Tory hopes byelection voters send Libs a message
Published Sunday, February 4, 2007 11:52PM EST
TORONTO - As far as Opposition Leader John Tory is concerned, this week's three provincial byelections in southern Ontario are a chance for voters to show the governing Liberals they're fed up with broken promises on everything from tax hikes to closing coal plants.
But Tory cautioned against reading too much into the results of Thursday's byelections, which come just eight months before Ontario voters go to the polls in a general election Oct. 4.
"I think the broken promises of Mr. McGuinty are a very, very big issue in the byelections,'' Tory said Friday.
"I think you can read something into the results, but I don't know that they're an accurate forecast of what's going to go on in the fall.''
The Conservatives are the ones to beat in Burlington, a riding they've held for decades, while the Liberals hope to hold onto seats in Markham and York-South Weston.
Premier Dalton McGuinty made his first appearances in those two ridings on the weekend, after visiting Burlington last Thursday to announce a "gift'' of 20 acres of provincial land for a city park.
McGuinty dismissed suggestions that the timing of his announcement was designed to give the Liberals an advantage in this week's byelection.
"Fifty or 100 years from now, I don't think families will be asking about the genesis of the park,'' he said.
McGuinty and his cabinet have maintained a low profile in the byelection campaigns, which is in marked contrast to the full-court press the Liberals mounted during the Parkdale-High Park vote in Toronto last fall.
"I think if your leader is a huge asset, then your leader appears a lot of the time in byelections,'' said Tory.
"In this case the broken promises very much relate to Dalton McGuinty personally, and I think they're governing themselves accordingly.''
There's been no sign of the personal attacks the Liberals used unsuccessfully last fall against New Democrat Cheri DiNovo, who went on to steal the west Toronto seat that had been held by former cabinet minister Gerard Kennedy.
"It is never easy, as I've quickly discovered in government, to win byelections,'' said McGuinty.
The Liberals have tried a new tactic, producing television ads for their candidates that air on Italian and Cantonese-language newscasts in Toronto to target ethnic voters.
They nominated OMNI-TV's Italian anchor Laura Albanese as their candidate in York-South Weston -- and purchased air time on her old newscast.
"It's getting harder and harder to get through the noise that people have either at their doors or on their phones,'' said Liberal Party spokeswoman Christine Bome.
"We're always looking for new ways to influence voters.''
NDP Leader Howard Hampton said he'd never heard of byelection candidates producing television commercials.
"I think what it demonstrates is the kind of desperation that has set in,'' Hampton said in an interview.
"A couple of these were supposed to be very safe seats for the McGuinty Liberals. The fact they're now going to spend bundles of money on television advertising, I think, says they're worried they could lose.''
The New Democrats hope to upset the Liberals in York-South Weston, and Hampton said the NDP's campaign for a $10 minimum wage is having an impact with voters in the riding _ especially after the government voted to give members of the legislature a 25 per cent pay hike just before Christmas.
"They know people are angry and upset at a McGuinty government that rammed through a big pay increase for themselves at the same time they refused to increase the minimum wage,'' said Hampton.
"That's the big reason why they're keeping a low profile.''