Federal NDP Leader Tom Mulcair is making his first foray into the Ontario election Wednesday night, headlining a fundraiser for the provincial party in Toronto.

So far, the leader of Her Majesty's Official Opposition in Ottawa has been absent — at least publicly — from the Ontario campaign.

And even now that he's wading in, it's not exactly with guns blazing.

The fundraiser, with Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, is a private event, closed to the media. The party wouldn't say whether Mulcair will be involved in any more campaigning in the week remaining before election day next Thursday.

By comparison, federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has been attending events for the provincial Grits for at least two weeks — and was at another campaign stop Wednesday afternoon in Ottawa with Ontario Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne

The provincial Progressive Conservatives, meanwhile, had federal Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird out on the hustings a couple weeks ago in Toronto, alongside Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak. The two are longtime friends and served in provincial cabinet together in the early 2000s. (It's unlikely the Ontario PCs will get Stephen Harper out; prime ministers rarely step into provincial elections).

A similar thing happened during the Quebec election in April: Mulcair kept largely quiet, while prominent politicians from the other major national parties expressed support for the provincial Liberals. Mulcair, a Quebec resident, did eventually declare he had voted for the Quebec Liberals, but only because the candidate in his riding was a friend and someone he considered a social democrat with an NDP heart.

Help for provincial cousins

It's not that the federal NDP is avoiding the Ontario race. Toronto MP Andrew Cash has had a close working relationship with his riding's provincial counterpart and is contributing to his re-election campaign.

Ottawa MP Paul Dewar has been pitching in in his local provincial riding, as well. And Mulcair's senior aide, Karl Bélanger, was in town for Tuesday night's leaders' debate and was tweeting away about Horwath's "compelling" performance.

 

Horwath's team would not say why Mulcair is only chipping in now, with a week to go.