Ontario Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne has unleashed a multi-front push to rustle votes from the NDP in the final days of the election campaign, releasing advertisements and an op-ed piece that warn of dire consequences if vote-splitting permits the Progressive Conservatives to take power.
The NDP was quick to react on Sunday to the efforts, saying it shows the Liberals' desperation and is a rehash of a failed tactic the federal Liberals used in the 2006 national election.
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One advertisement the Liberals are circulating is a revamp of mock food packaging they deployed in the 2011 election, showing NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and PC Leader Tim Hudak on a box of "Hudak Helper." The packaging is a parody of Betty Crocker's Hamburger Helper.
Another ad is a 30-second TV spot that begins with an image of Hudak's face over ominous music. The voiceover states that "100,000 teachers, health-careworkers and firefighters will lose their jobs" while school class sizes will increase and hospital wait times will lengthen under a PC government. It concludes: "A split vote will only help Hudak's chances. Polls show only Kathleen Wynne can stop him now. Please consider voting for your local Liberal candidate."
Wynne also signed an opinion piece published in Sunday's Toronto Star, in which she addresses people who "have voted NDP in the past, or are thinking of voting NDP this election."
"The NDP has lost its way. It’s not the party of Jack Layton or Ed Broadbent or Stephen Lewis. In an effort to win just a few more seats in the legislature, Andrea Horwath has abandoned the people the NDP once professed to defend. In doing so, she’s created the very real possibility of a Tim Hudak-led government," Wynne says.
"In a very real sense, a vote for Andrea Horwath is a vote for Tim Hudak."
Liberals rehashing scare tactics, NDP says
The New Democrats replied quickly, pointing out that former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin tried the same line when he was facing a surging Stephen Harper in 2006 and trying to court NDP votes. "Vote NDP and you'll end up with a Stephen Harper government that you can't stop," Martin said on the eve of the 2006 election, in which he was turfed from office.
The federal Liberals' national campaign chair then, David Herle, is the Ontario Liberals' current campaign co-manager and chief strategist.
"The same Liberal campaign advisers leading Wynne’s campaign also advised federal Liberal leader Paul Martin to use this failed tactic in 2006, when his campaign was sinking," the NDP said in a statement Sunday.
Horwath, in an interview on a Toronto radio station, said Wynne has "spent the entire campaign attacking everybody else, and telling you what not to vote for."
She repeated her refrain that the race is not a two-way contest between the "bad ethics" of the Liberals and the "bad math" of the Tories.
Hudak at town hall
Meanwhile, Hudak spent time Sunday at a town hall in the Niagara region, where he said it was "great" to be back home but also saddening because of what he said was the loss of two in five manufacturing jobs in the area.
The PC chief fielded questions from constituents on topics ranging from the Ontario Provincial Police union's campaign against his leadership to the scope of the inquiry he's promised to call into the Liberal gas-plant scandal.
The June 12 election is just four days away.