Ontario Polls show slippage away from NDP and PCs towards Liberals . What to do?

For many months, the Ontario polls have shown a Progressive Conservative (PC) lead in Ontario, around 37%, with the NDP and Liberals essentially tied, around 27%. The bad news is that it seems that the “permissive progressives” who have their heart in the NDP but live in fear of Tory governments, have begun to migrate towards the Liberals, as a defensive move against a Tory government but sadly postponing that great day when the NDP becomes a fixture as the permanent  first or second party in the legislature,like every province in western Canada. 

 

Fascinating data from Abacus has consistently shown that ⅔ of Liberals support the NDP as their 2nd choice. The same is not true of NDP supporters who often list the Green Party as their 2nd choice. There is a floating 15% of the electorate that swings between the NDP and the Liberals. Their general default is Liberal primarily to block conservative governments but they will swing heavily NDP when they are disappointed with the Liberals. The 2018 election is a perfect example as the Liberals collapsed to 19% the NDP shot up to 35%. The same was true of the Jack Layton federal surge, overwhelmingly at the expense of the federal Liberals. Unless something changes, this election could see the restoration of Liberal power, perhaps as a minority in 2022.  

 

The good news is that the PCs may have slipped below the very critical 37% threshold needed to form a majority government. No party that achieved less than 37% has ever formed a government in Ontario, a benchmark set by Bob Rae who won a 74 seat majority in 1990 with exactly 37%. So, now we are at least talking about a minority government. 

 

A minority PC government can, and likely will be overthrown by the Liberal Party with NDP support. It requires Ford losing a confidence vote in the legislature and a Lieutenant Governor deciding to call on the leader of the opposition to form a government. Failing that the LG could call new electrons. It is therefore incredibly important to hold the PCs under 37%. 

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Anything can happen and most importantly, elections matter. The results can shift dramatically in any direction. Don’t count the NDP out, they have plenty of money and 40 incumbent members who hopefully will run with a very large RE-ELECT section on their yard signs and brochures. Don’t underestimate the Liberal brand which still carries a legacy hold on many voters often due to a federal spillover effect. Don’t underestimate the PCs who will have the most money and experienced staff. 

 

The NDP will probably fight a defensive campaign to protect the 40 seats they have and maybe a few close second place seats like Cambridge. This would position them well for a minority. Polls are + or - 4% accuracy. The NDP needs to hope they are really at 27%.

 

The NDP have released their election policy early. It calls for:

  • Hiring 20 000 teachers and education workers.

  • Capping class sizes at 24 for grades 4-8 and K at 26.

  • Clearing school backlog of $16.8B in repairs over 10 years

  • All schools have up to date ventilation

  • Ending EQAO testing

  • Scrapping mandatory 2 online courses

  • All online curricula from certified ON teachers

  • Ensuring all students with OSAP loans graduate debt-free by converting loans to grants

  • Eliminating interest on existing student debt

 

This is a far reaching, aggressive plan that really covers all the bases. 

Only missing is a plan to continue slow, but relentless destreaming of the education system K-12. 
 

The Liberals have the opposite problem. They likely understand their popularity is running way ahead of their ability to deliver due to money problems resulting from their collapse to 19% in 2018. The Liberals have yet to release their education platform.

 

The PCs have a huge war chest but suffer from the fact that 60-65% of Ontarians are to their left, and don’t want a Tory government. They survive because, since 1933, the opposition has been divided between the Liberals and the CCF/NDP. It could be a real struggle for them to break the critical 37% barrier. 

 

Much hangs in the balance for education. Ford removed $1 Billion from the education budget, heavily restricted collective bargaining for teachers and education workers, did virtually nothing about the $2 Billion backlog in maintenance and repairs, and even reversed the Wynne policy of tuition relief for low income college kids. 

 

The Ford government is not good for Ontario education. What we each do before June 3rd will determine if Ontario moves in a more progressive direction.