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Big Shakeup may be coming in Ontario Politics with Serious Education


Polling is an inexact science at the best of times. Polls are a snapshot of one polling period and, in fact, campaigns do matter.


All of that said, the Ontario PCs are riding high, even with Doug Ford. Doug Ford AKA “Drug” Ford has more baggage than Louis Vuitton. The Globe and Mail stands by the fact that Ford is a former drug dealer a thug and a drug gangster.


The Liberals are in very bad shape with the NDP treading water. The NDP could, in fact, back into official opposition status. Let’s take a look at recent numbers. The polls are aggregated without weighting.

  • If averages are weighted towards most recent polls the results are identical +- 1%


The number of ridings has increased from 107 to 124 and Elections Ontario does not have the 2014 results projected into the 2018 boundaries. The results in 2014 were Liberal 58 seats (38%) PC 28 (31%) NDP 21 (24%).


The kind of results Forum and DART are  talking about projected to June 7th, would result in a legislature with 84 PC members, 29 NDP members  and 11 Liberals.


How is it you ask, that the Liberals could end up with more votes than the NDP but far fewer seats? This is due to the structure of our anachronistic First Past the Post, FPTP, electoral system. Although we have three strong parties (sorry Greens not yet), the support for the parties has very different demographics. Most ridings are, in fact, two party races with a third  party trailing behind. In northern Ontario, many parts of south-west Ontario and downtown Toronto, the fights are Liberal vs NDP with Tories well behind. In ‘most’ of the rest of Ontario, we have Liberal vs Tory fights with the NDP trailing. This is usually great for the Liberals, who are competitive across all ridings provided they are over about 30%. At 38% they can win a substantial majority however, if the Liberals dip below about 28% they start to lose a huge number of seats, some to the NDP, some to the Tories. They are now on the bubble of a big wipe out. Below 28% they start to come second everywhere and first nowhere. Roughly 14% of the electorate have shifted away from the Liberals (38%-24%) while those voters have gone mainly to the PCs (33%-42%), with the NDP in a roughly similar spot as 2014  to start the campaign


The face of Ontario politics could change dramatically

from what we have known.


The NDP would rather easily regain Sudbury, The former Trinity seat, (now split UniRose or Spadina Fort York) is up for grabs, York South Weston, Davenport, Beaches East York, and would take Brampton Springdale, London North Center, York West, Kingston and the Islands but rather than the Liberals they would be in  tough fights with Tories to keep Waterloo, Niagara Falls, Welland, and Oshawa. St Catherines would be totally up for grabs.


The last ten seats for the Liberals, their Alamo if you like, would be parts of central Toronto, Ottawa and Francophone eastern Ontario. Cabinet Ministers would be out of office all across Ontario. According to DART the Liberals are running way behind in Toronto. PC 36% NDP 31% Lib 22%. The Liberals could be reduced to 3-4 seats in Toronto, the linchpin of their support in recent years.


All of this could wildly change however. A shift of 10% of the electorate away from the Tories and towards the Liberals and-or the NDP could result in minority government with the Tories on the outside looking in. A fall of 5% from the IPSOS poll 38% to 33% would give the same result for the Tories as 2014 a fifth straight loss.


Some voters are angry for sure, mainly at hydro rates and the privatization of hydro. However, when not just letting off steam, and really staring at a Tory majority government, will they blink? Minimum wage workers will be told that last dollar raise, from $14 to $15 will not happen for years. This has a direct effect on other wages a little higher up the scale as workers seek to maintain the gap. Parents will be told there is zero chance to change the Mike Harris funding formula for schools. Voters across Ontario will be told their shot at universal pharmacare is toast. There will be no more improvements in child care or tuition. Serious labour discord will return to public sector labour relations. Strikes, back to work orders, work to rule once again the order of the day. Yes, of course, labour relations were not very good under Liberals with Bill 115 and college strikes, but they will be worse under Tories. Will ‘hallway medicine’ end under the anti spending Tories? Highly unlikely. Early estimates that Tory attempts to balance the budget without  carbon tax will cost 7000 education jobs and something similar in health.


When it comes to education issues, the Tories are not good news. I suspect on the so called ‘sex ed curriculum, really a small aspect of the health curriculum, the Tories will just shift some stuff around to fit their more sanctimonious view of age appropriate curriculum. The Tories say they want a hold on schools closings. They are really just concerned about rural closings, urban closings, not so much. The big issue is the funding formula and its corollary-labour relations. A serious investment in politics today can mean millions of dollars in Tory cuts don’t happen and avoidable strikes can have different scenarios.


There is only one really positive result that could emerge from all of this. The total destruction of the Ontario Liberal Party and a permanent polarization and oscillation between the Tories and the NDP western Canada style,would be a positive development. If we can’t have Proportional Representation, this is the next best result. The faster we reach the day when only the Tories and NDP are governing parties, the better.


What can progressives in general, teachers unions and public sector workers do about it? First they need a new critical analysis of the vote to seat situation in Ontario. Seats do not react in similar ways. Some seats are subject to wide swings in popular vote every election, while others swing within a tight frame. If someone can project the 2014 results into the 2018 boundaries this exercise works much better. Nevertheless, a good place to start is to go riding by riding and add 12% to each Tory and subtract 12% from each Liberal using the 2014 results, leaving the NDP and Greens alone. The results will shock you. Seats many considered safe are probably not just unsafe, but close to unwinnable.


If that is not depressing enough for you, start to work on which seats to try to save. This report does not support ‘strategic voting’, which, in Ontario’s case,means choosing to support the best placed Grit or Dipper to defeat the local Tory. The teachers’ federations, however, have a different view. Unions like SEIU and OPSEU may join them since the Liberals have given them control of new areas like homecare and cannabis distribution.


The unions can no longer just write big cheques to the parties and send a few full time organizers to vulnerable ridings - it is now illegal. The entire structure of races has changed. Unions can only be successful by mobilizing members to work or financially contribute ‘as individuals’. They need to mobilize members to knock on doors, make phone calls,  and give personal cheques. This means an entirely different approach to elections. An interesting wrinkle is whether the unions can actually be conduits for personal giving. OSSTF D12 once ran a campaign “$10 for a better board” to buttress pro education trustees and raised a ton of money in small cheques. The teachers’ federations have the potential to become the most powerful actors in Ontario politics but they need to become far more sophisticated and focussed in their approach. Coming out with their own platform and encouraging their own members to simply vote is largely a waste of time. Yes yes, OSSTF and ETFO want an end to catholic school funding. This report supports that position but is also not going to happen until one major party supports the federations which they don’t, and even then it will be tied up in court for many years. The NDP has come out for ending the EQAO. This may be the beginning of the end for that useless and reactionary institution.


This is not civics class. We cannot bemoan the fact that the parties don’t discuss education. The parties have heavily polled before the election and education is not a leading issue. It is also of little help for members to try to be all-candidate meeting or keyboard twitter warriors. People at all-candidate meetings are usually partisans of the various parties.  This is serious politics. Elections have serious consequences. This means triage, organization and mobilization. In the end everything comes down to the funding formula. No money no progress. If grassroots members do not knock on doors and give personal cheques there is little the unions can do. Election day vote pulling in squeaker ridings is a big help.


A discussed above, a whole new set of ridings are now safe or ‘in play’. The old playbook is out the window.


It is difficult to resist the point that a proportional representation system would lock the Tories out of power altogether or force them to find a partner who could sharply mitigate the potential damage. Clearly more people want a Liberal-NDP-Green government (55%) over a PC government (40-45%) but yet we face an overwhelmingly conservative government based on a minority of votes. Nobody should take Doug Ford lightly. His populist instincts and appeal registers with many voters  across party lines including both Liberal and NDPers.


Crying the blues on June 8th that the Tories and Ford won or their first fall budget threw education under the bus won’t help. The time to get off your duff and work door-to-door is fast approaching. If you are too lazy or unable to work, at least make a donation. They take Visa. Easy as pie.

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