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ontarionewswatch.com NEWSROOM

What happened to health care? A new focus on jobs? Which party is the greenest? ONW's Strategists assess war room manoeuvres in week three of Campaign 2011.  We also welcome a Green Party strategist to the discussion.


ONW: Is the liberal strategy of going hard on health care and education working for them?

 

Michael Rosenstock, NDP Strategist:

If the Liberals are going hard on health care and education, that's news to me. They spent the first 10 days of the campaign playing around with immigration. But if they turn seriously to health care, people out there are feeling let down by prominent health care failures: long home care waits, emergency room closures in Niagara, access to doctors in rural areas, etc. On education, they tried to make a splash on post secondary but didn't -- mostly overshadowed by their record of tuition fee increases.

 

Bob Richardson, Liberal Strategist:

Ontario Liberals are happy with the progress that has been made in this campaign to date. Again, we have been consistent with our focus on jobs, health and education. We have seen the Tories all over the map in the last 2 weeks and New Democrats saying very little of substance, which continues to disappoint progressives, environmentalists and college and university students.  Our plan is to continue to highlight the different approach we took on healthcare, best exemplified by the premier yesterday at a revitalized Montfort Hospital in Ottawa that the Conservatives tried to shut down. Steady as she goes for us!!

 

Blair McCreadie, PC Strategist:

I agree with Michael.  If that is the Liberal strategy, it's certainly not apparent from their media coverage!  The Grits spent week one flip-flopping on an affirmative action tax credit scheme, and week two trumpeting their green jobs "plan" at an empty factory.  To get traction going into next week's Leaders' Debate, they need to sharpen their focus on what they perceive to be their core issues.  However, we can expect the Liberals will try to get their campaign back on track this week by increasing the volume on health care and education, and avoiding family pocket book issues where they are vulnerable.  Additionally, voters can anticipate that Liberal smears and fear-mongering against Tim Hudak and the PCs will go into over-drive (see Bob's email above), backed up by heavy ad buys from so-called "independent" groups like the Working Families Coalition and others.

 

Camille Labchuck, Green Strategist:

"Going hard" on health care and education may well backfire for the   Liberals, because their policies don't reflect the concerns Ontarians have expressed. Voters are asking for a single school board system to protect human rights and quality of education, but the Liberals continue to ignore their pleas. Sensible education policy has become the casualty of self-interested, political strategy calculations. Likewise, simply throwing more money at health care isn't indicative of any level of commitment to a healthy population, and I think voters see through this.

 

ONW:  Tim Hudak says the jobs issue is "through the roof" out there and that his platform includes five key points to help the private sector create jobs.  Economic/financial issues are the Tory’s strong suit - is Hudak's strategy for jobs - tax cuts, cutting "red tape" etc. - registering with the public?

 

Michael Rosenstock, NDP Strategist:

Hudak has a jobs plan? Wouldn't know by those cardboard cutouts while he was fanning the immigration flames.  People are definitely worried about jobs. The news out there is grim and the possibility of heading into a second recession is a serious one. It's not just lost jobs -- it's reduced hours and a shift to a lower paid industries. The main feature of Hudak's jobs plan is the same as McGuinty's: corporate tax cuts. People looking to their federal government for help will get the same "solution". Not only is there little evidence they work to create jobs or boost investment, I think people are tired of being told they work. The recession/job losses that gripped the world had nothing to do with "uncompetitive" tax rates.

 

Bob Richardson, Liberal Strategist:

Earth to Michael...here are some facts. Ontario got hammered during the recession as every other similar state and province did.  We lost thousands of jobs. It was tough. McGuinty rolled up his sleeves got to work with business and labour and we have over 114% of those jobs back. That hasn't happened in Michigan, New York, Ohio, New jersey or Quebec. He showed leadership, forward thinking and tenacity. We need that sort of experienced leadership to fight off another recession, which may very well come. That is why we have focused on jobs since day one of this campaign and will continue to!

 

Blair McCreadie, PC Strategist:

Since Bob wants the facts...  Ontario's unemployment rate has now been above the national average for 56 months.  Under the Liberals, Ontario is now a have-not province.  With the increased tax burden and skyrocketing hydro rates, Ontario families are finding it harder to keep up.  Ontario simply can't afford another four years of Dalton McGuinty.  Economic uncertainty is a key concern on the doorsteps, which is why Tim Hudak has been talking about tax relief for families. Tim Hudak has put out a clear five-point plan to create private-sector jobs, which will be a key focus in the last two weeks of the campaign.  The only person that missed the memo is Dalton McGuinty, who is clearly out of touch on these pocketbook issues. 

 

Camille Labchuk, Green Strategist:

It’s a giant myth that the Tories are good financial stewards, and I don’t think people are buying Hudak’s backward economic policies. Once   you look past Blair’s talking points on tax relief and cutting red tape, it’s apparent that there’s no real job strategy. Hudak isn’t focused on building the strong and resilient local communities that Ontario needs. His so-called jobs plan ignores small farms, smaller communities and those who live in rural areas.  And while he pays lip service to small and medium-sized business, it’s only a select few who will benefit. There’s no action plan for creating the green jobs of tomorrow that will help insulate Ontario from global economic uncertainty. In fact, Hudak is actively undermining the efforts of small and medium businesses to create jobs.  By attacking the Green Energy Act, he’s harming the growing green jobs sector and causing job losses today. Hudak's not just missing an opportunity, he's trying to destroy one.

 

ONW:  The Liberals say they've outflanked the NDP on environmental issues. Have they, and if so, how much is that hurting Andrea Horwath?

 

Michael Rosenstock, NDP Strategist:

New Democrats have a strong environmental platform that contrasts strongly with the Liberals: shift away from nuclear and help people make retrofits to their homes. We won't hold photo ops in empty solar factories, but we will focus on practical support for families to go green.

 

Bob Richardson, Liberal Strategist:

It hasn't been difficult to outflank the NDP on environmental issues. Andrea Horwath has been trying to outflank Tim Hudak on these issues. She has criticized wind power, favours reducing gas prices for Cadillac Escalade drivers, will cancel the FIT program and even voted against the Clean Water Act.  Environmentalists from David Suzuki right on down are enraged. Peter Tabuns must be beside himself!! We have a strong, progressive record on environmental issues that we are proud of and would carry forward for the next four years.

 

Blair McCreadie, PC Strategist:

This highlights an interesting quandary for the NDP.  The focus of their platform on pocketbook issues is clearly an effort by the NDP to pick up the seats in smaller urban centres like Thunder Bay, Windsor and London where they hold the seats federally, but not provincially.  But I sense that there is an undercurrent among traditional NDP voters that Ms. Horwath may be placing less focus on NDP core issues in order to try and broaden her base.  Depending on the strength of this undercurrent, it could create opportunities for the other parties on October 6th.  In my view, Ms. Horwath needs to do two things.  First, she needs to capitalize heavily on the two debates on September 23rd and September 27th to get the NDP back into the frame.  Second, she needs to bring discipline to her team of candidates to focus less on the late Layton, and more on their "Plan for Affordable Change" in the last two weeks of this campaign.  The NDP needs to drive a stronger message and ensure that they are not perceived as losing to the other parties on their core issues.

 

Camille Labchuk, Green Strategist:

The Liberals have lost all credibility on the environment file, as they continue to pump billions into fiscally irresponsible nuclear power generation, foist wind projects on communities without local   participation, and only ordered an environmental assessment of the   mega quarry project after intense public pressure.  McGuinty likes to wear a green cloak, but his party has failed at implementing environmental and energy policies in a way that enhances sustainability, grows the green economy, and allows benefits to flow to local communities.  As for the NDP, let’s not pretend that Horwath has a green bone in her body. The NDP’s energy populism policies prove climate change is no longer a concern for that party. The Greens have always led the way on   environmental issues and we’ll continue to do so.

 

ONW:  According to the polls, the Green Party is not doing as well as in previous Ontario elections - its numbers are in the low single digits.  Why is that? 

 

Michael Rosenstock, NDP Strategist:

I think people who are looking for a positive voice, something that is not the status quo, are thinking New Democrat these days. There is a tired old feeling to the blue and red teams and New Democrats are the clear choice for change.

 

Bob Richardson, Liberal Strategist:

This is a tough time for the Greens I believe.  People who are concerned about the environment are impressed with Premier McGuinty's record of achievement, which is internationally recognized and supported by the likes of Suzuki and Rick Smith from Environmental Defense.  As a result there is very little political oxygen out there for them. Every poll has them way behind their vote total from the last election.   

 

Blair McCreadie, PC Strategist:

I expect that GPO activists were more optimistic going into this provincial election.  Given Ms. May's win for herself in the federal election, I would have expected to see her stumping more for Mike Schreiner before Parliament reconvened.  Mike Schreiner has a tough job to get out a message with limited resources, and the media isn't really paying attention to him.  In the 2007 provincial election, the Green Party of Ontario won a lot of protest votes from traditional PC supporters who were disaffected on a particular education issue.  That protest vote is not a factor this time.

 

Camille Labchuk, Green Strategist:

Polls aren’t the only way to gauge support, and other key indicators  show the Green Party is growing rapidly. Our membership has more than   doubled this year, our fundraising is through the roof, and Mike Schreiner is greeting larger and larger crowds at campaign events. Meanwhile, local polls in key ridings like Dufferin-Caledon have shown us running second to the Tory incumbent. Let’s not forget that the federal Greens went down in the polls but still elected Elizabeth May.  As a small but growing party, the Greens always face extra challenges reaching voters. We don’t have a multi-million dollar budget, and Schreiner has been shut out of the leaders’ debate. But we do have unique positions on key issues, and we’ll keep reaching out to as many Ontarians as possible with our message that it’s time for a political party that unites, not divides. That party is the Green Party.

Posted date : September 21, 2011
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