Dalton McGuinty goes to war.

It is amazing.  Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty has gone to war.  It is a smart war.  It is strategic.  Why are we so surprised?

The opening salvos have been lobs.  They are firing for effect.  When McGuinty claimed Harper’s focus was on Western Canada, Harper, with few words, brushed it aside.  Harper later retaliated by saying that he wants the provincial Conservatives to win the Ontario election on October 6.  He used the analogy of a hockey hat trick.  Thinking he was speaking to a solely Conservative audience, Harper went too far by saying the ‘left-wing mess’ that he inherited in 2006 and that Rob Ford inherited in Toronto last year will be the same for (Provincial Conservative Leader) Tim Hudak in October.

This could launch a war of words that will carry through the election.  And it will be a war that Dalton McGuinty can fight alone.  Stephen Harper has stated his position and that was all that was needed from him.  Harper is now the straw man that Dalton can fight instead of Hudak.  Why fight lesser players when you can take on the Federal Conservative Leader?

It is a major strategic coup.  It denigrates Hudak to the lesser role of someone yapping from the cheap seats but not allowed in the ring with the big kids.  At the same time, it elevates McGuinty to the federal level where his federal counterparts are, at the moment, laying low.  McGuinty is more than free to attack Harper on the long-term funding needs of Medicare and on Harper’s poor stance on environmental issues.  The federal Liberals will appreciate the help.

The only risk in this for McGuinty is the NDP.  For every vote he gains in this attack on Harper, he is siphoning off some support to the Provincial NDP.  The federal and provincial members of that party are used to working together and the lack of Jack Layton’s leadership can benefit Andrea Horwath as she is the next most prominent spokesperson for the party.

The battle of Ontario is a three-way fight.  Nobody is forecasting an NDP breakthrough but it has happened before.  Nobody really believes the polls that show Tim Hudak in the lead but some people could not believe the Rob Ford would win in Toronto last year.  If you make any bets on this election today, you had better hold out for long odds.

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