Many Ontario voters appear to have parked their votes for now: Robert Fisher
Robert Fisher's Ontario political analysis appears here every two weeks
Two weeks ago, MPPs returned to Queen's Park and they've been busy. Daily announcements, the byelection bribery trial in Sudbury, a little mud-slinging in Walton earlier this week at the International Plowing Match. Even accusations of libelous comments.
CBC Queen's Park analyst Robert Fisher spoke with the CBC's Rebecca Zandbergen to provide his take on the political landscape after what was a somewhat quiet summer for politicians.
Robert Fisher, Ontario politics analyst
How have the three main parties spent their first weeks back at Queen's Park?
The first two weeks back have been very much like the last two weeks before the summer adjournment: questions about energy rates, about Hydro One, about the Sudbury byelection scandal, about the $15 minimum wage.
But really the political posturing has now reached a very high level at Queen's Park among the three main parties so that each question from the opposition, each response from the government and every announcement from the government itself is designed with one thing in mind.
The calendar says there's an election coming next June in this province and so everything is measured against that time frame.
There has been a lot of outrage directed at the premier herself, but you don't count her out when it comes to next June's provincial election. Why not?
I've watched Kathleen Wynne from her days as a Toronto school trustee right through to the fact that she is now a premier and throughout that time, Ms. Wynne has always been written off, dismissed from her very first provincial election for example.
This is where the history comes in littered with the naysayers. She has proven time and time again that she can be a winner, even convinced her own party in the 2014 election.
Tim Hudak was supposed to be the next premier of Ontario, had practically ordered the drapes for his new premier's office. The last time I looked he was in fact the very effective head of the Ontario Real Estate Association, so Ms. Wynne is a fighter.
She is by her own admission, stubborn and she's a very good campaigner and the Liberals have a very strong ground campaign right across the province.
So the miracle at Queen's Park Crescent where the legislature is located in my view, is still possible – uphill battle, but it's still possible.
What do you make of Conservative leader Patrick Brown? He's been all over this country, he was in London in July – is he making waves? Is he making a difference out there?
Well, he's certainly making waves and the polls that are out there would indicate that he is still top of the heap.
I think the problem is where is the plan? He is labeled as the man with no plan and so Ontarians are willing to park their votes with him for a while, but the reality is that at some point he's got to tell them what he stands for, and this is been the problem for the Conservatives since Mr. Brown took over.
Lots of wonderful talk about what he would do to Ontario, but no real plan as to where he would take Ontario should he become premier after next June.
The byelection bribery trial we know is ongoing in Sudbury and defence lawyers actually called for the charges to be dismissed yesterday. How do you see this trial affecting the Liberals?
Well, do the Liberals not want this kind of thing to be happening as they move towards an election? Absolutely. Will this whole thing disappear at some point? It may well.
You know the Conservatives are now running attack ads on television that mention the Sudbury case by name. They label Ms. Wynne as untrustworthy and head of a corrupt government. It's very much along the lines of Donald Trump and his crooked Hillary comments, from the presidential election.
But clearly the NDP and Mr. Brown as his Conservative caucus believe this line of attack will stick to the Liberals.
I must say in travelling the province over the summer break in various parts of Ontario, talking to people in Tim Hortons here and Starbucks there, you don't get the sense that the Sudbury byelection scandal, as important as it may well be, is something that is top of mind of voters.
So there's some risks involved in this, particularly if you continue to attack Kathleen Wynne and you have no substance to back up the attack.
Wynne has asked for an apology from Patrick Brown, who said that Wynne is also on trial. Do you see her getting that apology?
Well Mr. Brown has said no. He was talking to Rita Celli on Ontario Today – made it very clear there was no apology coming. I think quite frankly in my opinion he's on very shaky ground here. Ms. Wynne was not on trial. She may well be on trial in the court of public opinion, but she's not on trial in a legal court in this province.
And so she has threatened to sue him for defamation and the timetable on that is ticking away. The clock is ticking away. Mr. Brown won't retract the comment. Ms. Wynne seems to be determined that I'm told personally, privately, she's very upset by this.
She may well go ahead with that lawsuit. A lot of Tories like Mr. Brown just to apologize and get it over with, but he has not moved towards an I'm sorry at this point.
What should people be watching for this fall as the leaders jockey for public opinion in the legislature?
Well number one, I think for me and for people following the election and when in fact they do is to watch to see what happens with the polling.
The Liberals have narrowed the gap some with the Conservatives. Ms. Wynne's popularity has narrowed somewhat in terms of it's a little higher that it was before the summer break.
Watch to see what the Tories do about all these problems they're having in their nomination battles. And watch the NDP to continue to move in the leftward lane of Ontario politics, trying to recapture that progressive vote that they lost to Ms. Wynne in 2014.
And watch what happens to Jagmeet Singh – does he win the federal leadership and will the provincial party be robbed of their deputy leader and a future leader of the party should Ms. Horwath not be successful next June in the election.