Tim Hudak thinks his homemade pulled pork will win voters over – at least to his backyard.
The Progressive Conservative Leader was all smiles and sports jokes in a Thursday morning interview on TSN radio, turning on the charm after a poll put him behind NDP Leader Andrea Horwath in "likeability."
Mr. Hudak said he doesn't normally comment on polls, but he would make an exception for this one.
According to the Ipsos Reid survey conducted for the Ottawa Citizen, 37 per cent of respondents would pick Ms. Horwath as their guest at a backyard barbecue, compared with 32 per cent who would chose Mr. Hudak and 31 per cent who said they'd invite Liberal Leader Dalton McGuinty over.
"I'm laying down the gauntlet, I'm throwing down the gloves. I'm saying I'm going to challenge Andrea Horwath and Dalton McGuinty to a barbecue contest," he told TSN radio host Mike Richards. "Once they taste my ribs, you know, once they taste my pulled pork, I think I'm going to turn them around."
The radio appearance was a shift for Mr. Hudak, whose formal media availabilities have often appeared stiff and rehearsed. Asked why he went into politics, he joked, "The reality is I couldn't make it in the pros. Didn't have the talent."
Later that morning, Mr. Hudak repeated the barbecue challenge during a campaign stop in Oakville – this time brandishing a raw rack of ribs he picked up at Boffo's butcher shop on Kerr Street.
Both leaders jokingly accepted. Mr. McGuinty offered to play host, and Ms. Horwath took to Twitter, writing: "Look forward 2 a BBQ challenge with @timhudak & @Dalton_McGuinty. How about in TBay tomo after the leader's debate?"
Mr. McGuinty declined an invitation to the Northern Ontario leaders' debate, which will take place Friday morning in Thunder Bay and focus on northwestern Ontario. Ms. Horwath and Mr. Hudak are both attending the event and have frequently needled their rival for choosing not to.
Mr. Hudak tweeted back "@andreahorwath @Dalton_McGuinty sounds like we're on for High Noon tomorrow – showdown in Thunder Bay. #willdaltonshow?"
The Liberal leader has said there should be just one debate for the province, with a segment devoted to issues in the North.
The Ipsos Reid poll was conducted online and surveyed 8,391 people in Ontario over the four days ending Sept. 20. It has an estimated margin of error of plus or minus 1.1 percentage point, 19 times out of 20.