After the first full week in the Ontario election campaign, the provincial economy and job creation has taken centre stage. PC Leader Tim Hudak has begun to outline the specifics in his “march to a million new jobs” which we have now discovered is a combination of 500,000 due to specific policy initiatives and 500,000 naturally occurring jobs. When you factor in the 100,000 pink slips to public sector workers, Hudak is promising to create 1.1 million new jobs over 8 years.
Premier Kathleen Wynne made stops this week in Liberal friendly ridings to promote the “progressive and reasonable” approach to managing Ontario’s economy. The Premier outlined how the Liberal government’s major investments to support the skilled trades, as well as infrastructure projects are creating jobs across the province in contrast to the Tory Paycheques-To-Pink-Slips Plan which would make Donald Trump blush with glee.
Let’s not kid ourselves. The provincial economy is stagnant, Ontario is a have-not province and the provincial debt has grown from $130 billion to $240 billion under the Liberal’s watch. Forgive us if we are skeptical that any of the three main parties will once again balance the books, reduce our debt and restore Ontario’s place as the economic engine of Canada.
But with another month left in the campaign, is the ballot box question going to be the provincial economy? In the back rooms, both the Liberal and Progressive Conservative strategists hope not.
For the Tories, in the opening days the goal has been to present Tim Hudak as a potential competent manager of the province’s finances. If Hudak cannot convince voters that he is a credible alternative on the economy then it is game over. In the coming days the Tories will be pivoting from presenting a positive message to attacking the Liberals as an old, tired, scandal plagued government. With a little help from Dalton McGuinty, Tim Hudak wants the ballot box question to be one of change.
The Liberals on the other hand wish to continue their strategy of having the Premier speak about the need to invest in the province as outlined in their budget while having surrogates critique the components of both the NDP and PC plans. It is important for the Liberals that Tim Hudak have some credibility in order for the Liberals to syphon votes from the left. However the Liberals believe that given enough rope, Hudak will trip and stumble so that they can make the ballot box question a choice between stability under Kathleen Wynne and the reckless, unproven policies and leadership of Tim Hudak.
That is why Hudak’s Paycheques-To-Pink-Slips plan is a gift to the Liberals. It helps support the narrative that Kathleen Wynne has been creating in the first week.
The question remains how the messages are being received by the voters. According to the most recent polls, momentum seems to be with the Tories however the campaign is young and the debates are shaping up to be pivotal this time around.