Ontario Election…what election?

Overheard in the local coffee shop:

“Hey what do you think of the leaders in the provincial election?”

“Election? What election?”

And while this may be a bit of an exaggeration in some parts of the province, the sentiment prevails in many towns, cities and rural areas across Ontario today.

The election is now 8 days old and the candidates, staff and volunteers are working long hours to raise the issues, touch base with citizens and convince the voters that they are the best person to represent them.

PC Leader Doug Ford has kept to his script with tight answers and focused announcements.

Steven Del Duca on the other hand, appears unscripted and open with his answers. NDP Leader Andrea Horwath is ready to speak about anything, but often without facts or figures to back up her statements.

If nothing changes, this is surely a recipe for a re-elected Ford government. For incumbents, the best news is often no news – keep focused and don’t give your opponents anything to jump on or attack. So far, Ford has done that. His public engagements are limited and he chose to skip the media availability after the Northern Ontario debate, (Oh yes there was one – last Tuesday at 1:00 pm in the afternoon). And while the main issues were health care and transportation, the attacks on Ford focused on how he handled the pandemic. Doesn’t make sense since a recent Nanos poll showed that the pandemic barely registers as an issue of interest today.

Steven Del Duca had a good week to kick off his campaign. But with respect, when expectations were as low as they were, a positive outcome in Week 1 was probably inevitable. Having said that he answers questions without a note and seems confident in his facts and figures on the spectrum of issues.

Andrea Horwath continues to be unfocused and answering whatever she’s asked without any focus on getting her own message out. Granted in yesterday’s scrum she announced a plan for a 40% reduction in auto insurance rates and yet no one is talking about it even a day later. She needs to talk about her plan and her party’s plan and not get distracted by the political noise.

Coming up, the next week is crucial to all Leaders. It most likely will be the week where change happens, if indeed it’s going to happen at all.

On Monday, May 16th at 6:30 pm, the Leaders will square off in the Ontario Leader’s Debate, broadcast live by the major tv and radio networks. Ford likely just needs to come out as he went in – unscathed and with a sense of confidence on the issues. The Opposition Leaders, on the other hand, need a shining moment – one where they clearly rise above the others and dominate the discussion. A moment where the incumbent is left without words or conviction. And while there have been moments where this has happened, this happens very rarely.

Pundits, political observers and the media will all comment on who did what and try and determine a winner. Most likely the Leaders will continue with the messaging they have been using for weeks. Most likely there will be a variety of opinions, based on individual political leanings. Most likely health care, the economy and housing, identified in recent polls, will dominate the discussion. Most likely there will be no winner.

The weather is improving and the pandemic protocols are winding down. People’s focus is on things other than on an election. One leader would like this to continue while the others are looking for a game changer. While voters generally vote to support a candidate/party, many others vote for change when the mood of the province is calling for change.

So far, the call for change is quiet. The polls indicate that there doesn’t appear to be a better alternative.

Advance polls open May 19th.

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