Premier Kathleen Wynne is defending a new Liberal ad that targets the leader of Ontario's New Democrats, saying Sunday that the online clip wasn't a personal attack.
The 30-second spot voiced by Wynne shows left-wing-friendly proposals from the Liberal budget — an increased child benefit and a home-grown Ontario pension plan among them — which NDP Leader Andrea Horwath rejected when she refused to support the fiscal plan.
At the end of the ad Wynne asks, "Is Andrea Horwath for real?"
When asked to explain the strategy behind the ad, Wynne said the clip was meant to be a statement of what Horwath and her party voted against when they chose not to support the budget, setting the stage for the June 12 election.
"I have been clear all along that I was not going to engage in personal attacks. The ad is not a personal attack, the ad is a statement of what Ms. Horwath and the NDP voted against in our budget," Wynne said in Mississauga, Ont.
"This is about making a contrast because people in an election need to know what it is we stand for. We stand for the things that were in our budget."
Wynne added that the reason she voiced the ad herself is because the now-defeated budget was "very personal" to her and her caucus.
"We believe that it's very important that those proposals get implemented," she said. "That's why we need to make sure that everyone understands the contrast and what she and her party voted down."
The NDP has countered that the budget promised 70 new plans at a time when the Liberal government hadn't delivered on three promises from last year — a reference to an auto insurance rate cut, financial accountability oversight and home care improvement.
Wynne, however, suggested that the NDP was to blame for the stalling of what would have been beneficial government initiatives.
"It would have been better had we been able to get that budget passed and if we were beginning to implement it today rather than an election that I don't think we need," she said.
An earlier ad from Wynne released last month saw the Liberal premier criticize the NDP's record, but didn't single out Horwath specifically.
The tactics used in the new ad could help the Liberals pack more of a punch, said one observer.
"Raising concern about the capability of a leader of your opponents is probably a more effective strategy because it allows people to create an association between policy and a person," said David Soberman, a marketing professor at the University of Toronto.
Wynne had told a Liberal convention last fall that she didn't want her party to get dragged into negative, personal attacks during a campaign.
"Even when it gets hard, even when the real campaign battle begins — when it can be hard to resist old style politics — we are going to show people that there is another way to do politics," Wynne had said last September. "The people of Ontario don't want that negativity."
The Liberals' new ad is out now online and will be broadcast on traditional media starting May 21, once a political advertising blackout ends.