Here’s our daily look at what’s making news in the lead-up to the next provincial election.
Update: 2:30 p.m.
- The judge considering an injunction to keep voting in the PC leadership race open for an extra week says he’ll try to have a decision around 5 p.m. today. The injunction was filed on behalf of Progressive Conservative members who say they didn’t receive the necessary verification numbers in time to cast their ballots. 71,402 party members were verified to vote in the leadership race as of last night’s deadline. Of those, 64,053 cast their ballots before voting closed at noon today. On the one hand, party officials say those are record numbers for a leadership vote. On the other hand, there are approximately 190,000 party members, meaning less than half were cleared to vote.
- Sources have told both the Toronto Star and the CBC that PC officials approached the four leadership candidates on Monday proposing to email verification numbers to members who hadn’t gotten them yet by regular mail, but all four campaigns rejected the idea.
- According to a new Mainstreet Research poll of 18,308 PC party members, Christine Elliott and Doug Ford are neck and neck in the leadership race. The survey shows that Elliott would get 35.2 per cent on the first ballot, Ford 34.9 per cent, Caroline Mulroney 17.3 per cent, and Tanya Granic Allen 12.5 per cent. “We will not be surprised if Ford wins even though Elliott leads by a nose,” Mainstreet president Quito Maggi says.
- Ontario added 15,700 jobs in February, according to numbers from Statistics Canada. The province’s unemployment rate, at 5.5 per cent, was 0.7 percentage points lower than it was at the same time last year.
- The PC leadership contest threatens to descend into chaos just one day before the winner is supposed to be announced. On Wednesday, the committee running the voting process reaffirmed that the victor will be revealed as scheduled on Saturday. The announcement was made despite pleas from three campaigns for the voting period to be extended by a week, as many party members say they haven’t received the credentials they need to register to vote. Thursday afternoon, candidate Doug Ford sent out an email to supporters saying the voting process had been “corrupted” and suggesting that “party insiders” are trying to rig the vote to make sure Christine Elliott — the only candidate who hasn’t asked for an extension of the voting period — wins. Then later that day, lawyer John Nunziata, former Liberal and independent MP, said he would be asking Ontario’s Superior Court to impose an injunction to extend the leadership process on behalf of three PC party members who say they have been disenfranchised. That hearing is scheduled for this morning. Members of the PC executive maintain that they are obligated by the party’s constitution to announce the winner no later than Saturday. And the CBC’s Mike Crawley reports that the executive “is quite confident it will win in court tomorrow and that no injunction will be granted.” Stay tuned.
- Given Ford’s latest tirade against the so-called party elites, it’s worth asking what happened to the calm, collected Doug Ford who began the campaign just a few weeks ago. TVO’s Steve Paikin ponders that question in his latest blog post.
- Kathleen Wynne got a bit of help from an environmental celebrity in her efforts to paint the Progressive Conservatives as climate-change dinosaurs. At an event at Ryerson University, Nobel Peace Prize winner and former U.S. vice-president Al Gore slammed the PC leadership candidates for refusing to support Ontario’s cap-and-trade system or to implement a carbon tax. “I don’t want to interfere in your politics, but I have to speak out when I see all of the candidates in the other party proposing to go backwards and to say, ‘We’re going to undo the progress that has created jobs and made Ontario a model for the entire world,’” he said. “And I hope very much that the kind of innovative, courageous, bold, wise leadership that Premier Wynne has been providing … will be an approach that the people of this province say, ‘Yes, that is what we need to do.’”
- A Progressive Conservative MPP has been honoured by the group Equal Voice for being an advocate for women at Queen’s Park. About 12 years ago, Lisa MacLeod was the youngest female PC MPP ever elected, and the mother of a toddler. She successfully lobbied for more family friendly hours at the legislature. Equal Voice, which works to get more women elected to political office, also honoured Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for making gender parity a priority in his cabinet.
What to watch for
- NDP leader Andrea Horwath will be in Windsor today to talk about what has been a major theme for her party for months: hospital overcrowding.
- Who will emerge victorious in the race to become Progressive Conservative leader? TVO’s John Michael McGrath talks with former PC candidate Rocco Achampong about the state of the race in this week’s edition of The Agenda on Politics podcast. Achampong is very candid about what he thinks of the four leadership contenders, and what he sees as his party’s strengths and weaknesses.
- If you’re looking for live coverage of the PC leadership decision on Saturday (assuming it takes place as scheduled), follow The Agenda on Twitter starting at 1:30 p.m.
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