Election blackout leads to slow start to campaign locally

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CORNWALL, Ontario - Aside from the signs and a few small functions, many voters in Stormont, Dundas and South Glengarry could be forgiven if they didn't know there's an election on.

That's because Ontario Chief Electoral Officer Greg Essensa has placed a blackout on political advertising that came into effect right after the writs were signed for the June 12 vote.

Because this campaign came without warning - though many knew it was possible - voters and cadidates have been urged to think of this as more of a collection on byelections right across the country, instead of a general election.

The blackout, which remains in effect until May 21, is only imposed if there's a snap election call and is aimed at preventing the governing party from gaining an edge by having political advertising ready to go as soon as the vote is announced.

Even local candidates Jim McDonell (Progressive-Conservative), John Earle (Liberal) and Elaine MacDonald (New Democrat) have been forced to rein in advertising - which has lead to a fairly muted beginning to the campaign.

But that hasn't kept them from consenting to media interviews, or taking swipes at each other.

"Most people are upset with the scandals, especially in rural Ontario," said McDonell, referring to issues that have plagued the governing Liberals concerning energy - specifically a failed gas plant and high hydro costs. "For everyone who is not on Cornwall Electric it's a problem.

"It's gone up so much in the last five or six years."

McDonell said the Tories plan to make the economy a top priority, while at the same time curbing the high cost of energy.

But MacDonald said the Tories have little room to point fingers and suggested the Progressive-Conservative under Tim Hudak are looking to rebuild the economy on the back of a public service job cut.

"This last week people were horrified to find out Tim Hudak wants to cut 100,000 public service jobs - front-end services," she said. "Public servants keep the province going."

While the Liberals have had to endure plenty of criticism leading up to the election, Earle suggested the alternative to a Grit government is too much for people to contemplate.

"One person told me that while he might have a McDonell sign on this front lawn, it doesn't mean that that is how he is going to vote," he said. "There's only one choice when you look at the leadership of this province."

Earle said voters that he has spoken with thus far have provided necessary feedback to aid a Liberal government that needs more support to escape minority government status.

"(Voters) are very approachable and feel that we are actually listening to their concerns."

All three local candidates have opened their Cornwall campaign offices. Debates begin next week.

Geographic location: Ontario

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