If Premier Kathleen Wynne thinks she can ignore Ontario’s chief electoral officer, it could be her last act as premier. Greg Essensa, has asked for an end to third-party advertising in provincial elections and Wynne would be smart to make sure it happens this year. Without controls, Ontario Liberals could find themselves on the receiving end of some particularly savage third-party advertising.
It was something of a surprise two years ago that the ultra-right wing Ontario Landowners did not launch their own campaign to counter the so-called “Working Families” advertising that was savaging Conservative leader Timmy Hudak. The Landowners’ error at that time was believing polls showing Hudak with a comfortable lead going into the election. He proceeded to lose the election from there.
Whether the Working Families advertising had a major impact on the Hudak Conservative campaign is a theoretical discussion. It certainly gave aid and comfort to the McGuinty Liberals. And even if the Working Families material was or was not approved by the Liberals, there was no question in anyone’s mind that it was attempting to help them to defeat Hudak. You would have to be kidding yourself to suggest that this was not deliberate interference in the election process.
And it is this interference that the chief electoral officer is trying to stop. For teachers’ unions to put out $6 million to interfere in the last Ontario election was morally and ethically wrong. And Ontario is one of the few jurisdictions where it is not illegal.
What was actually of more value to the Ontario Liberals in the last election were the teachers whom the union reps pulled together to help canvas for their Liberal candidates. If a major portion of that $6 million had been put towards this activity, it would have been far more productive than the Working Families advertising.
What the Working Families lack in the coming election is a family patriarch (or Premier) to get behind and promote. The unions will still want to savage Tiny Tim Hudak but they might be very reluctant to put their faith in Liberals again. That means the only candidate who might earn their generous support is Andrea Horwath and her New Democrats.
Mind you, Horwath and the other party leaders are all paying lip service to the electoral officer’s report. It is action that is needed.
Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry
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