Ontario is a year away from an election. COVID has been a game-changer. And each of the three major party leaders has significant deficits. But, Bob Hepburn writes, the contours of the race are beginning to form:
Since the Conservatives won the 2018 election, Ford has undergone more resets than Kathleen Wynne did when she was Liberal premier. At this stage, though, his campaign strategy is clear: lower his personal profile, shuffle his cabinet yet again to give his beleaguered government a “fresher” look, and try to shift the blame for the pandemic response by attacking the federal Liberals over Ottawa’s handling of the pandemic.
It’s all designed to take the spotlight off Ford, whose mere appearance on television turns off many voters. Don’t expect any major new campaign promises leading up to election day. Instead, expect to see lots of ads about how Ford “cares about the little guy” and how, depending on the state of the pandemic, he led the province through the COVID crisis.
The Dippers think they're in the catbird seat:
For the NDP, strategists claim the party “has never been in a better position” heading into an election than it is now. It has more money and more volunteers than ever. It has already unveiled three major platform policies. They also believe this will be a “leader-driven” election, which is why they will make Horwath the focal point of their campaign, believing she proved in 2018 to be the best campaigner. They will portray her in ads as upbeat, positive and inspirational, which they say worked for her in 2018.
The problem for the Liberals is that their new leader, Steven Del Luca, doesn't generate any excitement:
Inside Liberal campaign headquarters it’s a given that Del Duca is not a charismatic leader. Given that, they will portray him as a motivator, a guy who will put in the work, who has political experience at a high level from his days as a minister and who has a road map on issues such as health care, long-term care and education.
So much depends on vaccinations and a rebooted economy. And, if things pan out positively, it's not clear who can take the best advantage of that.
Image: Th Toronto Star