Campaign for June 2 Ontario election to begin Wednesday

Ontario's election campaign is set to officially start Wednesday, after the lieutenant-governor accepted Premier Doug Ford's advice to dissolve provincial parliament.

Lt.-Gov. Elizabeth Dowdeswell formally named June 2 as the election date.

Ontario politicians have already been unofficially campaigning for weeks, with two out of the three major parties having released their platforms.

On his way in to meet with Dowdeswell on Tuesday afternoon, Ford said people will have "a very clear choice" on June 2.

"This election is about one simple thing," he said. "Either the people of this province are going to choose to go backwards ... or they're going to choose prosperity, getting things built, bridges roads and highways like we're doing."

Polls at this point suggest Ford's Progressive Conservatives are poised for re-election, with the third-place Liberals potentially overtaking the NDP to form the official Opposition.

But NDP Leader Andrea Horwath maintained Tuesday that her party is the best bet for what she calls "job number one" -- defeating Ford's Progressive Conservatives.

At an event in Toronto, Horwath noted that her party formed the official Opposition in the legislature in 2018, while the Liberals are entering the race this time with just seven incumbent seats.

She also highlighted her party's platform promises on covering mental health services under OHIP, hiring more health-care workers and providing more affordable housing as priorities for the upcoming campaign.

"We know that the things that matter most to people can be addressed if we come together this time and make sure that Doug Ford is defeated with a vote for the NDP," she said.

Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca said Ford and Horwath "seem to be on the same page," with both directing attacks at him, including each party running anti-Del Duca ads last year.

"I get that they're going to continue to focus on me ... I'm going to focus on the 15 million people who call this province home, and what they need and what they're looking for and what they're hoping for, as we come out of this pandemic for a quality of life that I think that they deserve," Del Duca said.

The Liberals released a series of digital videos Tuesday morning, intended to introduce Del Duca to voters. Though he was a cabinet minister in the former Liberal government, polls suggest he is not well known to the general public.

The videos show Del Duca cooking with his wife and two daughters and telling dad jokes, looking over old photos with his parents, and talking about losing his younger brother four years ago in a car accident.

Meanwhile, Elections Ontario is encouraging residents to vote early this year in the hopes of thinning polling station crowds amid the pandemic.

When voters show up on election day, they will see floor signage for physical distancing, Plexiglas screens, hand sanitizer and masks available -- face coverings won't be required of voters or staff but will be supplied for those who want one.

But for those who want to avoid that, there will be 10 days of advanced voting, up from five, and Elections Ontario has a new online process to apply for a mail-in ballot.

Elections Ontario has also launched a new app, which will let voters map their poll locations, see candidate information, options on ways to vote and get notifications when a new candidate is registered. It also provides an electronic version of the voter information card, complete with barcode.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 3, 2022.