Lit­tle to get ex­cited about in pro­vin­cial vote

The Woolwich Observer - - COMMENT -

ON­TAR­I­ANS HEAD TO THE polls next Thurs­day to de­cide the out­come of a close­ly­con­tested elec­tion. None of the par­ties is a clear-cut choice, how­ever.

The Lib­eral gov­ern­ment has been in power for 15 years, and On­tar­i­ans have clearly had enough – polls in­di­cate the party could be re­duced to a hand­ful of seats. The real race is be­tween the Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives and the NDP.

It’s no sur­prise Kath­leenWynne’s party is down and out, but the NDP’s surge is rel­a­tively new. The Tories were coast­ing to vic­tory, with the pub­lic dis­dain for the Lib­er­als per­haps mak­ing An­drea Hor­wath’s party the of­fi­cial op­po­si­tion. All that changed with the ouster of Pa­trick Brown in favour of Doug Ford.

The PCs’ strong num­bers car­ried on in the early go­ing of Ford’s lead­er­ship, but be­gan to wane, the drop-off pick­ing up steam in the last cou­ple weeks: the more On­tar­i­ans are ex­posed to Ford, the less likely they are to vote for him.

As with re­cent elec­tions, the party seems ready, will­ing and able to snatch de­feat from the jaws of vic­tory once again.

To­day, how­ever, seat pro­jec­tions by the Lau­rier In­sti­tute for the Study of Pub­lic Opinion and Pol­icy (LISPOP) see the Con­ser­va­tive in a mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ment sit­u­a­tion. The break­down puts the PCs with 63 seats, fol­lowed by the NDP with 54 Lib­er­als with seven.

In Kitch­ener-Con­estoga, Wil­frid Lau­rier Uni­ver­sity po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist Barry Kay’s pro­jec­tions have the rid­ing lean­ing Con­ser­va­tive by only a few per­cent­age points. Clearly voter turnout – specif­i­cally, which party’s sup­port­ers do the best job of get­ting out to vote – will play a key role.

That the NDP is seen to have a shot in the rid­ing tells us some­thing about how the Lib­er­als have fallen off the map and the Tories have messed the bed. The lat­ter is not just a re­flec­tion of Ford’s di­vi­sive­ness, but also of his han­dling of the lo­cal can­di­date. First, pop­u­lar MPP Michael Har­ris was drummed out of cau­cus on spu­ri­ous grounds – shades of Pa­trick Brown – and then Mike Har­ris Jr., the son of the former premier and Ford fam­ily friend, was parachuted in. The combination has not en­deared the party to many vot­ers who would oth­er­wise have voted for the in­cum­bent MPP.

The shift­ing poll re­sults are surely a dis­ap­point­ment for the PCs, who’ve seen their for­tunes fall, in part due to Ford’s rep­u­ta­tion and mis­steps and in part due to his fail­ure to res­onate with vot­ers. As the seat projects show, Hor­wath has some rea­son for op­ti­mism, as the party’s for­tunes are on the rise de­spite her lack of name recog­ni­tion. She has the ad­van­tage of not be­ing ei­ther Wynne or Ford, both tainted brands. There’s a chance the NDP could form a gov­ern­ment for only the sec­ond time in On­tario. In the event of a mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ment, it would hold the bal­ance of power.

The poll num­bers show On­tar­i­ans are fed up with the cur­rent gov­ern­ment, not sur­pris­ing after 15 years and count­less ex­am­ples of mis­man­age­ment, fis­cal in­com­pe­tence and out­right cor­rup­tion. We don’t vote for any­thing per se, we vote against in­cum­bents at in­ter­vals. It’s how we do things, ap­par­ently. But we’re re­ally leery of the al­ter­na­tives, es­pe­cially Ford. And there’s good rea­son for that: the Tories’ cam­paign con­sists of at­tack­ing Wynne and, with the NDP’s rise in the polls, Hor­wath; there’s very lit­tle in the way of ideas, so­lu­tions or ini­tia­tives of their own.

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