And the winner is ….

If I had to declare a winner in last night’s debate, I’d say it was Dalton McGuinty. Both Tim Hudak and Andrea Horwath were fine but they used too many rehearsed sound bites. They also relied on some of the same old ideas from other campaigns such as Hudak’s promise to reduce the size of the cabinet and Horwath’s plan to raise corporate tax rates. Yawn. And what the heck was this “ticket to the middle class” that Hudak kept talking about? Most voters are already there.

To be sure, McGuinty fouled his nest going after Hudak’s views on foreign workers and foreign investment as if Hudak were somehow anti-foreigner. It was a tactic unworthy of a premier. McGuinty should have taken to heart the quote he attributed to Bill Davis about how it was unbecoming to run down Ontario. It’s equally unbecoming to besmirch an opponent the way he did.

The format was fine but too often the question got lost in the rhetoric. Still, the three leaders likely managed to secure their respective party’s voters, although I’m not sure how many undecideds they snagged. But none of that matters. Last spring the vast majority of Ontario residents said they wanted change. The fact that neither Hudak nor Horwath have managed to tap into that discontent shows that they don’t have what it takes to win. This election is still McGuinty’s to lose and so far he hasn’t.

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