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Omar Khan: The verdict is in, and voters don’t want Ford

Omar Khan: The verdict is in, and voters don’t want Ford
Canada
This is in part because of an aggressive pre-election advertising campaign launched by the Ontario Liberal Party aimed at prying loose soft Progressive Conservative supporters by reminding them of policy positions Doug Ford has taken, often using his own words. In addition to this, the Ontario Liberal War Room has been quite effective in uncovering embarrassing information about Ford and his team. This includes releasing a secret video of Ford meeting with developers and promising to open up the greenbelt for development, and the release of a tape recording, described by some as homophobic, which led to the dismissal of then-PC candidate Tanya Granic Allen.

What the Ipsos data also shows is that to date, the majority of voters who have been drawn away from the PCs have parked their votes with Andrea Horwath, giving the NDP some real momentum and propelling them into second place in the early stages of this campaign.

So, what do we Ontario Liberals do now?

Well, for starters, we need to keep reminding Ontarians that while the Liberal record hasn’t been perfect, we have made real progress in building up our health-care and education systems all while strengthening our economy. To this end, the Liberal campaign released a new ad this week highlighting key achievements like investing in hospitals, schools and transit. These investments have been made possible by an economy that has led the G7 in economic growth for four years in a row leading to the lowest unemployment rate in 20 years.

Substance matters and results matter.

As the election campaign unfolds Liberals also need to remind Ontarians how these achievements are at risk. Ford and the Progressive Conservatives have said they will slash perhaps as much as $7 billion out of public services. The NDP, for its part, is adamant on taxing Ontario out of economic growth.

Voters over a certain age may remember that under the previous NDP government in the 1990s, Ontario’s unemployment rate peaked at nearly 11 per cent. Today’s number is half that. Many younger voters and new Canadians, however, won’t remember the chaos and economic stagnation of the last NDP government. That’s why it’s important to point out the past NDP record but also hammer away at the job-killing elements of its current platform. We need to make it clear that a vote for the NDP will mean fewer jobs and less disposable income for Ontario families.

COMMENTARY:

For example, this past weekend the Liberal war room uncovered that the fine print of the NDP platform contains a 28 per cent tax hike on small businesses through increases to their property taxes. This tax hike would hit businesses regardless of their profitability and, unlike the Liberal proposal to increase the minimum wage, would do nothing to lift people up and inject fiscal stimulus into the economy.

The war room also discovered that the NDP campaign may have inadvertently undermined the costing of their entire platform by using 2017 budget numbers instead of the most recent Ontario budget. This means that the NDP has inadvertently put out a platform that cuts funding to new initiatives launched after 2017. These include funding for traditional NDP priorities like combatting the opioid crisis, 1,000 new shelter beds for women at risk and 15,000 additional apprenticeship spots.

If the NDP cannot get their platform costing right, how can Ontarians expect them to manage a $600-billion global economy?

Facts matter. And it’s really important for voters to have the facts.

Ontario Liberals need to stay calm and keep working. In the early stages of this campaign, most Ontarians are already convinced that a vote for Doug Ford and his Progressive Conservatives is a vote for cutting the public services they hold dear. We now need to drive home the point that an NDP victory comes with great risk to the provincial economy and the financial well-being of Ontario families.

As Bill Clinton used to say, “It’s the economy, stupid.”

Omar Khan, who spent over a decade working for several Liberal cabinet ministers at Queen’s Park, is a member of the Ontario Liberal campaign steering committee and is a vice president of the Ontario Liberal Party.
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