Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives have begun taking shots at the third-party New Democrats in advance of a pair of pending byelections that are being hotly contested.
While neither opposition party will be able to shift the balance of power at Queen’s Park on Feb. 13, the Tories are signalling that they nonetheless view the New Democrats as a threat.
PC Leader Tim Hudak recently gave a speech to the Cambridge and Kitchener-Waterloo Chambers of Commerce, in which he claimed that the New Democrats would drive Ontario "into the ditch with the same reckless abandon as Bob Rae."
In the same speech, Hudak said the NDP's "ill-thought and unrealistic policies would result in more debt and even higher taxes and electricity costs." He insisted only his Conservatives have a plan to turn things around and create jobs.
Alan Sakach, a PC party spokesperson, told The Canadian Press that the Tories are taking aim at both the Liberals and the New Democrats because "there are no meaningful points of distinction" between them.
"It's the same high-tax, job-losing approach," he said.
"So the challenge we're up against is a left-of-centre, Liberal-NDP-government-union coalition that's pretty much going to try to stop anyone who has a plan to stop the entitlements and make progress on the real problems we have like jobs.
"The NDP will say what people want to hear, but they still have no plan," he added. "Their unrealistic ideas are just going to drive up taxes, cost us more jobs just like in the Rae days."
The New Democrats, on the other hand, say that Ontarians like what the party has to offer and thus the party is not surprised the Tories are getting "desperate, nasty and negative."
NDP house leader Gilles Bisson said the New Democrats have "a track record of making life affordable, lowering hydro and auto insurance bills, and providing tax relief for middle-class families."
Bisson suggested that Hudak is "probably trying to distract attention from his own plans."
Premier Kathleen Wynne, who has led the governing Liberals for the past year, suggested Friday that the New Democrats "have no plan, and probably won't come up with one."
The premier also pointed to the fact that unemployment soared under the last New Democrat government in Ontario.
Since 2012, the New Democrats have picked up three seats during provincial byelections, winning a PC seat in Kitchener-Waterloo, as well as wresting London and Windsor seats from the Liberals.
Byelections won't push Liberals from power
At present, the governing Liberals hold just 49 of the 107 seats in the legislature. The Progressive Conservatives have 36 and the New Democrats have 20.
The Thornhill seat became vacant with the resignation of Peter Shurman, a Progressive Conservative who was first elected in 2007.
Gila Martow is the confirmed Progressive Conservative candidate in Thornhill, while Cindy Hackelberg will be taking up the challenge for the New Democrats. The Liberals have nominated Sandra Yeung Racco.
In Niagara Falls, Bart Maves is the PC candidate, while Wayne Gates of the New Democrats and Joyce Morocco of the Liberals will be fighting for the seat as well.
The Niagara Falls riding was left vacant when former Liberal MPP Kim Craitor retired from the legislature last September.
A recent poll suggested that all three parties are running within eight points of one another for the lead in Niagara Falls.