Ontario parties watchful for comments they can use against rivals

Ontario’s party war rooms are trying to push the narrative that their rivals are straying from their principles and policies by highlighting some choice comments.

War rooms eager to highlight soundbites

Donna Cansfield, then minister of natural resources, poses in a file photo from 2009. One of her comments in the year 2014 was made into a news release by the Progressive Conservatives. (The Canadian Press Images PHOTO/Trees Ontario)

Ontario’s party war rooms are trying to push the narrative that their rivals are straying from their principles and policies by highlighting some choice comments.

During a campaign that’s seen them steadily include reminders of policies and programs included in the budget defeated when the NDP decided to vote against it, the Liberals have recently been trying a new strategy.

The party has sent out multiple releases so far this week about comments they say show former NDP supporters “walking away” from the party over some of its policies.

On Wednesday they pulled a tweet from the account of Dave Cooke, a cabinet minister during Bob Rae’s time as premier in the 1990s.

“Horwath needs to pay some attention to NDP base that is progressive, please!!” the tweet from May 16 read.

The Liberals also included remarks from activist Judy Rebick from an interview on Global Tuesday.

She said on television she knows of people who have “ripped up” their NDP membership cards over the NDP’s decision to not support the budget.

Both Rebick and Cooke declined when CBC News asked for comment, although Rebick did say she didn’t know she’d been included in a Liberal news release.

Union leader: we echo our members

The Liberals are also highlighting remarks from labour leaders critical of Horwath’s voting down of the budget.

Jerry Dias, who leads Unifor — Canada’s largest trade union — said on CBC’s Metro Morning earlier in the campaign he didn’t agree with her decision.

Sid Ryan, president of the Ontario Federation of Labour, said when he made similar comments, he was just following what members were telling him.

Sid Ryan, president of the Ontario Federation of Labour, said the fate of organized labour in the province may be at stake in the election. (Adrien Veczan/ Reuters)

“They give me marching orders basically and they're saying in this election… what's hanging in the balance is the labour movement, the future of the labour movement,” he said.

“And as the president of the Ontario Federation of Labour, I'm going to do everything in my power to make certain on my watch that we do not lose the Ontario Federation of Labour and the organized labour in this province.

"We want to stop Hudak and that means in some cases voting for Liberals, that's what unions are saying they're going to do and I'm basically echoing that sentiment."

PCs, Liberals snipe at each other

The Ontario Liberals and Progressive Conservatives have also targeted each other by scouring speeches, appearances and social media for clips they can use for their advantage.

Retiring Liberal MPP Donna Cansfield said a PC release using her comments that the province was in “deep economic trouble” was a misrepresentation of her point that the new Liberal candidate was financially smart.

“Most people get their information from the soundbite, so misusing that soundbite can be very devastating on all sides,” she said.

Lisa MacLeod, Progressive Conservative MPP for Nepean-Carleton, says the Liberals warped her comment on attrition in the public service. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese)

For their part, the Liberals picked up on PC candidate Lisa MacLeod’s comments about the public service that “there will be a lot of attrition through that time, whether there's maternity leaves or retirement” on SUN TV.

They issued a news release saying pregnant women would bear the brunt of Tim Hudak’s proposed public sector cuts, an interpretation MacLeod said was warped.

“I think if they looked at a dictionary and actually were truthful about it, they would find that attrition means voluntarily leaving the public service,” she said.

Both MacLeod and Cansfield said their opponent's use of these tactics means they're afraid of losing ground at the polls.

Spin Cycle is an occasional look at political messaging in the Ontario election campaign.

With files from Steven D'Souza