Hudak garners little enthusiasm in Kitchener stop

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Judging by some ordinary voters’ reactions Thursday night, Tim Hudak’s real opponent may not be Kathleen Wynne or Andrea Horwath — but the Tory leader’s own profile.

The Progressive Conservative leader marched his campaign into Southwestern Ontario, a Tory stronghold, touting his Million Jobs Plan to put Ontario back to work and carefully enumerating his message including lower taxes, less debt, more jobs for the skilled trades and treating taxpayers’ dollars with respect.

“Look, the first rule when you’re in a hole — stop digging,” he said to a receptive crowd at a town hall-style event. “Put down that shovel.”

At a big-box mall near where Hudak ran his town hall meeting, Hudak failed to register strongly with some voters even though this is his second election at the party helm.

“I don’t have much of (an impression of Hudak), either way,” said Adam Cook, a security guard who was shopping. He said he doesn’t like or dislike the former Harris-era cabinet minister: “I’m sure he’s a great guy.”

“I’m not sure who’s who,” echoed Cindy McLean, a stay-at-home mother who was picking up cat food at the same plaza, when asked her impressions of the Big Three party leaders.

She said she’s sure the leaders are trying to connect with voters — an issue many have tagged as Hudak’s Achilles Heel, in particular.

“I do think they try,” McLean said of the leaders. But with two young children, McLean said she doesn’t have time to zero in on election issues.

McLean seems like the kind of voter Hudak hopes to charm. She doesn’t like how “big corporations” have control over wages and prices for consumer goods. One of Hudak’s main themes has been an attack on what he calls “corporate welfare” and the cozy relationship between the Liberal government and “the special interests.”

At the town hall event, Hudak took questions from a crowd of about 100. Standing on the dance floor, with a cordless mike, he used each question to hammer home the themes of his campaign.

Hudak talked about a mother he’d spoken to on the campaign trail with two sons — one working in Alberta, the other in British Columbia.

“I want to bring them home and bring that family together,” he said to applause. It would take a “bold plan,” he said. “We can bring those boys home.”

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Where the leaders are Friday

  • Premier Kathleen Wynne, Liberal leader: Campaigns in eastern Ontario, in Kingston, Quinte West and Trenton, before a Pickering stop and day-end Toronto event.
  • Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak: Heads to Barrie in the morning, then hits the vote-rich 905 belt with stops in Markham and Mississauga.
  • New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath: Rallies with NDP candidates in Windsor, before working her way back to Toronto with a mid-day stop in Woodstock.