Seriously – who are these guys?

By the time this publication arrives on your doorstep, provincial political parties will be officially off and running in the 2022 Ontario General Election.

Of course, they’ve all been unofficially campaigning for weeks. Actually, depending on how you look at it, the main players have been trolling for votes pretty much since the last election cycle ended with a newly-minted Conservative government headed by Premier Doug Ford.

Although some current polls show Ford’s Tories with a popular vote lead that, if maintained, could translate into another majority government, public sentiment often swings wildly during a campaign – so best to stay tuned and keep informed.

This time around, the question of who our next premier will be seems complicated by the approach of the various party leaders.

For example, Ford – who pretty much won the last election on the strength of his ability to not be (former Liberal leader and premier) Kathleen Wynne – seems to be campaigning this time on a platform of not being Doug Ford.

Among the first of Ford’s actions, once elected, was to freeze minimum wage at its recently attained rate of $14, canceling a scheduled increase to $15. This time around, he’s  offering newfound concern for low wage earners, promising an increase to $15.50, a figure it might have long since surpassed had he not locked it down for the entirety of his mandate.

Meanwhile NDP leader Andrea Horwath may be trying to convince voters she’s actually Doug Ford.

In another nod to refrigeration as public policy, the New Democrats are  pitching a four-year tax freeze for low and middle-income earners. 

That’s a pretty conservative approach for a party that holds itself out as the political home of Ontario’s most progressive voters, although there’s been some head-shaking over Horwath’s definition of middle class income, with a proposed cut off of $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 per household. 

As for Liberal leader Steven Del Duca, he’s mostly pretty much happy if anyone recognizes his name, or can identify him as the leader of a major political party at this point.

Despite being a former cabinet minister, the current Liberal leader consistently finds himself at the bottom of the heap in name recognition when potential voters are polled.

Of course despite this early posturing, there’s a lot of politicking to come and no doubt Ford will be Ford and most will see through the type of progressive mirage he’s currently offering, mindful of the deep and decisive cuts he implemented early in his first mandate.

Howarth too, is mostly campaigning true to NDP form and recently released a platform which promises prescription drug coverage for all Ontarians, as well as accelerated implementation of a dental care program and other left-leaning offerings.

Del Duca of course, is a veteran politician who is raising his profile as the campaign continues and seems intent on eating the Green Party’s lunch with some bold climate planks in his platform.

One interesting trend in the campaign so far is the lack of effort by either government or opposition parties to make the election a referendum on the current administration’s handling of the pandemic, which despite what they would have you believe, is ongoing.COVID-19 is still circulating. Ontario’s hospitalization numbers have been rising of late and the potential remains for a virulent variant to emerge and shatter all illusions of progress so far.

That Ford and company don’t want to talk about the pandemic is understandable, given the heavy criticism drawn by many of their moves and the grim reality of the subject. That their opponents don’t is a little curious, given the potential political hay to be made. 

In any event, it appears the election will be contested on other grounds so Ontarians will get a chance to see where their parties truly stand on numerous issues as things unfold.