I fact checked Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca for a week

One leader. Five days. Three fired candidates. And a few false claims.

After fact-checking Green leader Mike Schreiner last week, on Wednesday I moved on to the leader defending the next fewest seats in the legislature: Steven Del Duca.

The Liberal leader’s week didn’t start off great. For three days in a row, he was forced to toss candidates after revelations of their inappropriate behaviour surfaced (in one case, a candidate had written a full book on a theory he made up describing a so-called cause for homosexuality).

But Del Duca forged on, continuing to tout the Liberals’ “fully-costed, fair and forward-looking plan.” And he did so largely honestly, when talking about his party’s policies.

The relatively unknown Liberal leader, who took the helm of the party two years ago, faces an uphill battle to prove his party is ready to govern after suffering a crushing defeat in 2018 that saw Del Duca himself unseated by a Tory.

The Liberal leader’s strategy so far has been to take aim at Progressive Conservative leader Doug Ford to prove to Ontarians why Del Duca is a better option.

But it was in Del Duca’s attacks on the incumbent where his truthfulness often faltered.

I counted 11 distinct claims Del Duca made about Ford or his government this week. Of those, six were false or stretched the truth in some way.

Del Duca misrepresented the PC government’s record a couple of times, like when he said that Ford’s finance minister Peter Bethlenfalvy refused to confirm whether the Tories would reintroduce the budget if elected. Yes, Bethlenfalvy did waffle on this when reporters first asked, but he ultimately said that they would. That’s a pretty important thing for Del Duca to omit.

(On another occasion, Del Duca said Bethlenfalvy refused to confirm whether the Tories would re-introduce the budget on budget day, which I gave him a pass on, since it wasn’t until the next day that Bethlenfalvy confirmed).

More frequently, Del Duca faulted Doug Ford for complex, sweeping problems that can’t be reasonably linked to the premier’s policies.

Speaking in Scarborough about the rising cost of living, Del Duca said, “As the guy who goes grocery shopping for my family every single Saturday I think about the price of food, and how it’s gone up. It’s skyrocketed under Doug Ford.”

The cost of food in Ontario has skyrocketed — by 8.2 per cent this year to be exact — but that’s true across the country and even around the world, due to supply chain issues, the economic effects of COVID-19 and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It’s a bit rich for Del Duca to pin that on Ford.

But there were things about Ford’s record that Del Duca got right, like when he said the premier flip-flopped on a promise he made about rent control during the 2018 campaign.

This week, Del Duca’s rivals questioned whether the Liberal plan can be considered fully costed, as the Liberal leader often claims, because in several cases the party relies on federal funding that was promised by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during last year’s election campaign but excluded from his budget.

The party also hopes to squeeze a couple billion more out of Ottawa by renegotiating the childcare deal, something Ottawa hasn’t said it’s prepared to do.

I asked Kevin Page, an economist who served as Canada’s first parliamentary budget officer about this. He said that while it’s risky for the Liberals to count on such funds, the fact that we know they are doing so, and can debate about whether or not it’s a good idea, is what really matters for a costed platform.

In total this week, I found five false claims in 121 minutes of filmed public appearances.
I also deemed five separate claims to be a stretch, meaning the claim was broadly true but misleading in the specific context in which Del Duca said it.

That works out to a “dishonesty density” of about one false claim every 24 minutes. That puts him in good company with Schreiner, whose dishonesty density was one false claim every 20 minutes (though he spoke for half the time).

As I continue on to fact-check New Democrat Andrea Horwath next week, followed by Progressive Conservative Doug Ford, this is the measure I’ll use to compare the leaders.

See our other fact checks:
• Mike Schreiner
• Andrea Horwath (coming May 25)
• Doug Ford (coming June 1)

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