Ontario Liberal leader Steven Del Duca made his second visit of the provincial campaign to Barrie on Friday.
Del Duca was joined by Barrie-Springwater-Oro Medonte candidate Jeff Lehman and Barrie Innisfil candidate John Olthuis at a meet and greet with supporters at McReilly’s Public House in downtown Barrie Friday evening.
“Look at the turnout here; it’s a Friday evening, it’s beautiful weather, and we have such an extraordinary team of candidates,” Del Duca told CTV News Friday. “Jeff and John are working so hard; they’re knocking on doors; they are having the conversations.”
Friday’s meet and greet was the second time the leader visited Barrie in the campaign’s early days. Lehman, Barrie’s outgoing mayor, is running against PC incumbent and Ontario Attorney General Doug Downey.
One political analyst tells CTV News Del Duca’s multiple visits show a desire to support Lehman’s campaign.
“He has a high profile candidate in Barrie-Springwater-Oro Medonte, that is the mayor of the city taking on the attorney general,” says Michael Johns, a visiting professor of politics at York University. “That is a riding that will certainly be an area that the Liberals will target.”
Johns says that other reasons for Del Duca’s multiple visits to Barrie are its geographic proximity to Toronto, making it an easy place to visit and having recently named Olthuis as the candidate in neighboring Barrie-Innisfil.
“He’s sort of testing the waters in different areas to see where they can pick up Liberal support, distance themselves from the NDP,” says Johns. “Ideally, what you eventually need to do is go after Conservative-held seats because they have the majority, so you have to start winning those as well, so that’s really what he’s doing at this point.”
Downey won the Barrie-Springwater-Oro Medonte riding by approximately 16 per cent in 2018’s election. However, of Barrie’s two ridings, Johns says the liberals might have a stronger chance at capturing the northern one.
“Obviously, it historically, since its creation, has leaned to the right. Of the two ridings in Barrie, it’s the one that leans less to the right, but certainly, if you are the progressive conservative candidate, you are starting at an advantage .”
Earlier this week, Del Duca dropped Parry Sound-Muskoka candidate Barry Stanley after controversial views he’s published about homosexuality came to light.
“I think the modern test of leadership is leaders who understand that when ideas are floated out there that are not what you believe in, they don’t adhere to the values you share, you need to move decisively,” says Del Duca. “That’s why we did; that’s why I did.”
Voters head to the polls on June 2.
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