Voting day in Ontario. Judgment day for the opposition leaders. Why has this campaign, in one of Canada’s provinces hardest hit by COVID-19, been such a snoozer?
Alex Boutilier: Honestly, at this point, I’m just dreading the deluge of columns about how Doug Ford has reinvented Canadian conservatism.
Look, the Ontario Progressive Conservatives have to be feeling really good about their campaign. They didn’t pay a price for essentially avoiding daily media scrutiny. They didn’t suffer for some of their COVID lockdown policies. After a raucous first year in government, they righted the ship and now look to be one of Canada’s most secure governments.
But I’m already bracing against the flood of pundits that will claim that Ford is the Goldilocks of the conservative movement: not too extreme, not too Erin O’Toole, but just right.
In the final hours of this campaign, though, it’s hard to argue with success. It seems to me that the most interesting question tonight is what happens to Ontario Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca. The NDP’s Andrea Horwath has had her fourth kick at the can, and I think most people believe that it’s her last. But what does Del Duca need tonight to make sure his leadership isn’t in question?
Colin D’Mello: Unlike election debate night, only one party can declare victory today. If you believe the polls, or at least the consistency of all polls, you would know that the Progressive Conservatives are cruising to victory.
A good night for them is recapturing a majority government with an equal number of seats as the 2018 election. A great night for them is capturing ridings they’ve been thirsting over, such as Essex, Windsor-area ridings, Niagara and St. Catherine-area ridings, Brampton and Oshawa. Those are mainly NDP seats that have been constant targets for the Progressive Conservatives and painting those traditional orange regions with the blue brush would be a major coup for Doug Ford who, just a year ago, was headed towards minority territory.
For the NDP, anything gained tonight will be offset by seats lost. The party is facing tough battles in the 416, the 905 and other regions which could be considered safe territory. Internally, the party is proud of the campaign they ran, but I’m getting a sense of acceptance of how election night is going to play out. As far as I can tell, there really isn’t a scenario in which Andrea Horwath could reasonably stay on as leader.
What will be interesting to watch is whether Horwath decides to stay on as an MPP, if she resigns as leader, or whether she decides to jump out of provincial politics altogether and enter the mayoral race in Hamilton set to take place in the fall.
Decision Ontario: Key issues and predictions for election day
The Liberals have the most to gain tonight, owing to the fact that even if they are able to claim official party status in the Ontario Legislature – which requires a minimum of 12 seats – Del Duca can point to that result as some kind of sign that the party is slowly rising from the ashes.
On Wednesday, Del Duca was defiant when asked repeatedly about his position as leader beyond election night. He indicated that he would be sticking around even if his party loses the election and even if he loses his own seat in Vaughan-Woodbridge (where additional party resources have been deployed).
But we’ve seen this story before, courtesy of the federal Conservative party, which deposed two leaders after two straight election losses despite their wishes to hang onto their jobs. While Ontario leaders have more staying power than their federal counterparts (see: Andrea Horwath), Del Duca would need to answer to grassroots members who might have renewal on their mind.
How does Del Duca curry favour? Cannoli.
Alex Boutilier: That and a few hundred dollars from the riding association would buy you a nice dinner at The Keg.
Looking to the most likely outcome tonight – another PC majority with Ford at the helm, at least for now – what does that mean for Ontario? I know we’ve talked a lot about highways and vaguely about GETTING ER DONE, but what do you think the practical implications of Ford More Years will be?
Colin D’Mello: From a staffing perspective, I’m hearing of a top to bottom shake-up after the election to give the government a fresh new feel. Those closest to Ford have learned a lot about controlling the message during the last two years of COVID-19 and Ford’s constant appearances in front of the cameras and, as a result, we could see a more disciplined Premier determined to push through an agenda.
The government also learned another valuable lesson from its first term in office: if you have something unpopular on the agenda, implement it early in the mandate and let the dust settle before the next provincial election. Keep in mind, this was the same government that slashed the size of Toronto City Council, tried to increase class sizes, fought with teachers’ unions, implemented bruising budget cuts, et cetera, in their first two years, and resorted to sprinkling fairy dust on the province in the six months before the election to turn the tide.
Expect them to have learned from that rollercoaster experience if they get a second shot.
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