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.”
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.