TORONTO – Ontario’s Liberal leader has called the new Democrat’s accusations against some of his party’s candidatures “desperate tactics” — maneuvers that he says will only help progressive conservatives stay in power on June 2.
Steven Del Duca declined to comment Wednesday on allegations by the New Democratic Party (NDP) that the Chatham-Kent-Leamington Liberal candidate had fraudulently registered, in extremis, for the June vote.
Mr. Del Duca has indicated that he does not want to come into contact with the NDP with such bickering about nominations. New Democrats have already expressed doubts about other Liberal candidates who have been dropped by the party ahead of the May 12 nomination deadline. The Liberals will not field candidates in all 124 rounds next month.
“With 16 days left in this campaign, I am very saddened to see Ms. Horwath and the Ontario NDP resort to desperate tactics,” Del Duca said in a Toronto childcare announcement.
The Liberal leader said he was “disappointed” that the new Democrats were attacking him instead of targeting the Conservatives as he says his party is doing. “Every time the Ontario NDP attacks me and the Ontario Liberals, Doug Ford and his team (Progressive Conservative Leader) smile,” said Del Duca, repeating a phrase he first launched during Monday night’s leadership debate. “Well, I don’t want Doug Ford smiling on June 2nd, I want him shown the door.”
However, the New Democrat leader believes that the questions about nominations and candidatures are serious and that Mr. Del Duca will have to answer on the merits, rather than playing the card of a personal attack.
“He needs to stand up and take responsibility,” she said in an announcement in Kingston on Wednesday. How can you trust someone to become prime minister of the province if you can’t trust them to follow the rules when it comes to nominating candidates.”
The NDP has asked Elections Ontario to investigate a claim that the Liberal candidate in line was ultimately nominated using signatures collected in favor of the candidate previously dropped by the party. Elections Ontario declined to confirm whether an investigation had been launched in this case.
Ford maintains its support for a candidate
Meanwhile, progressive conservative leader Doug Ford on Wednesday backed one of his candidates who, according to a report, was involved with organizations that publicized homophobic views.
An article by “PressProgress,” a media outlet founded and funded by the Broadbent Institute, reports that Brantford-Brant nominee, Will Bouma, had held a leadership position in a religious organization that published a magazine advising young people to adopt a adopting a “gay way of life”. The Liberals, the New Democrats and the Greens all condemned the articles and opinions that were conveyed.
Mr Ford, driving an NDP in Hamilton on Wednesday, argued that Mr Bouma had not written the articles in question and that it was unfair to label him as homophobic.
In a post on Twitter, Mr Bouma commented on the story, saying he was “a proud, loving and supportive father to a daughter who is a member of the LGBTQ community”, assuring that his “opinions on this are clear. “I support the rights of all my constituents, regardless of their gender. I did not participate in the writing of these articles,” his message reads.
Ford said citizens are concerned about things like jobs and lower taxes. “They want to make sure they can pay their mortgage, pay their rent and put food on the table. This is what people are concerned about and this is what these elections are about,” he said.
Distribution of progressives
The revelations about the candidates and escalating tensions between the Liberals and the NDP come midway through this campaign, as both sides insist they want to form the government, despite recent polls suggesting the Conservatives are still in the lead in terms of voting intentions.
Ms Horwath declined to comment Wednesday on whether it is now time for progressive parties in Ontario to adopt a more unified strategy to stand in the way of conservatives. She maintained that she was still campaigning to form a majority government in Queen’s Park and that the NDP was offering Ontario voters the best way to oust the Tories.
Mr Del Duca also argued that his party, which had seven MPs when the Legislative Assembly dissolved, had a real chance of forming a government. He says voters don’t like party leaders discussing how to “divide power” before the election.
For Cristine de Clercy, an associate professor of political science at Western University, there is no doubt that splitting the center-left votes between the liberals and the NDP would benefit progressive conservatives.
Ms De Clercy also said in an interview that voters can grow weary if attacks on certain candidates dominate the election debate.
“Ontarians, like most voters, have a limited tolerance for, shall we say, ‘negative politics’, for little ‘gotcha’ moments that occur with the finger at certain candidates, on both sides, for taking on really vicious rhetoric, rather than offering positive solutions,” she said.
“It goes for all the major parties: they have to be a little bit careful with their quest to go after the vote of the past two weeks because sometimes there is a bit of a moving line between being competitive and being perceived as negative and aggressive.”