Kathleen Wynne has dragged Rob Ford into the provincial election campaign, attacking the Toronto mayor's transit policies and trying to associate him with Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak.
Seeking to polarize voters in the deadlocked race, the Liberal Leader is telling centrist and left-leaning voters that the only way to stop Mr. Hudak's government-shrinking agenda is to rally behind her.
The opposition parties, for their part, are stepping up their attacks on the Liberals over the billion-dollar cancellation of two gas plants in a final bid to shrink Ms. Wynne's support before the June 12 election.
She evoked Mr. Ford on Friday when slamming PC transit policy. Mr. Hudak has pledged to cancel light-rail lines in favour of expanding the subway, which Ms. Wynne argues will put suburban areas at a disadvantage.
"Just like Rob Ford, Mr. Hudak is only about subways, subways, subways – that is what he talks about …
"Our transportation system is way more diverse than that," she said at a rally at a pizzeria in Bolton, Ont., a town northwest of Toronto.
"Politicians like Tim Hudak and Rob Ford sow that division between city and suburbs and communities just like this one."
For more than a year, she strenuously avoided criticizing Mr. Ford – despite a string of revelations about his drug use and alleged connections to gangsters – largely because Liberals feared turning his political base against them.
But she has apparently calculated that associating the mayor with the PCs will motivate her support base to get to the polls – and if that angers Ford Nation, it's worth the risk.
Mr. Ford campaigned with the PCs in by-elections last summer, but the party has kept its distance from him since he subsequently admitted to smoking crack cocaine. Mr. Ford is currently in rehab.
Mr. Hudak and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath on Friday called on Ms. Wynne to release documents sought by the Ontario Provincial Police, which is probing the alleged destruction of records related to the gas plants.
"It was the public that got stuck with the bill and it's the public whose trust has been betrayed," Mr. Hudak told reporters in Mississauga, where he promised to call a judicial inquiry into the matter in his first 100 days as premier.
"This tells us that [Liberals] weren't revealing all documents and if you say you're sorry and it keeps happening again, you're just trying to get elected. You don't really mean it."
Ms. Wynne said Friday the documents police are seeking are not held by the Liberals but instead by non-partisan administrative staff at the legislature, and she said she has no power to make them public.
The OPP is seeking records that would show when an IT expert who allegedly deleted records in former premier Dalton McGuinty's office accessed computers there. Mr. McGuinty, it was revealed earlier this week, has been interviewed by detectives.
Ms. Horwath took the opportunity to woo Liberals disaffected by the gas plants, trotting out several on Friday to encourage others to join her.
"People are tired of the stench of corruption in this province and they want it cleaned up," Ms. Horwath said at an event with York West candidate Tom Rakocevic in North York.
Rashid Katsina, a York University graduate student, said he'll be switching his vote to the NDP after supporting the Liberals for nearly a decade, partly because of the gas-plant scandal.
"That's a lot of waste of money," he said. "I'm a taxpayer and a lot of people are not happy for that."
He said he was also impressed with the NDP pledge to freeze tuition fees.