by Julie Ireton, CBC Radio
Sept. 27, 2003
The Liberal bus continues on a frantic pace, trying to get to as many Tory strongholds as possible across the province in the last week of the campaign.
Dalton McGuinty is drawing huge crowds too, like the one on the morning after the debate. I thought he, and the rest of us, would be crushed by the excited mob of Liberal supporters, who were there to congratulate McGuinty on his problem-free, yet less than definitive, performance in the debate.
People at many of the rallies are wearing t-shirts that read, "I may be a kitten-eater, but I want change," referring to the now-infamous Tory news release that called McGuinty an "evil, reptilian, kitten-eater."
At a stop on a farm near Stratford on Saturday, a little white kitten was wandering around a barn where microphones were set up for a scrum. Reporters were making kitten jokes and the two Tory spies who follow the Liberal bus from event to event, attempted to shoo the kitten away, fearing McGuinty would pick up the kitty and get his picture on the front pages the next morning.
Sure enough, the picture of Dalton and "Snowball" made the Sunday papers.
The "kitten-eater" news release was definitely the turning point in the campaign for both the Tories and the Liberals. Many people decided that the Conservative campaign was too negative, and the Liberals have been able to play up the kitten comment for the rest of the ride. Late last week in Niagara Falls, Liberal supporters even meowed!
McGuinty seems relaxed. But he says he's not going to become complacent. He tells a lot of zingers in his campaign speeches. His wife Terri has heard the jokes hundreds of times now, but never fails to laugh and applaud. One of his favorites is saying that he invited Terri to come on the election trail with him by saying, "Do you want to go on a second honeymoon? See the province? Get our pictures taken?"
He also talks a lot about his big family. For example, "The best thing I ever learned growing up in a family of 10 is
never be late for dinner. No, no. I learned if we pulled together we felt like 20."
There are four days to go.
On Wednesday the Liberal bus starts heading east on the 401, making its way to McGuinty's home riding in Ottawa for election night.