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Ontario Votes Roundup: The gloves are off, but did anyone land a punch?

Barrage of “opposition research” sees Del Duca turf candidates, Ford stick by Lecce. Del Duca finds a big old target on his back. Is this thing really about “affordability” or nah?

Alex Boutilier: Welcome to Global News’ Ontario Votes Roundup, your increasingly desperate-for-news recap of the week that was in Ontario’s 43rd general election.

Each week Global’s Queen’s Park Bureau Chief Colin D’Mello and I attempt to make sense of the politics, policy and polling as Ontarians prepare to make their choice at the ballot box on June 2.

This was a busy week – Steven Del Duca released the Liberal platform on Monday, we had the Northern Debate on Tuesday, and a barrage of opposition research was released to try and destabilize the campaigns. And Doug Ford – facing renewed criticism of dodging scrutiny by dodging reporters after the debate – held not one, but two media avails!

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Colin, we’ve got a lot to get to, so let’s get your impressions off the top. What mattered on the campaign trail this week?

Colin D’Mello: After a sleepy start to the campaign last week, the parties began deploying their opposition research this week in an attempt to snipe off as many candidates before the nomination deadline.

The Ontario Liberals ended up being the big losers of the week, having to turf three candidates in total which means they won’t be able to run a full slate of 124 candidates and are facing questions about their verification process.

What I found to be interesting is how each parties treated allegations around candidates.

Doug Ford, for example, very swiftly stamped out the story about Stephen Lecce’s participation in a “slave auction” as a university student by reinforcing Lecce’s apology, excusing his actions because Lecce was a teenager at the time, and declaring his support for Lecce. Ford was able to deny the story any more oxygen and as a result didn’t have to answer for it the very next day – effective strategy.

Del Duca, on the other hand, immediately vowed to boot out candidates for offenses of the past when reporters presented him with allegations and in doing so gave the opposition parties a change to systematically target even more candidates hoping to create some chaos for the Liberal camp.

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As for the Northern Debate, what stood out was who the prime target was. Going into the debate most would reasonably expect the incumbent would be broadsided with barbs from the other leaders, but Doug Ford seemed to play second fiddle to Steven Del Duca.

Del Duca found himself fending off the majority of the attacks, as the other leaders attempted to hold him accountable for 15 years of Liberal rule in Ontario – even though Del Duca was only present for seven of those years and was a cabinet minister for four. It could be an indication that the parties sense a Liberal resurgence in the province.

Alex Boutilier: I’m really not getting the sense, either from what public polling is available or just from watching the race, that anything is really breaking through. I mean, I’m actually literally paid to pay attention to this, and I’m still having a hard time understanding what this election is actually about.

People keep screaming “it’s about affordability!” at me, and with inflation, housing and … gestures vaguely at everything … I guess that makes sense. But I remember people screaming that during the federal election campaigns of 2019 and 2021, and I’m not sure that’s what really decided those races.

Let’s pretend that the screaming people are right, though. If this is about affordability, who has the edge right now? Del Duca and his Buck a Bus transit plan? Horwath with her commitments on health care? Doug on being the guy who sent me several hundred dollars in license plate sticker rebates before the campaign?

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Colin D’Mello: Alex, we know your life has become more expensive, your grocery bills have gone up, your mortgage is expensive, the price of gasoline has gone up. That’s why [INSERT PARTY LEADER NAME HERE] is the only leader who can make your life more affordable.

Sound familiar? That’s because all the parties are saying the exact same thing on a macro scale, the only difference being the paths to affordability. So to answer the question of who has the edge more directly: all of the above and none of the above. None of the parties has been able to, to date, present themselves as the singular answer to the affordability question with much effect. But they’ll keep trying.

Alex Boutilier: Well, to paraphrase Arrested Development, there’s always money in the local riding associations …

Right, well, we’re only a week and a half in, and yet there’s less than three weeks to go before E-Day. Next week is a big one, though, with a debate scheduled for Monday night.

Will Horwath rally the province’s progressives to her banner? Will Del Duca once again be everybody’s favourite target? Will Doug Ford upgrade his media dodging skills and bring a smoke bomb to escape questioning?

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Tune in on Monday to find out. To be extra prepared, catch up on some of this week’s coverage that you might have missed.

Global’s Coverage of the 2022 Ontario Election, Week Two:

Check out Global News’ promise tracker, keeping tabs on every pledge and policy announced during the campaign.

Liberals drop candidate hours before Elections Ontario deadline
The Ontario Liberals dropped a third candidate in as many days Thursday after the NDP unearthed Facebook comments he allegedly made that used a slur for gay people. (Nicole Thompson/The Canadian Press)

Ford says Lecce has his ‘full support’ after ‘slave auction’ report, subsequent apology
Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford says Stephen Lecce has his “full support” after he apologized in the wake of a report about a “slave auction” event that happened when Lecce was part of a fraternity at Western University in the 2000s. (Ryan Rocca/Global News)

Doug Ford promises to ‘tighten’ election financing laws after MPP allowance controversy
Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford is promising to “tighten” up election financing rules after a Global News investigation revealed eight PC MPPs were given allowances from their local riding associations — paid for by party donors and taxpayers. (Colin D’Mello/Global News)

The road to Queen’s Park: parties divided on highways, united on transit
Ontario’s political parties have identified the transport promises they hope will propel them into government at Queen’s Park after the provincial election on June 2.

Ontario NDP promise to ban MPP allowances from party donors
Ontario’s NDP is promising to ban the practice of MPPs dipping into riding association funds to pay for expenses, in the wake of a Global News investigation into how donations to the Ontario PC party are being used.

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Doug Ford pledges to continue Highway 7 expansion between Kitchener and Guelph if re-elected
Ontario PC Party Leader Doug Ford, who made appearances in Kitchener and Cambridge on Thursday, is pledging to continue construction on the expansion of Highway 7 between Kitchener and Guelph.




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