Monday, February 07, 2022

Ontario election 2022 might set a precedent

Polls over the past year seeking the views of the Ontario electorate have found a split that seemingly favours a re-election of the Ford government with a majority. Going back to last June, a year prior to the upcoming election date of June 2, the PCs have averaged about 35% support, five percentage points less than they obtained in 2018 while the average for the Liberals and NDP is 27% each. However, much of the analysis of this dead even split takes no account of a history of tactical voting in Ontario, both federal and provincial, dating back to 1999. I fully expect either the Liberals or the NDP to demonstrate during the election campaign that they are the more popular alternative to Ford - at this point I am not sure which it will be. The consequence of that will be late movement towards the party with the best chance of defeating the PCs, not necessarily dislodging the Ford PCs from first place, but likely sufficient to prevent a PC majority.

Even if the PCs win the most seats, the NDP and Liberal leaders have recently strongly suggested that they will not let Ford continue to govern. Fifteen years ago this would have been unheard of. The Canadian electorate accepted the legitimacy of the party finishing first simply carrying on with the business of government.

At a recent panel discussion NDP leader Andrea Horwath said, "I don’t see any scenario where I would support a Doug Ford government... If (Liberal leader) Steven Del Duca is prepared to support the kind of things that we want to see happen to fix what’s wrong in Ontario then I would welcome that and I would be prepared to have that conversation". For his part del Duca predicted "I don’t believe that I’ll be able to support Doug Ford... Doug Ford has demonstrated consistently ... he’s not the right person for the job. He doesn’t have what it takes — not the capacity, the curiosity, the interest or the skill set to get us through to the recovery and rebuild this province".

There was a time not long ago where the electorate accepted the first place finisher in our first-past-the-post electoral system as the legitimate winner. No longer. The idea of the acceptability of voting coalitions in legislatures has been growing. We saw this at work in BC following the 2017 provincial election when the NDP and Greens came to an agreement. If that type of accord could oust the Ford government following the 2022 election, I fully expect to see it happen. The PCs could be tossed from office even if they are, say, 10 seats and a couple of percentage points ahead.

Doug Ford with snow shovel

One of the conundrums of Ontario politics is that all three party leaders are seriously weak. Doug Ford is an incompetent clown whose first chief of staff, Dean French, had to be sacked due to a nepotism scandal, following a year where he engendered intense hostility throughout the halls of government, both bureaucratic and political. More recently, following a record snowfall Ford went out in his car to help other motorists who were stuck using a child's shovel (the link is to an amusing video), rather than working with provincial and municipal officials on managing the response to the storm. It was absurd. 

However, both of the opposition leaders are weak. NDP leader Andrea Horwath has frequently demonstrated poor political judgement, while Liberal leader Stephen del Duca is an exceptionally inept political performer.

Nonetheless, one of these three must wind up as a winner. I increasingly like the odds of one of the opposition leaders becoming premier.