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What will be the ballot box question?

Election campaigns can be fascinating to watch and that’s often because of their unpredictable nature.  Despite the months political parties spend prepositioning various issues in the lead-up to the formal campaign period, you never really know what the campaign will be about or what issues will ignite public, media and political interest until you get right into the heart of the campaign. 

This election is no exception.  As we now prepare to move past week one of the campaign, both the Progressive Conservatives and the Liberals have been consumed with the issue of the proposed $10,000 tax credit for new Canadians.  A policy that was buried on page 25 of the Liberal Party platform and not even highlighted by leader Dalton McGuinty when he launched it has now emerged as the most talked about issue, and garnered more attention than anything else in the past seven days.

Yet there is no shortage of other contentious topics and ones on a much greater scale – a fragile economy, a record provincial debt and deficit, skyrocketing gas and hydro bills, uncertainty about the government’s ability to manage future health care needs, and a general feeling of concern from Ontarians about their individual financial well-being.  There is certainly plenty of fodder for several campaigns.

As the weeks move on, parties will be positioning themselves to define the “ballot question” – an attempt to frame the debate toward the issues they believe will play to their own strengths and the perceived weaknesses of their opponents, and motivate the decision that each voter will make on October 6.  At this point, it’s too soon to tell what other issues will appear or what the ballot question will be. 

And while it is often said that a week is a lifetime in politics, with an unpredictable week now behind us and three more yet to come, what will emerge at the end still remains anyone’s guess.