With three days to go in a neck-and-neck Ontario election campaign, Kathleen Wynne and Tim Hudak are now taking decidedly different strategic approaches.
The Liberal Leader is turning her fire toward Andrea Horwath, trying to drive New Democratic supporters to her party and polarize the race.
For his part, Mr. Hudak appears to have shifted to a front-runner’s campaign, in an effort to reinforce his various Progressive Conservative policy planks and portray himself as a potential premier ahead of Thursday’s vote.
Ms. Wynne has spent most of the writ drawing a contrast between her left-tilting agenda and the PC Leader’s plan to cut the size of government, in an attempt to consolidate that centre-left behind her. But with the clock ticking down, she switched to a more overt strategy, campaigning over the weekend in several NDP-held ridings and directly attacking Ms. Horwath.
At a rally in Bramalea-Gore-Malton, a New Democratic seat in the Toronto suburbs, Ms. Wynne accused Ms. Horwath of abandoning her party’s principles in favour of “Rob Ford-style” populism.
“You can’t stop Tim Hudak by voting NDP in this election. It’s not the party of Jack Layton, it’s not the party of Ed Broadbent, it’s not the party of Stephen Lewis,” she thundered. “This election, a vote for Andrea Horwath is a vote for Tim Hudak.”
Ms. Wynne described Ms. Horwath’s platform – which consists mainly of pocketbook pledges on cheaper electricity and targeted tax credits – as “an incoherent list of disconnected ideas.” She told reporters she is “afraid of Tim Hudak” and his plan to cut 100,000 government jobs, and that hers is the only party that can stop him.
Mr. Hudak tried to stay above the fray, accusing Ms. Wynne of trying to scare voters.
“In the last few days of this campaign you’re going to see a very, very crystal clear difference. You’ll see the Liberals trying to frighten you about our plan because they don’t want to talk about their record,” he said Sunday at a backyard event in St. Catharines.
“I’m not going to ask you to vote against another party, to vote against another plan like Kathleen Wynne does every day. I’m going to ask you to vote for our plan for a better Ontario.”
Ms. Horwath, for her part, is battling to hold on to her supporters against the Liberal assault. She has largely shifted from trying to win new ridings to shoring up support in the ones she currently holds. On Sunday, she appeared with hip-hop artist K’naan at a rally and concert in inner-city Toronto, where the NDP is fighting to save its five incumbents from the Liberals.
Earlier in the day, she attacked both Ms. Wynne and Mr. Hudak on Newstalk 1010’s provincial affairs show.
“Don’t let them tell you what to do,” she said. “You don’t have to pick between corrupt and crazy.”
Both Ms. Horwath and Ms. Wynne have become increasingly pointed in their barbs in recent days as they fight over the same pool of centre-left voters.
Ms. Horwath has repeatedly slammed the Liberals for being “corrupt” after they spent a billion dollars to cancel two gas-fired power plants to save local candidates from defeat in the past election. Ms. Wynne, meanwhile, accused both the NDP and the Tories of “lying” for linking her to the scandal.
The Liberals also rolled out a new ad aimed at NDPers, in which an earnest-sounding voiceover tells viewers Mr. Hudak will wreak havoc on the province’s social safety net and that only Ms. Wynne can beat him.
New Democratic candidate Jagmeet Singh, the incumbent in Bramalea-Gore-Malton, pushed back, dismissing polls that show the NDP has no realistic chance of forming government.
“We saw the truth of the polls in British Columbia … and in other provinces. There is a real three-way race,” he said. “I want the people of Ontario not to think much of polls and to make a choice based on their values.”