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Campaign Watch 2014: Austerity vs. Stimulus

Blog, Public Affairs | May 21, 2014

Austerity vs Stimulus: Which one do Ontarians favour?

By Atul Sharma, SVP Public Affairs.

With approximately three weeks left to go in the campaign, the 2014 Ontario Election is shaping into a referendum between two competing visions of Ontario. The PCs have laid out an austerity plan that is focused on the government balancing its books by cutting expenses. As wage costs are the biggest expenditures for any organization, they have committed to eliminating 100,000 jobs from the broader public sector, imposing a freeze on teachers’ salaries, and suspending the Liberals’ 30% tuition reduction.

The Liberals laid out their plan in the defeated 2014 budget which called for wage increases for early childhood educators and personal support workers as well as a mandatory made in Ontario retirement plan for people who are currently not covered by an employer retirement plan. In contrast, the NDP are struggling to define themselves. They are in sense wanting to have their cake and eat it too. They want to ensure they continue to attract their traditional support base but have added a sprinkling of sugary toppings for the business community. This approach has Andrea Horwath committing to raising the minimum wage to $12 over the next two years while also cutting the small business corporate tax rate to 3% from 4.5% to lessen the impact. The risk with this approach is that both sides could end up unsatisfied.

If the recent set of polls is any indication, it is unclear whether the electorate favours one approach over the other at this point in the campaign. The timeliest Ekos poll shows the Liberals leading the PCs 37.1% versus 30.3% with the NDP at 20.9% with 18.8% of the respondents undecided. In the same week, Ipsos Reid had a poll showing the PCs with 39%, the Liberals at 30%, and the NDP at 24% with 20% undecided. While these contradictory polls negate each other on who would form the next government, they tend to agree that the NDP are mired in third place and show little upward momentum.

With the blackout period now lifted on campaign advertising, expect to see your favourite shows peppered with appeals from the three parties. The PCs wasted no time by posting their ‘I want to work’ ad showing three skilled Ontarians looking for work – a simple and positive message about getting a job. The Liberals took a different approach out of the gate by posting online ads reminding voters of the NDP and PC records of voting against the Liberal budget and, in the case of the PCs, where they would make their cuts. A more recent Liberal online ad highlights the similarities between former Premier Harris’ and Hudak’s current policies. Look for the campaign to turn even nastier as we get closer to Election Day.

Between now and the Leader’s Debate on June 3rd the three party leaders will try to position themselves as ‘ready to lead’ as they know that most Ontarians will only begin to seriously pay attention to the election after the debate.

The views in this blog post are my own and do not represent the views of my employer. If you have any questions regarding this blog or other Ontario Election questions please do not hesitate to contact me atul.sharma@gcicanada.com