Ontario election debate June 3 : can rookie Kathleen beat “corruption” rap and go on to win?

Jun 2nd, 2014 | By Counterweights Editors | Category: In Brief

Tim Hudak and Kathleen Wynne at the Ontario Police Memorial Foundation's Ceremony of Remembrance at Queen's Park,Sunday, May 4, 2014. (The Canadian Press/Darren Calabrese.)

The Ontario election, on Thursday, June 12, is now just a week from this coming Thursday, June 5. To us the campaign remains essentially mysterious. But we’d also agree that things are starting to get nastier. And it may be that this increasing nastiness will figure big time in the three-way leaders’ debate on TV, on Tuesday, June 3 (starting at 6:30 PM ET).

As best we can make out, both main opposition parties have concluded that their policy-driven campaigns have just not given them the needed traction. The only effective case they seem to have against the still quite new Wynne Liberal minority government is that it can’t escape its heritage of “corruption” and “scandal” from the age of Premier Dad.

Andrea Horwath and Tim Hudak after a meeting at Queen's Park in the fall of 2011. PHOTO BY: KEVIN MISENER/680NEWS.

Some of our spies on the front lines are saying that some ground-level New Democrats feel Liberal leader Kathleen Wynne is starting to wilt (somewhat) under the pressure. At the same time, at 5:39 this morning the cp24 website was still reporting : “Though polls in the run-up to the June 12 election have suggested varying outcomes in terms of a Liberal or Tory government, a minority or a majority government, the New Democrats seem to remain in third place.”

In the midst of all this, the TV debate tomorrow may be more crucial than such things usually are. According to Susanna Kelley at ontarionewswatch.com, it “will not only be one of the most important events of the 2014 Ontario election campaign … In an election where absolutely nothing is certain and just about anything is possible, a good performance by one of the leaders can define who the campaign winner will be and put the final nails in the coffins of the other parties … NDP leader Andrea Horwath and PC leader Tim Hudak have the advantage of having debated before, in 2011. Liberal leader Kathleen Wynne  is the rookie.”

Our sense is that both Mr Hudak and Ms Horwath will be quite aggressively trying to paste the rookie with corruption-scandal glue, in the hope that enough of it sticks to put the Liberals in third place. (And remember the Stephen Harper theory that in any hand-to-hand combat between Conservatives and New Democrats, the Conservatives are bound to win . Though whether this applies to Conservatives who are proposing to fire 100,000 workers in an effort to create more “real” jobs, or New Democrats pretending to be Conservatives, remains unclear.)

In the end we think Tuesday night at 6:30 PM (on CBC, CTV, CHCH, CPAC, Global, Sun News Network and TVO, and who knows where else) will focus on just how well the rookie Kathleen Wynne finally does. According to Ipsos Reid, more than 50% of interested Ontarians already think Ms Wynne’s Liberals will win on June 12. If her performance on June 3 sustains this impression, Mr. Hudak and Ms Horwath will be in trouble. If not … well, again, to us the campaign remains essentially mysterious right now.

And if you’re still wondering whether you should watch the debate yourself, consider these further current news reports : “Ontario election 2014 debate: Leaders seek to drive message home” ; “Ontario election 2014: OPP officers’ union launches anti-Hudak ads”; “Ontario’s unions advocate for strategic voting to defeat Tim Hudak”; and (last but by no means least????) “Why are Ontarians ignoring the Liberal scandals?

(Oh and btw, this just in : “Rob Ford set to go back to work after rehab” ; and “Rob Ford to return to Toronto in time for Canada Day, but not World Pride.” So it seems that he’ll still be locked up in rehab on June 12  — though we’re guessing that he will be able to at least watch the TV debate on June 3, and cheer quietly for whoever he likes best!)

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