TORONTO – Ontario’s main party leaders used the final day of the provincial election campaign to make a last pitch to those voters still sitting on the fence.
They warned of the economic perils of voting for their rivals, while playing up the social and fiscal advantages of voting for their parties.
True to much of her campaign, the NDP’s Andrea Horwath framed the ballot as a “stark” choice between her positive plan to help families create better lives and the cost-cutting proposals of Doug Ford and his Progressive Conservatives.
“Mr Ford’s plan is one that makes the rich even richer, will cut our public services and cause families to struggle even more,” Horwath said Wednesday in east-end Toronto, where the NDP hopes to nab some seats. “What I would say to folks is this: We can change our province for the better.”
Ford echoed Horwath’s message that voters have clear options in front of them, though he urged Ontarians to opt for his party.
“They’re going to have a very clear choice here,” he said in Burlington, Ont. “They’re either going to vote for the NDP that will destroy our economy, or they will vote for a PC government that will create prosperity in this province.”
The most recent polls suggest Horwath and Ford are running in a virtual tie, although vote distribution could favour the Tories. The Liberals, in office since 2003, have been lagging badly, surveys suggest.
Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne, who has already acknowledged her party won’t return to power, has been urging voters to deny either Horwath or Ford a majority by electing at least some members of her own party.
As such, Wynne has taken some fierce shots at the NDP by portraying them as rigid left-wing ideologues, and at the Tories for being hell-bent on slashing services while refusing to put out a proper election platform.
“There has been such a disruptive influence by having a leader of the Conservatives that really hasn’t laid out what he would do,” Wynne said. “People are still trying to decide.”
WATCH: Andrea Horwath responds to criticism about comments on Doug Ford
Ford’s lack of platform clarity and the sharp attacks from both Wynne and Horwath on one another has left some voters wondering whether it’s worth even casting a ballot.
Sean Evans, who lives in downtown Toronto, said he might simply abstain from voting. Despite being a life-long Conservative, Evans said he had little time for Ford – but no more time for either Horwath or Wynne.
“(Ford) makes a lot of statements about what he’s going to do without the facts to back it up or a plan to get there without making pretty severe cuts, (but) the NDP are the Liberals in terms of spending their way out of everything,” Evans said.
“I would like to see an option come up where if the majority says, ‘do it over again because we don’t want any of them,’ then that’s what I would select.”
Asked whether the campaign has been nastier than usual, Horwath side-stepped by insisting her NDP is offering a message of hope to Ontario families – better health care, better child care, better prospects for working people.
“There’s been a lot of lies, there’s been that negative, negative tone, lots of accusations being flung my way,” said the veteran Hamilton politician now on her third campaign as NDP leader. “I’m trying to stay focused on people … I’m a tough cookie – a Steeltown Scrapper – so I can handle it.”
Wynne called elections partisan by nature. But even as she has denounced her rivals, she said she hoped the province would pull together after what has been a divisive campaign. However, she conceded that might prove difficult.
WATCH: Kathleen Wynne responds to question if she regrets conceding race
“Some of the tone and tenor of this campaign, which has been pretty negative at many points, makes it harder to get to that place where in between elections we actually think about the broader issues,” Wynne said.
Kevin Lee, another Toronto resident, said he definitely planned on voting but would likely make his choice at the polling station.
“I’ll make up my mind by then for sure”
– with files from Nicole Thompson, Paola Loriggio and Shawn Jeffords.
© 2018 The Canadian Press