Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has no plans to campaign for Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals during the Ontario election, but the federal Conservative and NDP leaders are helping their provincial counterparts as the race officially kicks off this week.
Mr. Trudeau appeared with Ms. Wynne in Cambridge, Ont., last week as Toyota announced a $1.4-billion upgrade to its Canadian manufacturing operations, backstopped by $220-million from the federal and Ontario governments.
But Mr. Trudeau will stay out of the campaign once the writ drops on Wednesday, the Prime Minister’s Office said.
“As the [Prime Minister has] said before, Ontarians will make their decision on who to elect as premier and he will work with whomever they choose,” PMO spokeswoman Chantal Gagnon said in an e-mail. “Since taking office, we have worked hard with the province of Ontario and achieved much.”
Mr. Trudeau has generally steered clear of provincial campaigns since becoming Prime Minister, Ms. Gagnon said, although he campaigned in an Ontario by-election in 2016. He also campaigned with Ms. Wynne when he was Liberal leader during the 2014 Ontario election. During the 2015 federal election, Ms. Wynne promised to do everything she could to defeat Stephen Harper and elect Mr. Trudeau.
“The federal Liberals anticipate, as almost everyone … that the Liberals are going to lose the election,” said Nelson Wiseman, a political science professor at the University of Toronto.
“Associating Trudeau directly with that is not a positive.”
A recent Nanos poll puts Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives at 42-per-cent support, 11 points ahead of the Liberals. The Ontario New Democrats sit 10 points behind the Liberals, but Ms. Wynne still scores lower than Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and Mr. Ford for preferred premier, the poll said. The leaders will square off for a first televised debate on Monday night.
Pollster Nik Nanos said all three federal leaders have an interest in the tone and outcome of the provincial campaigns.
“For whoever wins the election, it will be seen as a potential blueprint for doing well in Ontario in the next federal election,” he said.
Mr. Nanos said it makes sense for Mr. Trudeau to stay back from the race, because he’ll be working with whoever forms government. Still, he said it’s possible Mr. Trudeau will campaign with Ms. Wynne closer to the June 7 election. “If she was running a winning campaign, he’d probably show up at the end,” Mr. Nanos said.
A spokeswoman for the Ontario Liberals said the campaign schedule is still being worked out.
Both federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh are planning to take active roles in the provincial campaigns, their offices said.
Mr. Scheer will attend at least one event with Mr. Ford, which is likely to draw comparisons to the 2015 federal campaign, when Mr. Ford and his late brother, former mayor Rob Ford, appeared at a Toronto-area rally with Mr. Harper.
“Mr. Scheer will work with [Doug] Ford to help defeat Justin Trudeau and Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals. Event details will be announced at a later date and all expenses will be paid for by the Conservative Party of Canada,” said Jake Enwright, Mr. Scheer’s director of media relations.
Mr. Nanos said it is much easier for Mr. Scheer “to campaign with the front-runner, than it is with someone who’s double-digits behind.”
But he said the problem with such events are the photo-ops they produce.
“The risk is that [Mr. Scheer] is validating the main Liberal message … that Andrew Scheer is just a ’smilier’ version of Stephen Harper,” he said.
“The same thing holds true for the Prime Minister and Kathleen Wynne. … The visuals of the federal Liberal Party Leader and Kathleen Wynne together will probably come back to haunt the federal Liberals.”
Mr. Singh, who until May, 2017 was the provincial NDP’s deputy leader, will be helping both Ms. Horwath and his brother, Gurratan Singh, who is running for the NDP in the Toronto-area riding of Brampton East.
Jagmeet Singh resigned his provincial seat after he won the federal NDP leadership in October, 2017. He currently does not have a seat in Parliament.
“While balancing his duties as federal leader, expect to see Jagmeet campaigning with Andrea and the [Ontario NDP] quite a bit during this campaign,” said spokesman James Smith.
Mr. Nanos said Mr. Singh will use the opportunity to raise his profile in Ontario.
“He’s probably not thinking in terms of negative fallout, he’s probably just thinking of it as a platform to create more name recognition and definition for himself,” Mr. Nanos said.
With a report from Rick Cash