Tim Hudak has cringe-worthy start to Ontario provincial election campaign

Andy Radia
·Politics Reporter

In person, Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak is great: he's warm, he sounds sincere and actually has a really great sense of humour.

Should your political ideologies align, he's someone who you'd want to work with and work for.

On television and radio interviews, Hudak doesn't come across very well. He looks and sounds stiff, robotic and insincere. His desire to stick to his 'talking points' probably has something to do with that.

And in election campaigns, Hudak is downright cringe-worthy.

Here's an example: On Monday, Hudak participated at an event at the MetalWorks, a recording studio which has received funding from the Ontario Music Fund. A photo-op supporting Canadian musicians was a good idea, but there was a bit of a problem: Hudak's Tories voted against the fund.

Certainly, Hudak's handlers should have known better than to schedule such a campaign stop but Hudak, who is supposed to be a seasoned political pro, didn't handle it very well.

[ Related: First poll since Ontario election call has Liberals poised to win minority government ]

Things got even worse.

One of the PC's main themes of this election campaign is corporate tax breaks over corporate welfare. Journalists quickly pointed out, however, that one of his campaign stops, on Tuesday, was at a company that received $50,000 from the federal government.

It didn't stop there.

According to the Toronto Star, Hudak couldn't answer a question about his other big theme: jobs.

"When asked what Ontario’s unemployment rate is, he could not provide a number‎ at first, only that it was above the national average. On a second go around, he said it was more than 7 per cent.

"As of February, the Ontario unemployment rate is 7.3 per cent, above the national average of 6.9 per cent."

It's still early in the campaign, so Hudak does have a chance to redeem himself.

But what's concerning for Tory supporters is that they've seen this story before -- during the 2011 campaign.

In the summer of 2011, Hudak was the 'premier-in-waiting'; the pollsters had PC's leading 'tired old Liberals' by double digits.

But a funny thing happened on the way to election day: voters soured on Hudak and his party and he ended up as opposition leader to a minority Liberal government.

One of his biggest gaffes of that campaign was calling a Liberal proposal to give tax credits to companies that hire new Canadians an "affirmative action program to hire foreign workers."

Immigrants, of course, aren't "foreign workers.'

With polls predicting another Liberal minority, Hudak can't afford anymore gaffes. He has to run an almost perfect campaign.

Can he do it?

Recent history suggests not.

(Photo courtesy of the Canadian Press)

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