The fall session of the legislature skated into action this week in what promises to be a fight-filled political season. With an election faceoff slated for the spring, the respective leaders will be playing their cards wisely. Here's how they stack up.
Ht: 5'11" Wt: 190 Shoots: right
Born: 1946, Windsor, ON
Position: MPP, Dufferin-Peel-Wellington-Grey
First elected 1991; sworn in as Ontario's 23rd premier April 15, 2002, after cashing in on cushy gig with Credit Suisse First Boston.
Season outlook: Praying like hell for a warm winter after pushing Hydro One privatization and botching sale of Bruce Nuclear to British company now looking for bankruptcy protection. Won't have whiz-kid Tom Long to help in next election. Recruiting of Jamie Watt a sign he's under extreme pressure to appease hard-right followers of chief caucus rival Jim Flaherty. May be losing Frank Klees, Rob Sampson and Norm Sterling. Fighting the perception he's not able to make tough decisions. Facing difficult choices with Rozanski report on school funding formula and recommendations of Walkerton water inquiry due in November. Overcrowded slate of Harris-era issues to deal with, including cancelled spring bear hunt and Ipperwash.
injuries: Serious knee problems running from shadow of predecessor, "Iron" Mike Harris. Still stinging from huge black eye as financial architect of Common Sense Revolution. Bloodied by reputation of being a free-spending bon vivant and slickster.
Ht: 6'1" Wt: 190 Shoots: both ways
Born: 1955, Ottawa, ON
Position: MPP, Ottawa South
First elected 1990; introduced private member's bill making it tougher for children to buy cigarettes.
Season outlook: Ahead in the polls, but is skating on thin ice. Federal Grit leadership planned for next November will bleed ground forces from his Liberal election team. Needs to build base and connect with Ontarians, but can't afford to lose valuable TV time by being away from legislature for daily question period. Losing three senior party stalwarts Sean Conway, Lyn McLeod and John Cleary to retirement. Advisers urging him to be edgier, but continues to be dogged by leadership questions (see transcript of last leaders' debate). Has run out of excuses. It's do-or-die time.
injuries: Suffers from severe brain cramps that causes him to fall flat on his otherwise telegenic face at the most inopportune moments. Bad sense of direction and prone to flip-flops from beating he took during last election. No balls. Flat on his feet.
Ht: 6'0" Wt: 205 Shoots: hard left
Born: 1952, Fort Frances, ON
Elected: March 3, 1997
Position: MPP, Rainy River
First elected 1987; Minister of Natural Resources and Attorney General under Bob Rae; elected leader 1996.
Season outlook: Political pendulum swinging in NDP's direction. Winning notice for being out-front on opposition to Hydro One privatization and pumping Clean Water Act. Gives good quote and is light on his skates, but perhaps a little ahead of his time for an Ontario electorate more focused on federal issues. Should benefit from public's renewed interest in environmental issues. Skating with an energetic but altogether too small caucus to keep up with everything that's going on at Queen's Park. Will be hurt if long-time party lieutenant Dave Christopherson decides to vacate the backbench and run for Hamilton mayor. Stands to pot a few easy public policy goals with Tories eager to undercut support for the Liberals. Big gains possible with a little luck.
injuries: Bruised ego from high and as-yet-unrealized expectations. Heavy heart from the fact he hasn't caught on with voters despite being an otherwise capable leader.