Ontario, linchpin of confederation, maker of prime ministers, the electoral big kahuna". What is the chance Ontario will elect a Canadian Alliance federal caucus?
Only twice in modern history has Ontario elected a majority of its federal and provincial parliamentarians from the same party. Ontarians vote for balance between Ottawa and Queen's Park, not hegemony, counterposing what they see as moderates in one place with conservatives in the other.
As well, wannabe prime ministers who would rock confederation's boat scare Ontario, which, after all, would have the longest border with an independent Quebec. This is part of why Ontario rejected Preston Manning and is wary of his understudy, Stockwell Day.
After last month's second-round Alliance leadership vote, Vector Research asked a random sample of 500 adults across the province if Day has the right stuff.
A plurality of Ontario residents, 42 per cent, agree that the new Alliance leader is too extreme or right-wing to be PM, while 31 per cent disagree.
Just counting those expressing an opinion, Ontario thinks Day is too radical by 57 to 43 per cent.
New federal leaders usually boost their parties in pollsters' trial heats. John Turner and Kim Campbell were shoo-ins for PM in polls before they took office. Compared with them, Day's impact so far is pathetic.
In an Angus Reid Group poll for the Globe and Mail that finished the same day as NOW's survey, the Liberals led the Alliance 45 to 24 per cent nationally and 55 to 22 per cent in Ontario. In an Ekos Research poll that ran two days longer, the Liberals led 50 to 20 per cent nationally, 60 to 16 per cent in Ontario.
The new Alliance chief has the time, but does he have the talent to remake himself into something more saleable to Ontario? His first steps say no.
His musings about the Bloc Quebecois, suggesting a deal with the devil to unseat the Liberals, is anathema to sturdy Ontario. Day will rue the day he thought it.
Day's July 31 Globe and Mail column ("My faith in public life') was another goof. He sermonized about his "strong belief in a limited state' in a province boiling its water and stockpiling Imodium because its minimalist Tory government downsized the environment department.
In the same edition, the Globe's editorial writers advised, "We need a big and hard-eyed government' to keep tap water safe. Day, like Tom Long, forgets that the Common Sense Revolution ended in a little town called Walkerton.
"Some people continue to suggest that I harbour a hidden religious or moral agenda that I wish to impose on an unsuspecting Canadian public,' wrote the Alliance leader. As the NOW poll shows, Day is defensive for good reason.
Voter blocs such as well-educated upper-income professionals and executives, who should be seduced by Day's flat tax and evaporated government, say he's too extreme. Vote-rich Toronto-area ridings (including the 905 belt) find Day too scary.
However, the NOW poll confirms that Day appeals to rural, small-town, lower-income, blue-collar voters. These groups disagree that he's too right-wing for 24 Sussex Drive.
Alliance candidates could do well in rural ridings, where they might peel away arch-conservatives who were Tories in the 1997 election. Unless, of course, they're home boiling their water.