Federal MPs taking active role in Ontario campaign

Ontario's election campaign is starting to feel like a warm-up to the 2015 federal vote, as more national politicians and their staff are becoming involved on the campaign trial.

John Baird, Paul Dewar, among federal MPs aiding in provincial campaigns

Federal counterparts eye Ontario election in advance of their own likely vote in 2015. 3:14

Ontario's election campaign is starting to feel like a warm-up to the 2015 federal vote, as more national politicians and their staff are becoming involved on the campaign trial.

At a campaign stop in Scarborough on Tuesday, Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak opted to have federal cabinet minister John Baird introduce him instead of a local candidate.

Baird's support may not be surprising, given that the two men were colleagues from Mike Harris's Ontario government and Baird's director of communications, Rick Roth, has taken a leave to help Hudak's campaign.

Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak met with Foreign Minister John Baird at an election campaign stop on Tuesday. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)
But the Conservatives are not only the only ones tapping their federal counterparts for support.

Campaigning door-to-door has benefits, says Dewar

The New Democratic Party's Paul Dewar also helped launch Ottawa Carleton District School Board chair Jennifer McKenzie's campaign in Ottawa Centre.

Like Baird and Hudak, Dewar and McKenzie have a long-standing working relationship and friendship, one that for them dates back to Dewar's time as a teacher.

But he acknowledges there are political benefits to helping provincial counterparts.

"We are trying to look towards 2015 and what kind of issues are resonating with people, what kind of arguments work, because sometimes it translates," said Dewar.
MP Paul Dewar has been helping out with local NDP candidate Jennifer McKenzie's campaign. (CBC)

“Going door-to-door is the best way to find out issues that matter to people," he said.

Dewar said he also plans to be at the event when NDP leader Andrea Horwath visits Ottawa Friday.

Wynne campaign targets against Harper

Federal politicians have become more involved in part because the federal government — and the province's relationship with it — has become an election issue in Ontario.

Premier Kathleen Wynne has made the federal government a target, releasing a 34-page list of "the 116 ways" the Harper government "had short-changed Ontario."

After Wynne released a budget that called for Ontario to create its own pension plan, both Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Finance Minister Joe Oliver called the plan an unnecessary “tax hike.”

Federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is scheduled to join Wynne at an event in Toronto Thursday evening..

With the most seats up for grabs, Ontario has historically been an important province federally. But the recent redistribution of seats set to take effect in the next election has increased its importance.

Ontario to gain 15 seats in 2015

Of the 30 new ridings created as part of redistribution, 15 are in Ontario, increasing the federal seat total for the province to 121.

Political strategist Ian Capstick, a former press secretary to Jack Layton, says political parties are increasingly relying on data in crafting their plans and campaigns, and says the provincial election gives them a treasure trove of information to work with.

"What better data...than an actual poll-by-poll out of a provincial election," he said.

Capstick said younger federal political staffers often work in provincial elections to gain live campaign experience before they get to "the big leagues" of the federal election.

"The 36-day write period is their chance to get their feet wet and get in the game a bit," said Capstick.