The 2014 Ontario election campaign was called in a hurry and it shows.
Even though the possibility of a spring election has been rumoured for months, party organizers appear to have been caught flat-footed.
That includes the NDP, whose leader, Andrea Horwath, triggered the election by announcing Friday she would not be supporting the minority Liberal government’s budget.
The New Democrats still have to appoint candidates in 39 ridings, don’t yet have a fully formed campaign platform, and don’t have a bus for reporters covering them, as parties traditionally do.
On Monday morning, it was Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak who took a slight stumble out of the blocks with the decision to talk about job creation at a Mississauga sound studio, when in fact his party voted against a Liberal $45-million funding initiative last year to help the music industry.
“I am going to twist his arm and I am going to say come on side with the musicians, Tim,” Gil Moore, founder of MetalWorks Group and former drummer for Triumph, told reporters after enthusiastically introducing Hudak.
The Hudak Tories voted against the Ontario Music Fund — contained in the 2013 budget — that supports homegrown talent, music companies and special music events. Hudak would not specifically talk about it, only that the budget was totally unacceptable to his party.
“I think the biggest thing we can do to create jobs in Ontario is balance the budget . . . it also means lower taxes so Gil and the team here at MetalWorks will expand their operation,” he told an election campaign news conference.
Hudak adamantly opposes what he calls “corporate welfare” being handed out to create jobs. Moore, who is on the advisory board for Music Canada, told reporters it would be a “mistake” to scrap the Ontario Music Fund.
While a large unmarked highway bus carried just two reporters to the studio, party officials said the fully-equipped Tory bus will be available Wednesday for the duration of the campaign. This time around, Hudak will follow the party’s campaign bus in a vehicle.
The New Democrats are expecting to have their bus ready Wednesday.
Visiting a Brampton strip mall to tout her bid for small business votes Monday, Horwath ran into a store owner who doesn’t necessarily like what she was selling. Her first stop was George’s Convenience, where she chatted up owner George Georges who was too shy to say before the cameras what he really wants — the right to sell beer and wine, something the NDP opposes.
“I would like to see that. It makes common sense,” said Georges, an Iraqi immigrant who has owned the store 15 years and wants a new product line to lure customers in as cigarette sales decline.
“Within five years or so half the convenience stores could be gone. Beer and wine is the only way to go,” added Georges, who said he’s an undecided voter.
While there, Horwath also pressed Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne and Hudak to agree to five televised debates during the 41-day campaign. She didn’t answer questions about whether her party would match the Liberals’ pledge to give $4 hourly raises to personal support workers or set up a pension plan for the roughly 65 per cent of workers who don’t have one in the workplace. She said a full list of NDP campaign promises will emerge as the election unfolds.
With Election Day set for June 12, the NDP has yet to find candidates for all 107 ridings. So far it has 68, while the Liberal have 95 and the Tories were expected to have a full complement by day’s end.
In contrast, Wynne’s campaign appeared to be a well-oiled machine Monday, suggesting Grit claims of not wanting an election may be overstated.
Wynne started the day by addressing 800 students at her alma mater, Richmond Hill High School, where Free The Children co-founder Marc Kielburger had a previously scheduled event on youth leadership.
Wynne then moved on to Milton, represented by veteran Tory Ted Chudleigh (Halton), where she joined candidate Indira Naidoo-Harris and a small group on men and women on a 4.5-kilometre jog through the woods around Mill Pond for the benefit of media cameras.
With two wrapped buses — a white one for her and a red one for reporters — the Liberals are highly visible on the hustings.
The buses, equipped with desks, wireless Internet, a printer, televisions, fridges, a microwave, coffee machine, water cooler, and a bathroom, cost $100,000 apiece to equip.