If an election had been held last spring, the Progressive Conservatives would have considered promising to balance Ontario’s budget in half the time projected by the governing Liberals – an audacious pledge they hoped would be endorsed by no less than federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.
And in a bizarre coincidence, Tory Leader Tim Hudak would have found himself campaigning in Etobicoke – the home turf of star candidate Doug Ford – mere hours before news broke of a video allegedly showing Mr. Ford’s brother, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, appearing to smoke crack cocaine.
This, at least, was the plan outlined in an internal PC party document obtained by The Globe and Mail. The paper consists of Mr. Hudak’s possible campaign schedule for an election the party anticipated would happen May 30, 2013.
That election, of course, never came to pass. Andrea Horwath’s New Democrats voted in favour of the minority Liberals’ budget, allowing Premier Kathleen Wynne to continue in office another year.
One PC source played down the significance of the itinerary, saying it was simply a draft written up to kick around some ideas. The real campaign, the source said, would have looked different.
The sheer level of detail in the document, however, suggests a lot of effort went in to crafting it.
On most of the 31 days of the campaign, nearly every waking hour had been mapped out in the schedule. Even informal events – Mr. Hudak mingling with reporters on the media bus covering his campaign, for instance – were pencilled in.
It also provides insight into the tactics the Tories considered and promises they might make in the next election, now widely expected in 2014.
Tackling the province’s debt and deficit would have been a major theme. One event, on Tuesday, May 7, was dubbed “Two years to a better Ontario – Balance the Budget.” It was scheduled to be held in Ottawa, with Mr. Flaherty joining Mr. Hudak.
The Liberals currently plan to balance the books by fiscal year 2017-18 by trying to hold the growth of program spending to an average of 1 per cent per year and banking on infrastructure spending to expand the economy.
Mr. Hudak, however, has argued the Liberals’ plans do not go far enough. He has proposed major government restructuring and cut backs to wrestle down the deficit.
The itinerary also suggests how important Toronto Councillor Doug Ford, who planned to run for the Tories in Etobicoke North, would have been to their effort. Mr. Hudak was scheduled to spend the evening of the first day of the campaign opening his office – the first of three events in Etobicoke during the writ period.
The other two events – a meeting with a local family around their kitchen table and a stop at a burger joint – were scheduled for Thursday, May 16. As it turns out, U.S. website Gawker first broke the news of Mayor Rob Ford’s alleged crack video later that day.
Privately, some Tories have since conceded they were better off not going to the polls in the spring. If they had, Mr. Hudak would have spent much of the campaign answering questions about Doug Ford, rather than getting his message out, they say.
The campaign schedule does not say if Mr. Hudak was to campaign with Mr. Ford on May 16. But had the itinerary been followed, on the day the scandal broke, news media would have had images of Mr. Hudak campaigning in the Fords’ backyard.
The itinerary suggests Toronto and the GTA would have received a lot of Mr. Hudak’s attention. Out of 77 events on the schedule with a definite location listed, 35 were in the provincial capital and its suburbs.
The Southwest – particularly Kitchener-Waterloo, London and the Brantford area – was second, with 20 events, followed by Ottawa and Eastern Ontario, with nine.
The schedule shows just one event in Northern Ontario: the opening of the North Bay campaign office of Vic Fedeli, one of Mr. Hudak’s most prominent MPPs.
On the return trip, the schedule blocked in some social time with reporters: “Have Tim drive back to Toronto part way on the Media Bus and have some beers,” the entry reads.
Mr. Hudak’s attempts at targeting specific voting demographics were mapped out, too. One morning, he was scheduled to hold a roundtable with female business leaders at the Toronto Stock Exchange.
Other periods of time were set aside for unspecified “ethnic events.”
On top of fiscal responsibility, the campaign would have emphasized changing the province’s labour laws – Mr. Hudak has mused about right-to-work legislation in the past – with multiple photo-ops at non-union factories.
One day is given over to transit – Mr. Hudak was scheduled to ride in a traffic chopper, followed by a photo-op in front of a “giant” transit map.
Other days are labelled “welfare to work,” “taxpayer pledge” and “tax cuts create jobs.”
The third and second-to-last days are labelled “first 100 days” and “province wide pledge,” but it is not specified what these are.