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The Greens set sights on Parry Sound—Muskoka
In this edition: the biggest debate highlights and takeaways, why Richter's running, keeping up with party endorsements, COVID on the campaign, Monkeypox watch
Happy Tuesday. Welcome to POLICORNER — your insider’s guide to Canadian politics, policy and power. It was a busy week on the campaign trail in Ontario. We are nine sleeps away from e-day. Have a campaign tip? We’re all ears.
In this 9 minute read, we have the biggest takeaways from the leaders’ debate. Insider analysis from a Tory and Liberal strategist on the showdown. COVID sidelines Horwath and Schreiner. Jason Kenney out as Premier. On the watch for Monkeypox. Plus, Matt Richter on why he’s running in Parry Sound—Muskoka.
The four main party leaders squared off for the final time during the campaign during a debate that — though rowdy — remained largely civil. Progressive Conservative chief Doug Ford faced off with Liberal captain Steven Del Duca on education and the economy. Green Mike Schreiner went after the incumbent on healthcare. NDP leader Andrea Horwath looked to distinguish herself from her Liberal opponent — as polls suggest a split amongst the progressive vote.
Here are the biggest takeaways from debate night in Ontario:
Most heated exchange: “Under yourself and the former premier Kathleen Wynne, you destroyed this province. The economy was going downhill quicker than the Canadian bobsled team,” Ford told the Liberal leader on the party’s handling of the economy while in government.
“There’s an old saying in life: you’re entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts, Mr. Ford. And the truth of the matter is, you need to stop reading the script that looks like it came out of the fiction section,” Del Duca fired back.
Attack of the night: “Your record on public education is an embarrassment and you should be ashamed of yourself for what you have done to kids across this province,” Del Duca said to the incumbent during a heated exchange on education. “You have failed this province,” he continued.
Horwath’s first take: “I’m sure this is not the most fun thing you’ll ever do on a Monday night, but because you’re joining us, it shows that you care and that this election has a lot at stake,” the NDP captain told viewers.
S/O of the night: “I think we have the best Minister of Education we’ve ever had,” Ford said of Education Minister Stephen Lecce.
Question of the debate: “Mr. Ford, have you talked to a nurse lately? Have you talked to a nurse about how disrespected they feel, how overworked and underpaid and underappreciated they are, how insulted they feel being called heroes and then essentially having their wages cut by having them frozen,” Schreiner asked Ford while debating healthcare.
Most controversial moment: “When you don't show up for work for 82% of the time, you lose your job,” Del Duca said to Ford on his attendance record during in the Legislature. The Liberal chief caught flak for using a zinger similar to that used by the late-NDP leader Jack Layton during the 2011 federal leaders’ debate. “Write your own zingers,” said NDP strategist Kathleen Monk.
Nonpartisan moment of the night: “I can work with Mr. Schreiner,” Ford said of his working relationship with the Green leader.
Party strategists weigh in on debate night
newsBeyond spoke with a Liberal and Tory strategist for their takes on the leaders’ debate. Here’s what they had to say:
These responses have been edited for length and clarity.
Did your leader accomplish what they needed to accomplish on debate night?
Kate Harrison (Vice Chair at Summa Strategies): “I think so. It's always hard — as the incumbent — to take the debate stage because you are getting attacked from all sides. In the face of criticism and attacks, I think Ford kept a pretty calm and affable demeanor. He did a good job defending the record and pretty clearly trying to draw a contrast between what he's promising to do and those promises that his opponents have made. I think Ford rose to the challenge of not being on his heels all night and did a very good job of defending the record.”
Alvin Tedjo (Former Liberal leadership candidate): “Absolutely. Steven was clearly the most prepared and the best communicator on that stage. I'm not just saying that because I'm a Liberal. I ran against him. I actually debated him in that studio during the leadership election. He’s always been that even handed person who really loves getting into the weeds of the policies and how it helps or doesn't help people. But he was introducing himself to Ontarians. I thought he did a great job of talking about his family and telling his story. After that, he had to start holding the PC leader to account and I think he did a great job of pointing out where Mr. Ford was lying or misleading. It’s not just about talking about the lies but also talking about the problem and presenting a solution.”
How did Andrea Horwath do? What are your thoughts on her performance and her strategy in the debate?
Harrison: “Her performance was relatively consistent in terms of how she's performed in previous debates. I think that there's an attempt to try and position her responses as being a bit off the cuff. I'm not sure that it is working for her. She tends to have a few stops and starts in terms of her delivery. She also tends to look a little bit irritated whenever she's getting critiqued by her opponents. I think the big challenge for her is that it’s difficult to position herself as the change agent when this is your fourth campaign. Del Duca guys struggles with that too because he is also an establishment politician. I think there’s a chance that some voters who were just firmly anti Wynne in the last election could go back to the Liberal Party. I think the real threat also could be Mike Schreiner taking away some of her votes given his relatively strong performance.”
Tedjo: “A lot of progressives are naturally angry at the right wing party of Doug Ford. I think — as Mr. Del Duca mentioned during the debate — every time progressives attack each other, Doug Ford smiles. I was surprised to see Ms. Horwath attack Mr. Del Duca as much as she was attacking Mr. Ford. I didn’t see Mr. Del Duca attack the NDP on Bob Rae or talk about whether [Horwath] was an effective leader in holding this government to account. Attacking Mr. Del Duca as much as she was attacking Mr. Ford doesn't make any strategic sense to me. I think it turns off a lot of progressive voters who want to see more collaboration.”
What impact did Mike Schreiner have on this debate?
Harrison: At the first debate, the expectations were pretty low to non-existent. We had nothing to compare him to. I want to be mindful here that the stakes are lower for him than they are for anybody else on the stage. That being said, he did a very good job at drawing some contrast and getting into a healthy exchange — particularly with Mr. Ford — on a few really key issues. I think that he did a very good job getting himself out there and improving his own name recognition. I think that there's probably some voters who are going to be impressed by his delivery. He has a bit of a an affable folksiness and similarly to the Premier. I think that's going to be appealing for folks that really aren't getting that kind of read from Steven Del Duca.”
Tedjo: “He had a phenomenal presence. I think it's great to have the voice of the Green Party at the debate. He talked about the climate crisis and I think he had a great presence in holding Mr. Ford to account. He showed some real emotion. That's the kind of guy he is Mike is. He's just leading a party that isn't going to win more than one seat. It was certainly helpful to have him in the debate as well to hold Mr. Ford to account and to point out a lot of the mistakes and flaws that the government has done over the last four years.”
Who won? Who lost?
Harrison: “I would say Ford did everything that he needed to do to maintain his frontrunner status. There was not a moment in the debate where he was completely caught off guard or left scrambling to defend anything. He was well prepared and positioned. I think that he did the best job of defending the record and not having anything stick.”
“I think Andrea Horwath is going to be intact for the next two weeks. I think we probably have seen her last debate on the provincial election stage. The Liberals appear to be getting a little bit of a bump. Perhaps it's just formerly defected Liberals coming back into the tent. I think that she needed a bit of a moment to really draw some contrast with Del Duca. And it didn't happen.”
Tedjo: “I think there were a couple of winners. I think Mr. Del Duca won because he introduced himself. He was calm. He was thoughtful. I think he showed that he was Premier material. But also, I think Mike Schreiner won as well. People will remember his emotional connection to people and talking about how the decisions of this government have affected people and how it's affected him personally. I think both those men were winners.
“The other two [lost]. Mr. Ford was reading from his notes the whole time and couldn't get through a 60 second introduction without looking down on his notes. I know fifth graders who can memorize a minute worth of lines. It's surprising that he needs that after being Premier for four years. I think Ontarians deserve better. I am surprised that NDPers still wanted her to run in this election. That’s why we are hearing that there is a group of candidates and MPPs who want her out if she loses on election night.”
Will this debate change anything? Was it a turning point?
Harrison: “I don't think so. I think there was very little that was said that would move the needle in a real way. There's still two weeks left and a lot can happen in that time. But the debate itself — as a key milestone — I don't think that it was a turning point for any of the major parties.”
Tedjo: “I hope so but it usually takes about a week for it to really settle. Not everybody watches it live. They read about it afterwards. They talk about it at work. I think it is solidifying who the real opposition to the Conservatives are and that's solidifying around the Liberals. Whether or not that results in more seats or more votes — who knows? I think that’s still to be seen. A week of politics is a lifetime. We have about two weeks left.”
Are you an NDPer or Green strategist? We want to hear your take on the debate. Send us a note with all your thoughts.
We are nine days away from e-day. Here is the latest from the campaign trail:
COVID-19 hits the hustings: Horwath and Schreiner sidelined
Two party leaders were benched with COVID-19 with less than two weeks left before voting day. Mike Schreiner was first to announce his diagnosis with coronavirus after coming in close contact with a party staffer. “I am fully vaccinated and am feeling fine,” he said in a statement late last week.
His positive test forced his campaign to pivot online as he recovers — but the party says he will be returning to in-person campaigning tomorrow.
Andrea Horwath also tested positive for COVID-19 — though is now testing negative with a “stuffy nose.” The NDP camp said in a statement that the party is “really disappointed” they’ll be losing the physical component of campaigning for some time. “We have always had contingency plans for this campaign, knowing that COVID is still among us,” the party said.
Federal captain Jagmeet Singh hit the road for Horwath — taking over her Instagram account and visiting battleground GTA ridings.
The other two leaders tested negative. Del Duca told reporters that he tested negative after learning of the two positive cases and he would continue to monitor for symptoms. Ivana Yelich — a Ford campaign spokesperson — told newsBeyond that the PC leader will “continue following public health guidelines.”
Keeping up with the endorsements
Approval from unions and high profile politicos are trickling in — POLICORNER is keeping a tally. Here’s where the parties stand with support.
International Brotherhood of Boilermakers
Ontario Pipe Trades Council
IBEW Construction Council of Ontario (IBEW CCO)
International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT)
The International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers Local Union 285 (SMART LOCAL 285)
Former Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion
Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens
Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati
Ontario Federation of Labour
OPSEU (Ontario Public Service Employees Union)
United Food and Commercial Workers
Amalgamated Transit Union
Some local NDPers have been endorsed by OSSTF in their riding. Read our scoop on how some teacher unions are going about endorsements this time around.
OSSTF endorsed Mike Schreiner and Matt Richter in their ridings — the first party candidates to ever be endorsed by the union.
Environmentalist David Suzuki has thrown his support behind the aforementioned candidates Dianne Saxe in NDP-held University-Rosedale.
On the polling
PROGRESSIVE CONSERVATIVE: 36.0% (-1.1)
LIBERAL: 27.1% (-1.5)
NDP: 23.9% (+0.1)
GREEN PARTY: 6.7% (+1.8)
OTHER: 6.4% (+0.8)
The change since POLICORNER’s previous edition is represented in the bracket.
WHY THEY’RE RUNNING
It’s his fifth time running for the party. Fresh polling suggests he may have the best shot at joining the Green Party caucus at Queen’s Park.
Matt Richter says he is running to “literally be part of a change out of status quo.” “From one election to the next, it becomes quite apparent that the same challenges and same issues keep resurfacing almost like it's a bad movie script where they didn't have much more to add,” he told newsBeyond in an interview.
Richter — a teacher with the Trillium Lakelands School Board — says he is once again carrying the Green banner in Parry Sound—Muskoka because “the momentum is there.” “It feels that what we’re achieving up here is being validated,” he said. “Politics is very near and dear to everyone’s heart, whether they say they're political or not. If five times the charm — I don't know if that's even a quote anywhere on planet earth — this time we're going for that.”
Polls suggest that Richter is second in the stronghold PC riding. 338 Canada shows that the Green candidate is second — trailing by four points behind Bracebridge Mayor and PCer Graydon Smith. The riding was repped by longtime PC MPP Norm Miller. Miller is not seeking re-election after a 21-year tenure.
It could be a repeat of Kitchener Centre on a federal level — where Mike Morrice surged to victory after the incumbent Liberal Raj Saini dropped his candidacy over allegations of inappropriate conduct.
Parry Sound—Muskoka is without a Liberal candidate, where the party was forced to drop its candidate over past comments he made on homosexuality. “It has helped,” the Green candidate acknowledged. “We have many voters who are saying that since I can't vote for Steven Del Duca, they're comfortable shifting their support locally to their Green Party candidate.”
How do you win Conservative voters in the riding? “Keep doing what we’ve been doing,” Richter said. “I can tell you that the buck-a-beer and license plate sticker bribes is not resonating with people up here. We are seeing a groundswell shift of support from the PCs and the other parties to really reconsider their voting past or just decide that they're going with Matt Richter,” he added.
“I had a lot of respect for Norm. We've gone back and forth over four elections. As he said on our local news, politics has become too partisan. I think that's a reflection on a lot of the status quo parties. A good idea is a good idea. Doesn't matter who said it or what party came up with it first. We’ll acknowledge it idea so that people feel validated. That's what we expect in business. It's what we expect of our students. We should expect the same of politicians.”
Richter says the number one issue for voters in his riding is affordable housing. “There's going to be different number one issues across the age demographics,” he explained. “I believe more of our population is connecting the dots that lack of affordable housing is having a devastating impact on our economy up here. When people can't afford to live here, they can't afford to work here.”
His final message to voters: “What is the future that you want to live in look like? What is the politics involved to get there? What is required on behalf of politicians to actually achieve the future that you want to live in? What is required upon us? We all have a part in making the change happen. It can't be all on the politicians and the politicians can't pass the buck. It's a team effort.”
The Ford government’s appeal of a court decision requiring it to release mandate letters will be heard by Canada’s top court. “What is it that's in those letters that for four full years they have fought so hard against the release of,” Liberal captain Steven Del Duca asked. “Ford should have made the mandate letters transparent and public in the first place,” Green leader Mike Schreiner said. newsBeyond had the scoop on the government's decision to appeal to the Supreme Court.
Ontario's top doctor has issued an order to local healthcare providers requiring them to notify Public Health Ontario if a patient has symptoms of the Monkeypox within one business day. Public Health Ontario will be required to notify local public health units of this suspected case. “The risk for Monkeypox is low,” a Ministry of Health spokesperson told newsBeyond.
BREAKING: Canada will release updated infection prevention and control guidance and is working on case and contact management protocols for the newly emerged Monkeypox, Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos says. An additional ten cases of the Monkeypox have been detected in Canada.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is resigning as the leader of the United Conservative Party and the province’s premier after winning a narrow majority of 51.4% in a leadership review. “It was not what we hoped for,” the embattled leader told his supporters.
WHAT WE’RE READING
“Poilievre campaign vows to shut 'misleading' website selling Trudeau blackface stickers in its name” by Christopher Nardi and Bryan Passifiume
TORONTO STAR: “Confidential Liberal memo lays out strategy to hold Doug Ford’s PCs to a minority government” by Robert Benzie
CBC NEWS: “Steven Del Duca vows he will win his riding, Doug Ford begs to differ” by Mike Crawley
In last week’s edition, we asked you to name the moderators of the last provincial leaders’ debate. The two were: Steve Paikin of TVO and Althia Raj of Global News Toronto. The face off took place at the CBC Toronto Broadcast Centre.
THIS WEEK’S QUESTION: What riding did federal NDP captain Jagmeet Singh represent in the Legislature before making the jump to Ottawa? Send it to email@example.com or reply to this email.
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