Ontario's governing Liberals say they are not trying to distance themselves from Dalton McGuinty, despite the fact the premier is nowhere to be seen in the party's latest campaign commercial.
The 60-second Liberal TV advertisement, which was scheduled to start airing across the province Monday night, features McGuinty's voice, although he's not identified.
The Liberals are not trying to downplay McGuinty's image before the Oct. 6 election, campaign co-chair Greg Sorbara said Monday as he explained the decision not to identify the premier's voice in the ad.
"It's simple, because he's the narrator, and I think after eight years he doesn't have to say 'Hi, I'm Dalton McGuinty,' " said Sorbara. "So it is an assumption people will know that that's the voice."
Recent public opinion polls show the governing Liberals trailing the Progressive Conservatives, with the NDP in third place.
'If I was on their team I would probably make the same decision.' —Andrea Horwath, NDP Leader
The NDP said McGuinty is so unpopular it's no surprise his image is absent from the Liberals' campaign ad.
"It seems to me his visible presence not being in those ads speaks to the extent to which his popularity has fallen in Ontario," said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath. "If I was on their team I would probably make the same decision."
The Liberal ad shows images of factory workers, firefighters and farmers. As music plays, the unseen McGuinty asks what defines Ontario, and then answers it's "the way we work together."
The Liberals unveiled the new spot one day after the Progressive Conservatives formally released their campaign platform, promising to cut income taxes and remove the provincial portion of the harmonized sales tax from electricity and home heating bills.
The New Democrats were the first to promise to take the HST off of hydro and home heating, leaving the Liberals as the only party not offering some form of tax relief for voters in this year's campaign.
The Liberals will campaign on their eight-year record as government, said Sorbara, and while their platform may promise something to attract voters like the Family Day holiday they announced in the 2007 campaign, they won't try to outdo the opposition on tax cuts.
"As our platform is presented there may be a signature product that focuses attention, but we're not going to get into a bidding exercise," he said.
Victorious Liberals would raise taxes: Tories
The Tories declined to comment on McGuinty's absence from the Liberal campaign commercial, but predicted any new program offered by the Liberals would drive up taxes.
"I think what we can count on is that there's going to be more reckless spending and more tax increases," said Deputy Opposition Leader Christine Elliott. "The only way they know how to do things is to increase spending, and in order to pay for that, increase taxes."
Sorbara wouldn't rule out running negative campaign ads targeting PC Leader Tim Hudak as the Oct. 6 vote draws closer, warning voters the Tories can't be trusted when they say they won't cut funding to health care or education.
"What Tim Hudak is suggesting is that he can dupe the people into believing we can give you more, you'll pay less and you'll end up without any debt, and frankly, it's just fantasy," he said. "It will lead to serious deficits and dramatic cuts in public services. Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me."