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The most baffling miscalculations made by each of Ontario’s parties

Political parties invest great amounts of time and energy into preparing for election campaigns – far more, generally, than the media covering them. For all that we’re constantly questioning their strategic decisions, an awful lot of thought and research goes into most of them, and even if they don’t pan out there’s usually a good explanation behind them.

Still, this election has contained its share of mysteries when it comes to what the parties were thinking. Here’s a quick look at what was, to these eyes, the most baffling miscalculation by each party.

The Liberals’ debate prep

Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne takes part in the Ontario provincial leaders debate in Toronto, Tuesday June 3, 2014. (Mark Blinch/Canadian Press)

Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne takes part in the Ontario provincial leaders debate in Toronto, Tuesday June 3, 2014. (Mark Blinch/Canadian Press)

Yes, it was bad luck for Kathleen Wynne that the very first topic in her first leaders’ debate – before she’d had a chance to let her nerves settle – was the gas-plants scandal. But that still doesn’t explain why she didn’t have a better plan for the inevitable questions on that subject than to repeatedly apologize while uncomfortably staring straight ahead as the other leaders berated her, then make an awkward and unsuccessful attempt to change the channel to Tim Hudak’s math problems.

Ms. Wynne was being prepped for the debate dating back to last year, so it’s not as though no thought went into this. One theory offered by some Liberal insiders is that, somewhat in keeping with the way their party has made both political and policy decisions since Ms. Wynne took over, there were a lot of people in the room during those sessions – and enough conflicting advice that she didn’t have a clear idea of what she was supposed to do.

Another explanation also floating around is that while they expected Mr. Hudak to be tough on her, the Liberals failed to adjust to the aggressive persona Andrea Horwath had taken on by the time the debate happened. Instead, by this account, Ms. Wynne was prepared for the folksier version of the NDP Leader from the 2011 campaign, and left flummoxed by the attack from both sides.

Or maybe the prep just didn’t take as it should have, with Ms. Wynne’s nervousness getting the better of her. Whatever happened, if the Liberals lose on Thursday, they’ll have cause to look back on the debate with some regret.

The Tories’ hard sell of 100,000 job cuts

Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak shares a laugh with workers at Automatic Coating Limited in Toronto on Tuesday, May 6, 2014.  (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak shares a laugh with workers at Automatic Coating Limited in Toronto on Tuesday, May 6, 2014. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

The more obvious choice for a Progressive Conservative mystery in this campaign might be how Mr. Hudak’s policy advisers managed to badly botch the math behind his pledge to create a million new jobs, causing him no shortage of embarrassment. Chalk that one up to sloppiness, albeit of the fairly remarkable variety. What’s even more confusing is how the Tories rolled out their plan to cut 100,000 jobs from the broader public sector.

When they announced that pledge, a few days in, it seemed obviously intended as something to seize the electorate’s attention and become the talk of the campaign. If it wasn’t, then surely Mr. Hudak would have soft-sold it as relying largely on attrition rather than giving the impression that it involved firing a lot of people.

But by the accounts of many within their party, the Tories were genuinely caught off guard by how much the proposed cuts overshadowed other policies they rolled out in the days that followed, and the extent to which it gave their opponents something to rally against. So in subsequent the weeks, Mr. Hudak did start talking more about attrition – but only after the other parties had reasonably been able to characterize his proposal as mass layoffs.

Prior to the debate, several PC sources have said, there was starting to be a degree of finger-pointing within their party about both the million-jobs math and the jobs-cuts roll-out. A better mood set in because of the perceived momentum swing in their favour, which seemingly had much to do with the focus shifting to Liberal scandals. But there will again be plenty of second-guessing if the motivated centre-left keeps them from office.

The NDP’s slow start

Andrea Horwath speaks at a campaign stop in Toronto on May 7. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

Andrea Horwath speaks at a campaign stop in Toronto on May 7. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

Frankly, almost the entire NDP campaign has been baffling. While there have been occasional signs of what could have worked – Ms. Horwath is a more confident performer than she was in 2011, and when anyone has actually seen them their ads have been pretty good – it remains unclear why the New Democrats forced an election for which they lacked both a policy agenda and enough money to compete with the other parties.

What is especially confusing, though, is why Ms. Horwath was so unprepared for the campaign’s first week. In the run-up to the May 2 provincial budget, neither of the other parties could be certain how the New Democrats would respond. But in retrospect, considering that their rejection of that left-leaning budget clearly had little to do with its contents, the New Democrats should have known well before it was presented what they were going to do. And if they had bluffed publicly about weighing their options while making preparations behind the scenes, they might have run the smoothest campaign out of the gate.

Instead, the New Democrats looked more surprised than anyone by the government falling. It took them the longest to get their logistics sorted out, and more important they lacked a compelling explanation for why they had decided to bring the Liberals down. This was probably the time to make the strongest possible argument about Liberal corruption, as Ms. Horwath tried to do much later; instead she stumbled through a less-than-compelling case about liking Ms. Wynne’s promises but not trusting her to deliver on them.

As a result, Ms. Horwath squandered the spotlight that was on her in those first days. Before long, with the other leaders campaigning more strongly, the narrative of a two-way race had taken hold – one the New Democrats were never able to shake in the weeks that followed.

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Filed under: Ontario Election

Everything you need to know to vote in the Toronto election

Voting day is Monday, Oct. 27. Still making up your mind? Allow us to help:

  • From child care to gridlock to taxes: How Tory, Chow and Ford compare on key campaign issues.
  • The Globe editorial board says John Tory is Toronto’s best bet. Read why.
  • It’s been a long 10 months from Rob Ford, Doug Ford, John Tory and Olivia Chow. Watch highlights from the campaign.
  • This campaign has largely been about transit. Compare maps of the candidates’ proposals with this handy tool.
  • Who has the best plan to manage Toronto’s growth? Chow, Ford and Tory make their arguments. (73% of Globe readers said Olivia Chow makes the best case – read the debate and vote yourself.)

Polls close at 8 p.m. For more information on where to vote and who is running in your ward, click here. 

Filed under: Toronto

Teachers get back to work in B.C. classrooms

Grade Six teacher David Murphy welcomes students on the first day of school, 2012, at Simon Fraser Elementary School in Vancouver. Similar scenes will play out across B.C. on Monday and Tuesday. (John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail)

Grade Six teacher David Murphy welcomes students on the first day of school, 2012, at Simon Fraser Elementary School in Vancouver. Similar scenes will play out across B.C. on Monday and Tuesday. (John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail)

On a day when teachers returned to classrooms around the province with varying levels of enthusiasm (see pictures below from Twitter and Instagram), we say it’s a good time to end the B.C. teachers’ strike liveblog and leave Politics Live to upcoming municipal election campaigns. Thanks for reading and sharing.

Remember to pick up a copy of Saturday’s Globe and Mail newspaper for extended coverage of the end of the labour dispute.


Back to school, back to dealing with school issues

With the drama of bargaining, picket lines and rallies finally in the past, teachers, parents and students can now turn their attention to returning to classes next week. That means all those back-to-school pointers and advice columns the rest of Canada read before Labour Day are suddenly relevant for readers in B.C. Here’s a sampling:

Resist the back-to-school overspending tyranny

A helpful personal finance column by Rob Carrick urges parents to mind their budgets by thinking twice before upgrading perfectly good technology, skipping a few extraneous items on school-supply lists and saying no to those buy-one-get-one-half-off-another sales.

Read the full article here.


How to help kids stay cool about back to school

Psychologist and author Sara Dimerman advises on preparing kids for expected anxieties at different school levels. For example:

Grade 1 is both exciting and anxiety-provoking. Your child is likely standing tall knowing that he has joined ranks of the older kids. However, he may also be apprehensive about taking on more responsibility and spending recess on a different playground. … Rest assured that these feelings and behaviours are normal and it’s a good idea to tell him so. Share that even teachers feel nervous before school begins again. Go for a walk around the exterior of the school and spend some time in the new playground.

Read the full article here.


The top three back-to-school stresses for teens

If you’re the parent of a teenager, here’s more advice to help you anticipate students’ stress, from columnist Anthony E. Wolf:

Talk to them. Let them know that you understand that the beginning of school can be stressful. It can seem a little strange, even overwhelming, getting back into a routine, but all kids feel this way. Reassure them that if they do feel apprehensive about it, they are not alone.

Read the full article here.


Kids’ snacks that make the grade

Growing kids need to refuel every two to three hours to keep their blood sugar (glucose) levels stable as sustained blood sugar means kids will have more energy to concentrate in class and participate in after school sports. The added calories from snacks provide an opportunity to boost your child’s intake of important nutrients like calcium, iron and zinc.

What kinds of snacks? Dietician and columnist Leslie Beck suggests things like edamame, trail mix and fresh fruit and yogurt.

Read the full article here.

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BCTF members ratify new six-year contract, ending B.C. teachers’ strike

BCTF President Jim Iker announcing ratification vote results on Thursday.

BCTF President Jim Iker announcing ratification vote results on Thursday.

The B.C. Teachers’ Federation membership has voted 86 per cent in favour of a new contract, ending the teachers’ strike that has kept more than half-a-million students out of the classroom.

Of 31,741 ballots cast, 27,275 were in favour of the new six-year contract, BCTF president Jim Iker announced Thursday night. There are roughly 41,000 members in all.

“With the ratification of the new collective agreement, the strike and lockout are now over,” Mr. Iker said. “Teachers and students will be back in school on Monday.”

Mr. Iker said there was a “strong vote of support for the collective agreement” despite the fact the union did not get everything it needs.

“We all know that this deal isn’t perfect, but it does provide gains for teachers, it protects our charter rights, it increases support for our students,” he said.

“There will be more classroom and specialist teachers in schools to help our students; our teachers on call will get fair pay for a day’s work and all our members will get a salary increase.”

However, several teachers have said they are not happy with the new deal. (Read our story on that here.)

Education Minister Peter Fassbender issued the following statement after the BCTF’s announcement:

“We have one of the best public education systems in the world, and that’s in large part because we have such great teachers.

“We can now focus on the path forward. This long-term agreement is an historic opportunity to work together for students – to enhance their education experience and to support their achievements.”

Mr. Iker said no lost time will be made up, though former education minister George Abbott has suggested otherwise:

Meanwhile, Thursday’s turnout was higher than the past few ratification votes:

Find more in the story on our main site here.

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Scenes from teacher ratification votes across B.C.

From Andrea Woo:

Just spoke with five teachers outside the voting site in Vancouver and three of them voted against the tentative agreement. The two who voted for it did so grudgingly, saying they couldn’t afford to lose any more money on the picket lines — some have lost around $10,000 — and that they’re worried public perception will turn against them if they vote no. All of them are disappointed with the agreement, but feel it will pass. Several long-time teachers have told me that if they were just starting out today, they wouldn’t get into teaching.


Many local teachers’ associations set up information study sessions and voting meetings for teachers today, and tweets show throngs of teachers eager to participate in the process.

From Coquitlam:

From Saanich:

From Surrey:

From Vancouver:

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