The campaign for Ontario’s June 2 election will be contested heavily in the digital arena on smartphones thanks to the uncertainties around COVID-19.
With 14 weeks until the until the writ period begins on May 4, campaign organizers for Progressive Conservative Premier Doug Ford, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca and Green Leader Mike Schreiner are putting the finishing touches on their strategies and plans.
The New Democrats and Liberals say they are boosting their social media components to complement more traditional campaign elements like leader’s tours, rallies, door-knocking and mainstreeting with voters, turning your phone into a front porch of sorts.
“The ability to door-to-door canvass, particularly in buildings, that is a real challenge,” said Michael Balagus, campaign director for Horwath in her fourth attempt at becoming premier.
“We are developing all kinds of options to compensate for that. That’s increasing phone banks, increased texting, more social media buys targeted to voters we would normally see on the doorstep. ”
Digital outreach is the fast-growing “new reality,” said a Liberal campaign source, speaking confidentially to discuss internal deliberations.
“There’s going to be a significant digital campaign, regardless of the nature of the pandemic at the time.”
Nevertheless, leaders will be out and about, eager to attract eyeballs, interest and engagement with pandemic-weary voters in any way they can, through a digital mask or not.
“Steven Del Duca will travel to every part of Ontario and meet millions of voters in their own communities,” said Liberal campaign director Christine McMillan. “The only thing that will stop us is if Doug Ford’s Conservatives mismanage us back into another lockdown.”
All parties stress they will be following whatever COVID-19 regulations exist at the time.
“We’re planning to be on the road with in-person events and meetings, subject to public health guidelines of course. We will also incorporate virtual meetings and events where possible, ”said Darren Elias, Green Secretary Leader Mike Schreiner.
Organizers have been taking cues from other campaigns across Canada in the last two years, including last September’s federal election.
But the Tories are not tipping their hand as opposition leaders vowed this week not to prop up a Ford-led minority government if that’s what voters send to Queen’s Park.
“We are looking at options and the approach taken both federally and in other provinces, but have not made any decisions yet,” said party spokeswoman Stephanie Bellotto.
Breaking with tradition, the PCs did not offer a campaign bus for media in the 2018 election, leaving reporters following Ford to events on their own. The Liberals and New Democrats did provide buses, charging media outlets about $ 6,000 per seat to cover the costs.
New Democrats had one bus shared between Horwath’s entourage and journalists, which Balagus said is the likely option again this year. The Liberals had two, one for leader Kathleen Wynne and another for reporters and photographers.
Both parties have buses on their radar again this year for the exposure it gives their leaders.
“It does not really matter to us whether it’s one bus, two buses or a camper van, we’re going to have a leader on the road and a full leader’s tour,” said the Liberal campaign source.
JOIN THE CONVERSATION