QJPolitics: Too close to call

A long awaited election is in full swing as a premier termed ‘illegitimate’ by some faces a vote of confidence from Ontarians. Current Premier Kathleen Wynne seeks to reinstall the Ontario Liberal Party (OLP) to government on June 12, unless Progressive Conservative (PC) leader Tim Hudak or the New Democratic Party’s (NDP) Andrea Horwath can defeat the Liberals at the polls.

During the last Ontario election in 2011, Liberal Dalton McGuinty captured a minority government after two successive majority governments. With his popularity slipping in the polls, and the OLP following as a result, McGuinty resigned and handed the reigns to Wynne, who has held the minority ever since.

This transfer of power has garnered criticism from the Official Opposition under Conservative Hudak, who gives no credence to the current premier since she has not been ratified at the polls.

In return for the inclusion of certain budget items, NDP Horwath ensured that Wynne survived her government’s first budget presented last year. However, the NDP has pulled their support over the latest budget.

While this was expected, it was not an easy decision for the NDP as the Liberals presented a fairly left-leaning budget that had support from Unifor and the Ontario Federation of Labour. Yet this budget was not defeated on its items alone. It is common for minority governments to fall if parties think they can improve the number of seats they hold in the legislature, which is the NDP’s current strategy.

When the election was called, it seemed that this was going to be an election of little change. The OLP, PC and NDP were allegedly all going to finish first, second and third. However, the polling data at the start of the campaign showed a close running.

Support was not even but fairly spread between all three parties, making predicted seat margins a lot closer.

Recent polls have swung violently back and forth between OLP and PC victories. With the large shift in public opinion between polls, it’s clear the result of the election should not be dependent on polls. Éric Grenier of threehundredeight.com, who was able to closely predict the numbers of the Québec election through aggregated polling data, recently commented, “Ontario polls continue to confuse.” Even if poll numbers stabilize closer to the election, there is plenty of time to make mistakes and all leaders have large consequences if they lose.

Kathleen Wynne is trying to demonstrate that she has the support of the Ontario public.

While she may remain leader if she loses, it’s a bad sign for a party supposedly cleansed of the McGuinty years. A Hudak victory means she would be the fourth female premier to be tossed this year — Christy Clark of British Columbia would be the only other remaining female premier.

Hudak has the most to lose if his party cannot take power. Although popular when first becoming leader in 2009, he was unable to win in 2011. Since then, his personal popularity has slipped considerably and just nine months ago some members of the PC wanted a leadership review. A 2014 loss for the PC means a change of leadership.

Under Andrea Horwath, the NDP gained 17 seats from 10 in the 2011 election, and now currently hold 21. For the most part polls have predicted the same or an increase in seats this election.

In my opinion, Northern Ontario could be swept orange with a strong push. With the exception of Sault Ste. Marie, the three non-NDP ridings were very near misses in 2011. However, some of Horwath’s decisions in office have bothered an old NDP base.

If her balancing act between maintaining the NDP’s historical left base and courting the political centre does not produce results, she may see her support as leader begin to slip.

While the importance of voting is touted every election, the approaching one will come down to those who do go out.

With the vote close in many ridings, victory will come down to those parties which can best mobilize their base to make the difference at the ballot box.

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