There are a number of new polls out, which you can see on The Toronto Star’s poll aggregator, that show that the Liberals are now firmly in second place. Here is what my political intuition tells me is happening. Personal disclosure: I support the Liberals, so I admit that my bias may be affecting my judgment.
Liberal leader Steven Del Duca has grabbed people’s attention and seized the conversation with several imaginative policy proposals. They include “buck-a-ride” public transit, the temporary introduction of optional Grade 13 for students whose learning was compromised by the pandemic, and the cancellation of Highway 413 and reallocation of the funds to education. The Liberals, NDP, and Greens all will cancel Highway 413, but Del Duca has differentiated his position by discussing how the money would be used.
Play the Man, not the Ball
Del Duca’s opponents’ responses have been flat-footed. Andrea Horwath has used the classic soccer/football tactic of play the man, not the ball, that is, ignore the merits of the policy and attack the proponent. Indeed her position is worse than that. By saying “why didn’t the Liberals do this when they were in government five years ago?” she’s only attacking the proponent’s former boss.
Doug Ford’s response is “we can have both highways and public transit.” Ford has completely departed from the fiscal prudence of traditional conservatism. Not only does he see no reason to balance the operating budget, but he also recognizes no constraints on the Ontario Government’s capital budget. Especially in a period of rising interest rates, the capital markets may think otherwise.
In addition, Ford seems to think that indiscriminately building public infrastructure is everywhere and always good public policy. The legions of opponents of Highway 413 and subdivisions breaching the Greenbelt also think otherwise.
If a week is a long time in politics, during an election campaign it is a very long time. In the first week Del Duca has presented himself as a guy with new ideas. Whether the ideas stand the test of criticism in the heat of the campaign remains to be seen. But his critics haven’t laid a glove on him so far.