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‘Kitten-eater’ McGuinty wins 2003 Ontario election

The Story

"That's PREMIER evil reptilian kitten-eater from another planet, thank you very much," jokes the host in this 2003 radio clip. She's referring to newly elected Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty, and the bizarre campaign incident that saw incumbent Ernie Eves's campaign team hurl a rather strange insult at McGuinty. The name calling didn't help an already floundering PC campaign, and the Liberals easily swept into power in last night's election. In this clip from As It Happens, a panel of pundits dissects the results. 

Medium: Radio
Program: As It Happens
Broadcast Date: Oct. 3, 2003
Guest(s): Rick Anderson, Peter Donolo, Janice MacKinnon
Host: Barbara Budd, Mary Lou Finlay
Duration: 12:09

Did You know?

• In the Oct. 2, 2003 election, Dalton McGuinty's Liberals won a majority with 72 seats (out of a total 103), while Eves's PCs only won 24 seats and Howard Hampton's New Democrats won seven.
• The PCs lost all eight of their existing seats in the city of Toronto, Ontario's largest urban centre. Out of 22 ridings in Toronto, 19 were won by Liberals and three were won by the NDP in 2003.

• Premier Ernie Eves had called the 2003 election when he did because he hoped to capitalize on his increased popularity following the August 2003 blackout.  Eves had made a good impression on the public with his calm leadership in the days after the blackout.

• This good impression wasn't enough to sustain a successful campaign for the PCs. The PC record had already been marred by a number of prior events, including the death of Dudley George, the Walkerton water tragedy and the government's performance during the SARS outbreak.  Eves's 2003 election campaign relied on attack ads against McGuinty, while the McGuinty campaign kept a positive message throughout. The PCs' negative attacks on McGuinty backfired throughout the campaign.

• Part-way through the campaign, an e-mail press release was issued from Eves's campaign team calling McGuinty "an evil reptilian kitten-eater from another planet." Although it was most likely intended as a joke, it quickly became a major media story, and the over-the-top nature of the comment led to harsh criticisms of the Eves attack-based campaign. The media also interpreted the fact that nobody on the campaign team had stopped it from being distributed as a sign of a disorganized, out-of-control campaign.

• The NDP needed eight seats to maintain official party status in the Ontario government, so the party lost this status in 2003. This meant the NDP no longer had designated time to ask questions during question period, and no longer received government funding for research or staffing. The NDP's party status was re-instated after Andrea Horwath won a seat during a 2004 byelection, bringing the party back up to the eight required seats.

• Ernie Eves remained Ontario's Opposition leader until his resignation on Jan. 31, 2005. John Tory became the new leader of the Ontario PC party.
• McGuinty made history on Oct. 10, 2007 by winning a second majority term, a rare feat for Ontario Liberals. The decisive win marked the first back-to-back Liberal majorities since 1937, and only the second Liberal re-election since the end of the Second World War.
• The 2007 election results marked only modest change over 2003. The Liberals gained four seats, the Conservatives gained two and the NDP remained stalled at 10.

• Conservative leader John Tory and Green party leader Frank de Jong were defeated in their own ridings. Tory failed to unseat popular Liberal incumbent and education minister Kathleen Wynne in the Don Valley West riding. The Greens did not win a seat, but garnered about eight per cent of the popular vote, doubling their 2003 showing.
• Ontarians also made history in 2007 with an all-time low for provincial voter turnout. Just 52.6 per cent of Ontarians voted.

• Ontario's voters also roundly rejected a proposed change to Ontario's electoral system, as 63 per cent of voters opted to keep the existing "first-past-the-post" method. A citizens assembly appointed by the Liberals had suggested a change to a mixed member proportional (MMP) concept, wherein each voter gets two votes: one for their local candidate and another for the party they support. MMP needed 60 per cent of the vote to pass, but won just 36 per cent.


Ontario Elections: 25 Tumultuous Years more