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.
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