Liberals’ HQ elated amid news of majority win

Ontario Liberal leader Kathleen Wynne speaks to supporters after winning the Ontario election in Toronto on Thursday June 12, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Ontario Liberal leader Kathleen Wynne speaks to supporters after winning the Ontario election in Toronto on Thursday June 12, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn


Kathleen Wynne spoke to supporters in Toronto after media outlets reported her party won a majority government Thursday night.


Pumped-up Liberal supporters celebrated at the election-night headquarters.

Supporters watch results at Ontario Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne's provincial election night headquarters in Toronto, June 12, 2014. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

Supporters watch results at Ontario Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne’s provincial election night headquarters in Toronto, June 12, 2014. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

Ontario Liberal Party supporters celebrate after a Liberal Party majority government was called at the election party headquarters of leader Kathleen Wynne in Toronto, June 12, 2014.  REUTERS/Mark Blinch (CANADA  - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS)

Ontario Liberal Party supporters celebrate after a Liberal Party majority government was called at the election party headquarters of leader Kathleen Wynne in Toronto, June 12, 2014. REUTERS/Mark Blinch 

Ontario Liberal Party staff members celebrate after a Liberal Party majority government was called at the election party headquarters of leader Kathleen Wynne in Toronto, June 12, 2014. REUTERS/Mark Blinch (CANADA  - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS)

Ontario Liberal Party staff members celebrate after a Liberal Party majority government was called at the election party headquarters of leader Kathleen Wynne in Toronto, June 12, 2014. 

The mood at the PC headquarters was much more subdued. Polls had put party leader Tim Hudak neck-in-neck with the Liberals. But on Election Day, that wasn’t the case.

A supporter of Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak watches the election results come in for Ontario's provincial election in Grimsby, Ontario June 12, 2014. REUTERS/Fred Thornhill (CANADA  - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS)

A supporter of Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak watches the election results come in for Ontario’s provincial election in Grimsby, Ontario June 12, 2014. REUTERS/Fred Thornhill 

Ontario PC supporters watch the results come in at Tim Hudak's election night party in Grimsby, Ontario on Thursday June 12, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Ontario PC supporters watch the results come in at Tim Hudak’s election night party in Grimsby, Ontario on Thursday June 12, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

An Ontario PC supporter reacts as he watches the results come in at Tim Hudak's election night party in Grimsby, Ontario on Thursday June 12, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

An Ontario PC supporter reacts as he watches the results come in at Tim Hudak’s election night party in Grimsby, Ontario on Thursday June 12, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

And in Hamilton, a handful of supporters were present for NDP Leader Andrea Horwath’s election-night event.

Supporters watch results at Ontario New Democratic Party (NDP) leader Andrea Horwath's provincial election night headquarters in Hamilton, Ontario June 12, 2014.  REUTERS/Aaron Harris (CANADA  - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS)

Supporters watch results at Ontario New Democratic Party (NDP) leader Andrea Horwath’s provincial election night headquarters in Hamilton, Ontario June 12, 2014. REUTERS/Aaron Harris 

A sparse crowd watches television coverage as election results are tallied at the Ontario NDP election night party for Leader Andrea Horwath in Stoney Creek, Ont., Thursday, June 12, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Aaron Lynett

A sparse crowd watches television coverage as election results are tallied at the Ontario NDP election night party for Leader Andrea Horwath in Stoney Creek, Ont., Thursday, June 12, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Aaron Lynett

 

Ontario election-night headquarters decorated in red, blue and orange

After weeks of campaigning, it’s time to party.

Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne will be at the Sheraton hotel in downtown Toronto after the polls close tonight.

A volunteer prepares signs at the Liberal party's election night headquarters in Toronto prior to the polls closing for the Ontario provincial election on Thursday, June 12, 2014. DARREN CALABRESE/THE CANADIAN PRESS

A volunteer prepares signs at the Liberal party’s election night headquarters in Toronto prior to the polls closing for the Ontario provincial election on Thursday, June 12, 2014. DARREN CALABRESE/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Meanwhile, PC Leader Tim Hudak will wait for election results at the Mountain Ridge Community Centre in Grimsby, near Hamilton.

A party worker assembles signs ahead of Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak's election night party in Grimsby, Ontario on Thursday June 12, 2014. CHRIS YOUNG/THE CANADIAN PRESS

A party worker assembles signs ahead of Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak’s election night party in Grimsby, Ontario on Thursday June 12, 2014. CHRIS YOUNG/THE CANADIAN PRESS

And after mainstreeting, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath will end the night at Grand Olympian in her hometown of Hamilton.

With ‘Dark Knight’ door hanger and misleading letters, Liberals, Tories accuse each other of dirty tactics

As the Ontario election campaign winds to close, the Progressive Conservative and Liberal parties are both accusing one another of playing dirty.

On one end, a Liberal candidate apologized on social media Wednesday for a door hanger his campaign distributed that the PC Party called “terrorist literature.” On the other, the Liberals are accusing the Tories of intentionally misdirecting voters to the wrong polling station.

The offending door hanger features a photo of PC Leader Tim Hudak walking with his head thrown back laughing. The image — taken earlier in the campaign at a visit to a food packaging manufacturer in Niagara — was superimposed over a scene of a hospital exploding from the movie The Dark Knight. (Mr. Hudak replaces the Joker in the shot.) Underneath it, the door hanger read “Do you trust Tim Hudak and the Ontario PCs with your future?” The door hanger was distributed by the campaign team for Steven Del Duca, Liberal candidate for Vaughan, throughout his riding.

An Ontario Liberal candidates' door hangers feature a photos of PC leader Tim Hudak walking with his head back, laughing. The image, taken earlier in the campaign at a visit to a food packaging manufacturer in Niagara, was superimposed over an image of a hospital exploding from the movie The Dark Knight.

Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak, centre, laughs before he makes an announcement at a packaging plant about creating 40,000 jobs in Ontario with affordable energy during a campaign stop in Smithville, Ont., on Monday, May 12, 2014. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

The original photo. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

The PC Party released a letter from Mr. Hudak’s campaign manager, Ian Robertson, calling the material “disturbing” and “horrifying.”

“Tim and our team have broad shoulders,” Mr. Robertson wrote. “But to first suggest that Tim Hudak would somehow threaten disabled children — as you did this week— and now suggest he would blow up a hospital shows just how unhinged you have become.”

The letter, which also proposed that Mr. Hudak’s children may see the image and become upset, was addressed to Liberal campaign co-chairs, Deb Matthews and David Herle.

Mr. Hudak spoke about the door hanger at a press conference in Mississauga Wednesday, placing the blame on Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne.

“That’s way across the line and the Kathleen Wynne that I used to know never would have stooped to that type of tactic just to cling to power,” Mr. Hudak said.

Early Wednesday morning, Mr. Del Duca tweeted an apology directly to Mr. Hudak, calling the door hanger a “mistake.”

Mr. Del Duca’s campaign office later clarified that the door hanger was not sent out by mistake, but was a mistake in judgement, which they now regret.

Ms. Wynne also condemned comparing Mr. Hudak to a Batman villain while at a campaign stop Wednesday.

“That’s not acceptable,” she said after touring an elementary school in east end Toronto. “I haven’t seen that piece of literature, but this kind of campaigning is not acceptable. It’s not consistent with what we have been doing throughout this campaign, and I understand Steven Del Duca had apologized.”

While the PCs were shaming the Liberals, the Liberals were firing right back, accusing the Tory campaign office of intentionally misdirecting voters to the wrong polling stations.

The Grits drew attention to letters sent to voters in London and Ottawa from the PC party encouraging them to head to the polls. Some of the letters, including a few sent to Liberal supporters with lawn signs, indicated the incorrect address for the area’s polling station.

The letters were sent from the campaign head office in Toronto and were worded similarly to letters that had the wrong address for polling stations sent out during the Niagara by-election.

Ms. Matthews — who is also the Liberal candidate in the London riding where they discovered a letter — said it’s clear the PC Party was intentionally trying to misdirect Liberal supporters.

“They’re telling voters to go to the wrong place. They know exactly what they’re doing,” she told reporters Tuesday outside a Tory campaign stop in London.

“It’s intentional. It’s blatant. It’s irresponsible. It’s outrageous.”

The PC Party apologized, saying it was an honest mistake due to the abundant number of letters they had sent out. Mr. Hudak said there was no foul play, just a mix-up, and said the PC candidates in London and Ottawa have agreed to go door-to-door to apologize in person and give voters the correct information.

“I’m excited to share [our plan] with as many voters as possible. Sometimes you’re mailing out that size of letters, they don’t always go to the right address,” he said.

“I want them to get out and vote.”

With a report from Adrian Morrow 

Whistlestop a reminder of campaigns past

Kathleen Wynne’s tour bus pulls up in a recreation centre parking lot on the outskirts of this eastern Ontario town.

Fifty local supporters crowd around the door as the Liberal Leader steps off into the afternoon heat.

After shaking a few hands, she launches into a brief stump speech. Pointing to the three-month-old baby of one of the assembled faithful, she tells the crowd that Liberal policies will ensure the child gets a good education, finds work when she grows up and has a decent pension when she retires.

“You know, we’re doing this for her,” she says. “Now, let’s make sure we get our vote out to the polls.”

Kathleen Wynne with local Liberals in Napanee on Tuesday. (Colin Perkel/Canadian Press)

Kathleen Wynne with local Liberals in Napanee on Tuesday. (Colin Perkel/Canadian Press)

Such a sight is a rarity in Ms. Wynne’s slick, carefully stage-managed campaign. There is no podium, no PA system, no music, no mass of bussed-in political staffers to flesh out the crowd. Just the local faithful and a whistle-stoppin’ leader.

There was a time when these events were a staple of political campaigns. Not so much now, in the era of message control and carefully scripted photo-ops. And particularly not in a race as tight as the one Ms. Wynne finds herself in with Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak, in which a single misstep could be the difference.

While New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath still regularly holds casual events like this one, Ms. Wynne and Mr. Hudak rarely do.

It’s a particularly quixotic gesture in this riding – Lanark-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington – which popular PC incumbent Randy Hillier took by a 9,900-vote margin in 2011.

Even Grit candidate Bill MacDonald – a 67-year-old local entrepreneur and municipal politician – acknowledges it’s an uphill fight.

“I think [our result] is going to be positive in this riding – it may be a miracle, but we’ll do it,” he tells Ms. Wynne.

Not to say there’s no practical purpose to Ms. Wynne coming here. The relaxed atmosphere provides a good visual for the swarm of TV cameras following her around. And it allows her to say she hasn’t given up on any riding – even this conservative bastion.

But mostly, it takes an event like this to remind how tightly scripted most politics has become.

Advocate urges non-voters to decline their ballots instead

Wishing you could tick off a “none of the above” box at the polls this Thursday? Well, you’re not alone and you’re in luck. An oft-overlooked section of the Ontario Elections Act allows for voters to decline to vote but still have their ballot counted without spoiling it.

According to section 53 of the OEA, if a voter turns up to vote and hands in their ballot unmarked, the deputy returning officer will mark it as “declined” and it will be counted in a separate category of voters who chose not to support any of the candidates. These are tallied differently from ballots that have been “spoiled” (marked in a way that doesn’t indicate any candidate).

A long-time Progressive Conservative member and supporter, Paul Synnott of Windsor, was feeling disillusioned with the party lately, but didn’t like any of the other options. He knew he would decline to vote this year but when he realized how few of his friends knew of that option, he decided to launch an awareness campaign called Decline Your Vote.

“The more people I talked to, the more I heard that they weren’t going to bother voting this time as they didn’t care for any of the parties. This was especially true of younger people I spoke with,” Mr. Synnott said.

“Many of these people became interested when I explained the Decline Your Vote option. I call it Elections Ontario’s ‘dirty little secret.’ It’s almost impossible to find any information about it on either the main Elections Ontario website or their wemakevotingeasy.ca site.”


Mr. Synnott has a Facebook page, Twitter account and website to spread the word about the “none of the above” option for voters. He said the majority of followers and users interacting with the campaign are young voters, a demographic that frequently has a low voter turnout.

An active democratic participant, Mr. Synnott has worked on political campaigns in the past and tunes into as much election coverage as he can. He said if he wasn’t declining his vote, he probably would have been working on a Tory campaign again.

“I believe in being involved in the political process in any way possible,” he said.

“If I wasn’t going to vote for a party, then I still felt the need to do something.”

Meet Kathleen Winn (not a typo)

Meet Kathleen Winn.

No, that’s not a fatigue-induced typo from a reporter on day 39 of Ontario’s marathon election campaign.

Ms. Winn is an administrator at St. Elizabeth Catholic School in Cambridge, Ont. On Monday, she met her namesake, the leader of the provincial Liberal Party.

As Kathleen Wynne arrived at St. Elizabeth for a morning campaign event, she made a detour to the office and posed for a photo with Kathleen Winn.

Ms. Winn, who has been working in the local school system for 29 years, said she still does a double-take when she hears Ms. Wynne’s name.

“You hear it on TV and you jump,” she said. “Especially since she became head of the Liberal party.”

For the most part, she says, people don’t give her a hard time about it. Mostly, she says, she’s the one who brings it up.

“I tell my principal ‘there are two Kathleen Winns [Wynnes] you work for,’” she says.

Liberals pose as protesting NDPers

On Saturday afternoon, as NDP Leader Andrea Horwath mainstreeted in Chatham, Ont., three men stood in silent protest a few feet away.

Holding hand-made signs reading “No right turn!” and “Where are the real NDP?” the trio took square aim at Ms. Horwath’s abandonment of big picture policy for small ball populism, pointing to a deepening rift in the party that blew into the open with a letter from 34 disaffected New Democrats the day before.

There was just one problem: lanyards around the mens’ necks clearly identified them as Liberals. One even sported a button with a picture of Finance Minister Charles Sousa.

The display caused consternation for the two Liberal staffers from head office who have been shadowing Ms. Horwath’s campaign.

One staffer approached the men with signs and, after exchanging words, they promptly hid their Liberal buttons.

“We’re just doing what we were told!” one of the sign-bearers protested.

Two of them declined to be interviewed (“I prefer not to comment,” they kept repeating), but the third confirmed they were volunteers with local Liberal Terry Johnson’s campaign.

The Grits have been trying hard to exploit the rift in the NDP over Ms. Horwath’s populism. Every day, their war room sends reporters a list of quotes culled from news stories and Facebook from NDPers angry that Ms. Horwath rejected Kathleen Wynne’s left-tilting budget.

But the stunt Saturday took the disruption to a whole new level.

If only they’d remembered to remove those darn Charles Sousa buttons.

Two pairs of mothers and daughters running for NDP

The Ontario NDP campaign is a family affair this time around, with two mother-daughter duos running as separate candidates for the party.

Kitchener-Waterloo MPP Catherine Fife  — who snatched up the riding in 2012’s by-election after PC Elizabeth Witmer stepped down — is running alongside her mother, Sheila Wood, the candidate for Peterborough.

Ms. Fife was co-chair on the candidate search committee, but when Ms. Wood told her at Christmas she was interested in throwing her hat in the ring,  she recused herself from the process. It was a contested spot but her mother won the nomination and is now fighting a tough race for the riding currently held by cabinet minister Jeff Leal.

“We usually talk in the morning and at night and we try to support each other,” Ms. Fife said at a rally for neighbouring riding Kitchener-Centre last Friday.

“I’m very proud of her. I think that she was up for the challenge.”

Catherine Fife and Sheila Wood. (Picture from Facebook)

Catherine Fife, left, and her mother Sheila Wood. (Picture from Facebook)

Though she said it will be a tough fight, Ms. Fife said it would be “amazing” to work alongside her mother at Queen’s Park if they are both successful in their campaigns.

In Huron-Bruce, Jan Johnstone will be repping the NDP while her daughter, Alex Johnstone, is nominated for the party in Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale.

Ms. Fife and the Johnstones share another connection as well: they all got their start in public service as school board trustees, along with seven other NDP candidates running.

The mother-daughter duos are the only parent-child pairs running in the election, but there are some other political family ties. The PC candidate for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell, Roxane Villeneuve-Robertson, is the daughter of former federal agriculture minister Noble Villeneuve, while NDP Thunder Bay-Superior North candidate Andrew Foulds is the son of former MPP Jim Foulds.

Ms. Fife says the best advice she has to offer her mother is to be prepared for the ups and downs that come with political life.

“There’s a lot of cynicism out there about politics right now and when you become the politician, you become the face of some of those challenges,” she said.

“All she can do — and all that I try to do  — is engage the public and talk to people and share our passion for change. At the end of the day, the voters get to choose and we’re just trying to give them a fair option.”