Jason Sykes examines the messages put out by the three major parties in this fall’s election.The official campaign for the Oct. 6 Ontario election kicked off this week. But candidates from the province’s three leading political parties have been quietly campaigning all summer long. Based on last few months of politicking, the provincial contest is shaping up to be a “real nail biter,” says a Brock instructor.Whoever does the best job of selling their narratives to the electorate will win this election, says Jason Sykes, who is teaching the third-year “Politics of Ontario” course in Political Science this semester.Sykes, a Brock alumnus in the final stages of completing his PhD at York University, says those messages boil down to Dalton McGuinty as the Tax Man, Tim Hudak as the Cuts Man and second coming of Mike Harris, and Andrea Horwath as the third alternative, something different.**What are some key issues facing the three main parties in Ontario?The challenge for the NDP is going to be to establish themselves as real contenders provincially. The question for them is, can they ride the orange wave that we’ve seen at the federal level?They also have to scare off the spectre of the Bob Rae government in Ontario, which will be a difficult hurdle for them to overcome.Horwath is doing a good job, but I’m not really sure many people know who she is. So her presence needs to go up in the minds of Ontarians if they expect to make an impact.As for both Hudak and McGuinty, they are more established politically in Ontario.Hudak also has the ghosts of the previous Harris government to contend with. For him, the challenge will be to strike a balance between distancing himself from that legacy and pandering to those loyalists who were fans of that administration.He also has divisions within his own party to deal with. Hudak recently came under fire from former provincial PC leader John Tory for stirring up the politics of division between new and long-term Ontarians. He also has to account for and make room for the right-wing fringe, like the Ontario Landowners Association, within his party.McGuinty’s biggest obstacle is going to be himself.He has been in power for eight years. And people tend to remember what they don’t like about you as opposed to what they liked. The things that people don’t agree with is what resonates with voters.His team is conscious of this. As we’ve seen in their ad spots, he’s been using the line, “I know I’m not the most popular guy…”Any sense on who’s election it is to lose?Early on, over the summer months, it looked like it was the PC’s contest to lose. But all that has recently changed. The race is now tightening up with the PCs falling back within close range of the Liberals and the NDP are making gains.There is no clear runaway leader at this point.It’s anyone’s guess how this is all going to play out. Especially since a recent poll asking voters to rate the leader they most disapprove of pegged McGuinty at 58 per cent and Hudak at 57 per cent. So neither one of them is overwhelmingly loved.What are the key issues going to be this election?Health care is still the No. 1 issue for Ontarians. And in this area, my sense is that McGuinty has the slight advantage.The economy is also going to be a real focus for voters. It’s hard to tell who is going to be able to excel in this area.Leaders from all parties are out there making big promises. Liberals are pledging a 30 per cent reduction in tuition and the PCs are promising health care spending increases.But the real question for voters is going to be “how are we going to pay for all this?”And this is what could leave Ontarians in the lurch. Everyone’s making promises and saying they’re going to get this and that done, but the reality is the economic foundations for these campaign assurances are still vague at this point.