Will Tim Hudak stand by his discredited jobs figure?

Tim Hudak is not a politician who easily abandons a particular line once he has settled on it.

This is the same Progressive Conservative Leader, after all, who spent the first week of the 2011 election campaign insisting the Liberals wanted to reward employers for hiring “foreign workers” –  long past the point at which it had become obvious he was misrepresenting the governing party’s proposal, and that he was doing himself no favours in the process.

It’s no great surprise, then, that on Wednesday he stood by his claim that his policies would create a million jobs, even as  it become inescapable that this claim is predicated on a laughable mathematical error. And considering that the Tories have spent millions of dollars advertising that precise claim already, and named their platform after it, Mr. Hudak may very well keep standing by his number.

If so, his encounters with reporters could get ugly in a hurry. And the Tories also have the small problem that, even as they try to present their leader as the most serious of the three vying for the Premier’s office, his favourite promise has become the fodder for jokes.

But the calculation, on the Tories’ part, may be that their supporters won’t care.

They may be right about that, given the polarization of the electorate. Most of the Ontarians inclined to vote for Mr. Hudak believe so much more in him and his policies than with his opponents and theirs that there is almost nothing he could do to lose them at this point. And most other people already don’t trust him, so this probably won’t make much difference with them either.

Despite his campaign being far more about motivation than persuasion, though, Mr. Hudak has still been trying to win over at least a few swing voters – including some moderately right-leaning voters (notably in the Greater Toronto Area) who could still vote either Liberal or PC, and those (particularly in the province’s southwest) who very much want a change from the Liberals but haven’t decided whether to cast their votes with the Tories or the New Democrats.

To the extent that Mr. Hudak has been trying to reach at all beyond his base, it’s been by presenting himself as the man with the plan. His message (which of course also plays well with dyed-in-the-wool conservatives) is that he may not be the most likable of the party leaders, but he’s the one willing to tell hard truths and do difficult things to help get Ontario out of a rut.

For Mr. Hudak to go out day after day and continue to stand by a claim that even members of his own campaign team acknowledge is inaccurate may not be especially helpful in presenting himself as a straight shooter. And it could sway at least a few voters, as well, who want change from the Liberals but also are nervous about putting their trust in him.

Not that acknowledging he’s spent the past several weeks campaigning on a promise he shouldn’t have made would exactly firm up his leadership credentials among the doubters, either. For a leader reluctant to publicly correct himself at the best of times, the inclination will be to just try to ride it out.


Update: The best play for a party in a situation like this is to change the channel, if it has any ability to do so. The Tories may have at least partly achieved that on Thursday morning, by releasing documents showing a recent and unannounced cabinet decision to bail out MaRS, the not-for-profit research corporation in downtown Toronto.

They were clearly waiting for an opportune moment to release these documents, and my guess is that all things being equal they would have done so before next Tuesday’s debate. In any event, while not exactly easy to wrap one’s head around, the MaRS story is odd enough that it looks like Thursday might not be a very good day for Tim Hudak or Kathleen Wynne.

Ask The Globe: Your questions on citizenship, C-51 and refugees

For the duration of the election, The Globe is answering your questions – from fact-checking leaders’ statements to digging deep into policies and promises. Have a question? Tweet it with #AskTheGlobe

Ben asks: #AskTheGlobe Can the government legally revoke someones Canadian citizenship? #MunkDebate

and Sarah asks: What conditions can a Canadian loose their citizenship, residency, or voting rights? Do refugees hafta pay interest? #AskTheGlobe

Let’s deal with these two together.

First, yes, the government can legally revoke citizenship if it was obtained fraudulently. The Conservatives also added another policy, which is that dual nationals can potentially lose their citizenship if convicted of terrorism or treason crimes. Depending on the circumstances, someone whose citizenship was revoked may be removed from the country.

On voting, the Conservatives did change the eligibility to vote for Canadian expats living abroad. Generally they lose their right to vote after five years, which Donald Sutherland was not very happy about.

Chris asks: Did Tom Mulcair really say different things about repealing C51? #AskTheGlobe

The NDP has never supported Bill C-51, the Anti-Terror Act. The New Democrats voted against the bill, which was supported by the Conservatives and Liberals. However, in interviews earlier in the year, leader Thomas Mulcair did change his tone. In February, Mr. Mulcair said he wouldn’t commit to repealing the bill if elected, though his party would definitely change it. Weeks later, in March, Mr. Mulcair committed to repealing the entire law.

Myles asks: Harper says ours response has been generous- is that true compared to past refugee crises? #MunkDebate #asktheglobe #futurevoter

It depends on what past refugee crises we’re comparing it to. In terms of numbers and speed of access for refugees, it’s much lower than Vietnam (when Joe Clark raised the target to 60,000 refugees). Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau at the Munk Debate brought up comparisons with Vietnam to accuse Harper of being stingy. What sets Syria apart from Vietnam is the rules Stephen Harper introduced about refugees needing their status approved by UNHCR or a third country, a rule that didn’t exist for the Vietnamese (and which the Kurdi family blames for the events leading to Alan’s death off the Turkish coast). If we’re comparing Syria with the Second World War, though – when we famously turned away a boatload of Jewish refugees in 1939, and were pretty hostile to Jewish refugees even during the war – our current response looks more generous. (Doug Saunders and Sean Fine have done really good historical analyses of Vietnam, the Second World War and our response to the Hungarian refugee crisis in the 1950s).

Ask The Globe: What happens if two parties tie for the most seats?

For the duration of the election, The Globe is answering your questions – from fact-checking leaders’ statements to digging deep into policies and promises. Have a question? Tweet it with #AskTheGlobe

Christopher Stasiuk asks: If two parties tie for first with the most seats in the federal election, who governs? Who is the PM? #asktheglobe

According to Wednesday’s Nanos numbers the Liberals and Conservatives are locked in a dead heat atop the polls. Which makes Christopher’s question a timely one.

Digital politics editor Chris Hannay explains the process.

The incumbent always gets first crack at forming government. (Usually, if the incumbent has not won the most seats after an election, they decline.) If the incumbent is one of the tied parties and they have a Speech from the Throne, and it gets defeated by the other parties, they have to go to Governor-General David Johnston and declare that they don’t have the confidence of the House.

The Governor-General can then decide whether to call an election or let another party have a chance at governing.

If an election has just happened, typically the Governor-General is expected to let another party have a chance to form the government so as not to waste voters’ times. (This happened in 1926)

If the second-place party, or the other party that was tied, can survive a confidence vote with other parties’ support, then they’re in government now.

This is essentially what happened in Ontario in 1985.

This is what students want to ask Harper, Mulcair, Trudeau and May

Would you allow more immigrants to come to Canada? How can we reduce the use of fossil fuels? How would Canada change under your leadership?

These are questions for federal party leaders, but no, they are not from the latest debate.

These queries come from elementary and secondary students across Canada.

The young Canadians are posing these questions to Stephen Harper, Thomas Mulcair, Justin Trudeau and Elizabeth May through Student Vote, a project of the nonpartisan Civix, which aims to engage youth in our democratic process.

Student Vote will be running a parallel election in more than 6,000 schools across Canada just before the real vote on Oct. 19. (Click here to register your school — there’s only a few days left before the deadline.)

Aside from the mock election, Student Vote also runs democracy bootcamps for teachers and provides educational materials. The Globe and Mail is a media partner with Student Vote. Here’s The Globe’s Jane Taber in a Civix video explaining how political advertising works:

Watch for the leaders’ responses in the coming weeks.