TORONTO - The Liberals and Progressive Conservatives say Ontario voters will have a very clear choice June 12 between two very different views of the province, and both dismiss the NDP as having no plan.
The Liberal buses will roll from Queen's Park this morning, but Premier Kathleen Wynne wasted no time kicking things off with a well-attended rally in Toronto on Friday night, followed by smaller events in the city during the weekend.
Wynne spent much of the weekend in a verbal sparring match with Prime Minister Stephen Harper on her call to create a provincial pension plan, which he called a tax that voters would not like.
The Progressive Conservatives will launch their official campaign Thursday with a media bus covered in Tory blue and a picture of leader Tim Hudak on the side, but have decided to put on a temporary bus for Monday and Tuesday.
Hudak started the Tory campaign with a rally in Ottawa Friday, followed Sunday by a province-wide radio show where he took calls from listeners, played PC campaign ads and promoted his "million jobs plan."
After setting the stage for the election Friday by announcing she'd lost confidence in Wynne, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said the Liberals aren't living in the real world at her nomination meeting in Hamilton Centre Saturday.
The New Democrats aren't saying yet when their campaign buses will be ready, but Horwath campaigned on the weekend and has events in the Toronto area Monday.
During the early campaigning, Wynne warned voters that the Tories would slash jobs and services and said the NDP push "pie in the sky" ideas they can't pay for.
Liberal strategists, who spoke on background, said voters can decide between a "Hudak-Harris-Harper" vision of government that will "gut and slash" programs or a Liberal plan that helps people and invests in companies to create jobs.
Tory officials said they're going to do things differently this time, and will shuttle Hudak around in cars and SUV's instead of a leader's bus to keep the campaign more nimble as he "seeks a mandate to fix" the province.
"The Liberals want to make the campaign a referendum on Hudak, but we want to make it a campaign of choice," said PC campaign manager Ian Robertson. "We're running for Ontario; they're running against us."
The Tories said the NDP was to blame for propping up the Liberals for way too long despite the $1.1 billion "wasted" to cancel two gas plants, while Wynne said the New Democrats have no plan to govern Ontario and offer only vague ideas.
The first poll of the campaign released Sunday suggested Ontario could end up with another minority government, giving the Tories the most popular support but giving the Liberals the most seats because of the way the support is concentrated in ridings.
Even though the slow, staggered, not-yet-official start to the campaign slips into second gear today, the legal writ is dated for Wednesday, May 7.