Working on a political election campaign is like driving on the Gardiner Expressway in Toronto. You have to constantly look ahead, behind and to your side and be ready to react in a moment’s notice. For candidates and campaign managers alike, the onslaught of issues, managing volunteers, media questions and time pressures let alone ‘engaging with the voter’ is quite simply daunting. Add to the list, coincident elections by not just one but two levels of government and you have a recipe for voter distraction and confusion. And a crowd of candidates at your door at dinner time!
For some ON voters, they will have election campaign ‘overload’ by the time election ballots are cast. With federal by-elections called for Trinity –Spadina and Scarborough Agincourt for June 30th on top of the Toronto Mayoralty race, share of voters interest and time will be at a premium. Some pundits are asking why the Prime Minister chose to call the by-elections for a seven week period. While the federal conservatives have little expectation of winning either of the Ontario by-elections given the historic level of support for the NDP and Liberal opposition respectively, it is no surprise the PM took advantage of this period to ‘call the by-elections’. The ON election provides cover for expected losses.
The by-elections also add a ‘resource’ challenge for the Liberal and NDP campaign teams doing double duty in the Trinity- Spadina and Scarborough ridings. Along with the provincial campaigns they are working the federal campaigns. The Liberals are expected to dedicate all hands on deck to deliver two by-election wins and add momentum for Justin Trudeau’s pre-election efforts.
What is different about this ON provincial campaign is the approach by Liberal leader Wynne to use the election as a referendum on federal/provincial relations. At this point in the campaign, the Premier is setting the debate on pension reform; taxation; and equalization – as cornerstone issues – federal/provincial issues. The Liberal leader has diverted the attention to the Prime Minister. With Stephen Harper as her current target – Tim Hudak will have to be more specific on his campaign promises and plan.
That said, the ON election is being closely watched by all three federal parties in preparation for the general election in October 2015. For the federal Conservatives they will closely evaluate the 905 and 519 results to shore up their base and to compensate for expected erosion in the GTA ; for the NDP, Leader Thomas Mulcair will be active in both the provincial and federal campaigns. Mulcair will work the federal by- election to maintain Trinity Spadina, Olivia Chow’s former seat where a contest is on for both NDP and Liberal voter support. For the Trudeau Liberals, they will evaluate the effectiveness of Wynne’s characterization of Harper’s personality and policy differences. As in the Quebec election this winter, we know campaigns matter. The provincial campaign will provide important insight into the federal parties strategy for the general election which effectively starts in June of 2015, a mere 13 months from now.