TORONTO — The leaders of Ontario’s three major political parties will face off in person tonight during the first debate ahead of the June provincial election.
Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne, Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath will all attend the live debate in Toronto.
A Wynne-Ford showdown?
The race officially begins on Wednesday, although the three main parties have been unofficially campaigning for weeks.
Experts say the debate is likely to be a showdown between Wynne, who has been premier since 2013, and Ford, who was elected Tory leader in March.
University of Toronto professor Nelson Wiseman says debating two seasoned politicians like Wynne and Horwath will provide new challenges for Ford, who is a former Toronto city councillor and was elected party leader in March.
Horwath has led the NDP since 2009, and is trying to move it out of third-party status by promising free child care for low-income families and full dental coverage for all Ontarians.
The rhetoric between the Liberals and the Tories is already contentious, with both parties accusing each other of violating election finance rules.
In April, Progressive Conservatives accused Wynne’s Liberals of using public funds for campaign events ahead of the official launch. On Sunday, the Liberals said the Tories may have broken rules by not making it clear that pro-Ford, news-style videos posted online were produced by the party.
Over the weekend, Ford’s campaign dropped controversial candidate Tanya Granic Allen from the ballot after calling some of her remarks “irresponsible.” Granic Allen is a social conservative who vocally opposed Ontario’s sex education curriculum, and has defended comments that her critics called homophobic and Islamophobic.
The Ontario election takes place June 7.
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