Is the NDP trying to cozy up to small-c conservative voters in Toronto?

On Wednesday — the first day paid Ontario election campaign advertising was allowed after a two-week ban — the NDP turned heads by running a full-page ad that wrapped around the front and back cover of the Toronto Sun, a tabloid newspaper.

Designed to resemble a typical Sun front page, the ad features head shots of PC Leader Tim Hudak and Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne. Beneath their photos is a Sun-style headline that blares: "Nonsense."

A line at the top of the front page refers Sun readers to the back to see "who is making sense in this election." There readers find a full-page ad draped in NDP orange that resembles a party campaign flyer.

"Andrea Horwath makes sense," says the line above a photo of the party's smiling leader. Statements on the page tout NDP moves to cut small business taxes and reduce both auto insurance rates and public-sector CEO salaries.

Sun.Front.page

Wednesday's front page of the Toronto Sun was actually a paid ad for NDP Leader Andrea Horwath. (CBC)

The ad raised eyebrows among campaign watchers when it hit the streets on Wednesday. Many wondered why the NDP would target readers of the conservative Sun. NDP insiders tell CBC's Genevieve Tomney the ad is aimed at voters unhappy with both the Liberal and Progressive Conservatives who are looking to find a new home.

Horwath has been targeting government waste as one of her key campaign priorities, promising to cut the number of cabinet ministers, appoint a "minister of accountability" to find $600 million of waste a year and promising to respect "hard-earned tax dollars."

Ad targets 'Rob Ford' voters, professor says

University of Toronto political science professor Nelson Wiseman said the ad is an NDP attempt to "pry loose" undecided small-c conservative voters from the other two main parties.

"The NDP's campaign in the past two or three years is largely conservative," Wiseman added. "They're offering to send everyone who pays hydro bills $100. That reminds me of what Mike Harris did when he sent everybody $200 (hydro rebate cheques)."

Wiseman said he finds it unlikely the NDP ad will find a welcome audience in the Sun.  

Horwath.AD.

This is where the Toronto Sun's front-page ad referred readers on Wednesday: to a back page ad for NDP Leader Andrea Horwath. (CBC)

"The campaign is still relatively early, but at the end of the day I don't think it's going to swing seats," he said.

"They're targeting the kind of voters that have voted for Rob Ford and that have voted Conservative," he said. "It goes against type in terms of the NDP," he said. "It certainly catches attention."

The Sun wrap ad comes days after the Ontario Liberals started trying to draw a connection between the NDP and Ford, Toronto's controversial, populist, "gravy train" fighting mayor.

A Liberal flyer appeared in mailboxes in the downtown riding of Trinity-Spadina last week featuring photos of Horwath and Ford smiling under the headline "stretch, twist, distort." The flyer also has a picture of the two politicians on its flip side, and says: "NDP: not what they used to be."

These days, few provincial politicians want much to do with Ford. After a year of scandal, he is currently on leave from council to undergo what his family says is treatment for an alcohol problem. Wynne refused to meet with Ford during last winter's ice storm. If Ford is damaged goods, the Liberals clearly hope some of that taint will rub off on Horwath.

Spin Cycle is an occasional look at political messaging in the Ontario election campaign.