ivison and the Ottawa Citizen's Lee Greenberg dropped bombshells on the Liberal campaign this morning. First, the company that was McGuinty's stage last week, Eclipsall, has laid off workers. Second, a group which received millions of dollars in McGuinty government funds is running ads supporting those candidates who support McGuinty's green energy agenda. Scandal.
In the U.S., the biggest political scandal right now is billions in funds given to a large green energy concern. In Europe, they are moving away from these policies because they found the subsidies are driving other jobs out. In Ontario, Dalton McGuinty is hoping nobody notices until after Oct. 6.
No luck, Mr. McGuinty. They are starting to notice. It's not just that he's staked his campaign on high-priced windmill and solar power. It's worse: he's staked Ontario's economic future on it as well.
Heather Fraser (NDP):
OK. I'll play along -- even though I wanted to talk about Andrea Horwath's tour of northern Ontario to highlight the economic challenges facing the north and the excellent housing announcement today from Cheri DiNovo and Michael Prue.
But I'm a good sport, so let's review the campaign so far.
John wants to do what Liberals always do: pretend the election is a two-way race between good and evil. Present a stark choice and hope that voters will forget the Liberal record, plug their noses and vote Liberal even though voters have lost confidence in their ability to govern in the interests of everyday people.
The problem is, that doesn't match the reality. The New Democrats have seen their numbers grow steadily over the last six months and turned this into a three-way race. Why? Because voters do want change and they don't want to be told what to vote against. They want to vote FOR something. Horwath and the NDP offer that positive choice.
The reason support for the NDP is growing is that Andrea Horwath has proven to be a practical, hard-working and honest leader. She's continued to offer a positive choice while the other parties squabble over green energy and jobs plans that leave too many Ontarians out.
One way for McGuinty to gain some momentum going into next week would be to finally agree to attend a northern debate. I honestly don't get what the big deal is. And I guess I don't understand the Liberal approach politics very well because I have always thought that showing up and putting your ideas out there was kind of job one.
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.