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PCs win majority government

Bar chart showing the 2018 Ontario general election results.

Almost three months after winning the Ontario Progressive leadership contest, Doug Ford has led his party to a majority government in the June 7 provincial election. Riding a strong wave of anti-Liberal and anti-Kathleen Wynne sentiment, Ford bested the NDP as the chosen alternative by Ontarians.

Despite winning an impressive 76 of the 124 seats in the newly expanded provincial parliament, Ford’s campaign was almost tripped up by his own lackluster performance and a resurgent NDP leader Andrea Horwath. As the campaign progressed, especially after the two first leaders’ debates, Andrea Horwath’s momentum grew and she appeared well-positioned to win, as some polls showed her in the lead and others showed her tied with Ford. But, the final two weeks saw the NDP momentum stall and then slip slightly. A number of factors could be have contributed to that. A number of commentators suggested that Horwath’s performance in the final debate was uneven, whereas Wynne was seen by many as the winner. As well, the strategic decision by the PCs to pivot their attack ads towards the NDP allowed them to undermine the NDP’s momentum. First, the PCs raised the spectre of Bob Rae’s NDP government of the early 1990s that saw a recession hit Ontario. They also attacked the NDP for having “radical” candidates who challenged the symbolism around wearing a poppy and proposed raising gasoline prices by 35 cents a litre.

At the same time, the PCs started to surround Ford with some prospective cabinet members to show their readiness to lead. Specifically, they had prominent female candidates Christine Elliott and Caroline Mulroney at his side to suggest that he had support from women. In contrast, despite being taunted by the PCs, the NDP never showed their potential cabinet team around Horwath, preferring to instead showcase her leadership. In hindsight, a photo-op with many of her established MPPs may have given Horwath an opportunity to emphasize her leadership team, specifically well-established candidates who could not be accused of being “radical”.

Nonetheless, Horwath generally ran a very strong campaign and presented Ontarians a solid alternative to both Wynne and Ford. The strategic decision to outline an election platform to the left of Wynne allowed Horwath to undercut any potential resurgence by Wynne with progressive voters. Horwath gave progressives, who were greatly disappointed by Wynne’s sale of a majority stake in Hydro, a safer place to cast their vote. And, once progressives decided that Horwath was their choice, she effectively neutralized Wynne’s potential growth.

For Wynne, her re-election chances were probably doomed the moment she decided to sell a majority of Hydro to private interests. Prior to that decision, Wynne had effectively portrayed herself as the defender of the public realm, particularly in contrast to former PC leader Tim Hudak’s 2014 election promise to eliminate 100,000 public servant jobs. Once she lost her brand as the defender of the public realm, her subsequent efforts to recapture progressive voters through hikes to the minimum wage, childcare improvements and labour law enhancements were seen by many as cynical political ploys. Then, when Horwath’s NDP presented their election platform with additional progressive measures, Wynne’s opportunity to regain progressive voters was seriously undermined and her fate was sealed. All that Wynne could do now was try to salvage enough seats to retain the Liberals’ official party status in the Legislature.

Looking ahead to what a Doug Ford majority government might look like, despite his photo-ops showcasing a leadership team, it is likely that Ford will be inclined to run a one-person operation. His background as a business owner will reinforce that inclination and, in practical terms, the power vested in the Premier’s office by our parliamentary system is well-suited for that lone-wolf leader type. For those who think that the formality and prestige of the Premier’s office or the influence of his advisers will temper Ford’s character, one need only look to Donald Trump to see how the perceived decorum and momentous responsibilities of the Presidency of the United States has moderated him. We should expect Premier Doug Ford to think and act like the Doug Ford we have already come to know.

4 Comments on PCs win majority government

  1. Larry French // June 22, 2018 at 11:30 am // Reply

    Great analysis. Many thanks.
    Batten down the hatches. Mike Harris relives, sad to say.

  2. Jeff Fleischmann // June 22, 2018 at 11:31 am // Reply

    Incredibly poor analysis. The Ontario public was fed up with “big government” telling them what to do, and how to do it. Outside of Toronto, and the very, very far north, where the extreme left reside, the rest of Ontario told the NDP to get
    into the 21st century, and stop fighting battles that don’t exist. Had Christine Elliot won the PC convention, it is very possible the PC’s could have captured north of 105 seats, rendering the far left, that being the NDP and the supposed Liberals, both without Official Party status. Its unfortunate for those people who work and pay tax’s in this province that this did not happen. And calling the NDP “progressive” is akin to calling Cuba/Argentina or any other of the left’s beloved economic models as being progressive. Perhaps reprehensible is a more appropriate term. The NDP’s jealousy of those who succeed in this province manifests itself in their economic policies of outrageously high taxation and emphasis on the public sector, over the driving force of the economy , that being the private sector.

  3. Tom Henderson, D.9 ARM // June 22, 2018 at 1:02 pm // Reply

    Good analysis, based not on what the membership wants to hear, but how the situation truly is. A one man show looks like a strong possibility, not good.

  4. Steve Kelman // June 26, 2018 at 1:19 pm // Reply

    The sky is not falling. There are many strong moderate MPP’s in the PC caucus, this will not be like Harris years at all. It was time for a change

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