They’re at the post

With the Ontario election getting under way, I’ve been amazed at how well Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak has fared to date. His party has been polling slightly ahead of Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals. Even in those areas where McGuinty leads in voter trust (energy, environment, and the economy), Hudak is just a few percentage points behind. I say amazed because I think I follow politics pretty closely and I couldn’t tell you with any certainty where Hudak stands on any of those topics. I can’t imagine too many other Ontario voters can either. Perhaps the numbers can be explained by a certain ennui with McGuinty that drifts into an embrace of anyone else.

The same goes for NDP leader Andrea Horwath. She seems capable, if poorly organized, but will enjoy some wind from Jack Layton’s sails. Still, at this point, both Hudak and Horwath are little more than ciphers.

I’ve seen the first round of Liberal and Conservative TV ads and I have to say that McGuinty’s self-deprecating stance is by far the most appealing. “The polls tell us I’m not the most popular guy in the country,” he begins, standing in front of a plain background, and then proceeds to rattle off a list of accomplishments. The PCs have gone negative, calling McGuinty “the tax man.” After two nights, I’m already bored by that stilted pitch with no production values but I understand what they’re doing. You’ve got to shake people loose before you can lock up their vote.

Love how they refer to themselves as the Ontario PC Party, conveniently never spelling it out as Progressive Conservative because there might not be all that much that’s progressive in their platform. At least the federal party had the gumption to drop the word Progressive and change the name.

In this horse race, I think it’s too early to give odds. Let’s wait a couple of weeks to see how all three leaders perform. Elections for mayor of Toronto and the federal government were fascinating to watch and impossible to predict. We may be in for more of the same. Meanwhile, I’d say this is Dalton McGuinty’s to lose.

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