STRATFORD, Ont. – Call it a chance encounter with echoes of elections past.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath was making a quick campaign stop in Stratford, Ont., on Tuesday when she spotted former Liberal premier David Peterson.
Peterson, 74, clad in shorts and a T-shirt, was wandering past the event in the city’s downtown area just as Horwath wrapped up.
“I was just walking by and I thought what the hell, if there’s a party going on, I’m here,” he said, laughing with Horwath who stepped off her campaign bus to shake his hand.
“There’s a party going on,” Horwath agreed.
Peterson asked Horwath, whose party has been surging ahead in recent polls, if she was having fun and she motioned toward the energetic crowd of supporters still lingering around her bus.
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“It’s a really fun campaign,” she said. “Lots of energy.”
“It’s fun if you think you’re winning, not fun if you think you’re losing,” Peterson said as they both laughed. “I’ve been in both (spots),” he said.
Asked by reporters what he thinks of the volatile election campaign, Peterson said he wasn’t going to make any predictions.
“I think things are still shifting around,” he said.
“I think a lot of people are thinking of strategic voting in the long-term. I have won going in 20 points behind and I have lost 20 points ahead. You see these things shifting all of the time.”
But Peterson said he doesn’t see any similarities when it comes to this race and the 1990 election where his Liberals went into the vote well ahead of the competition and lost to Bob Rae’s NDP in a stunning political upset.
“Our campaign fell apart at the end. “This one was different from the beginning,” he said, referring to the governing Liberals.
Peterson lauded Premier Kathleen Wynne‘s performance during the final leaders’ debate on Sunday night, saying he was “proud” of her. It’s difficult for any incumbent to defend a record after a time, he added.
“You carry the barnacles of the state,” he said. “It’s not easy. This is a very human business. So, at the end of the day they need to look at you and say, if you don’t like any of them whose the least worse? Who is substantive? Who knows what they’re doing? People confront reality when they vote. They don’t just have the luxury of being critical.”
And with just over a week to election day, the race isn’t over yet, he said.
“My sense is people are drifting back (to the Liberals),” he said. “They’ve had a good look at the others. They’ve had a good look at (Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford). They’ve had a good look at the NDP. They say look, (Wynne) looks pretty good in comparison.”