Ontario Election Primer 2018: its a crapshoot

Going for himLuck of the Irish. Also, one of the best BSers in the business, not to mention friends at.


Going for him

Luck of the Irish. Also, one of the best BSers in the business, not to mention friends at Postmedia (including Sun editor-in-chief Adrienne Batra, his brothers former press secretary) orchestrating a campaign against Wynne on his behalf. How else can a guy with the worst resume of the three main contenders be this close to the second-highest office in the land?

Going against him

Soft underbelly. Fords rep for saying some of the stupidest shit known to humankind is slowly catching up to him. There have already been a number of flip-flops, including this week on a secret pledge to developers to open up the Greenbelt to development. For his supporters, it may all amount to zeroes. But for voters outside Toronto who may not be acquainted with his views on race, for example, it amounts to a wake-up call.

The lowdown

Hes running scared. Despite the For the People rhetoric, Fords handlers have him playing hide-and-seek with the media, trotting him out for special announcements, then shooing him out the door before he can say anything dubious that can be played on a loop on the six oclock news. Weve seen this playbook before. Harper used it during the last federal election. Some of the leftovers from that campaign are also behind Fords bid. The bigger problem for Ford are those in the party hes upset by reversing a number of nominations that took place under his predecessor, Patrick Brown, and his recent move to appoint candidates of his own in a dozen ridings after promising to hold nominations. For party faithful not enamoured of the leader, its getting harder to fall in line.

Going for her

A lefty election platform, finally. The NDP has decided not to get out-lefted by the Libs again. Its a smart move. With Ford tacking further right, theres more hay to be made for the NDP among Lib supporters than there is emphasizing pocketbook issues, as was done in 2014, to win small-c conservative voters in working-class enclaves in southwestern Ontario.

Going against her

Voter uncertainty, despite Horwaths personal likeability. Also, trouble in her own backyard in Hamilton, where her handling of human rights complaints alleging bullying and discrimination by party staff against NDP MPPs Paul Miller and Monique Taylor has come under intense scrutiny. Horwath has stated that she will let processes currently underway run their course, but to some party insiders that looks like an avoidance strategy, especially given all the public discourse over #MeToo.

The lowdown

The NDP upped its popular vote in 2014 but failed to win more seats. While there were inroads in non-traditional areas, the party was mostly nowhere in the crucial 905 belt, where it remains an afterthought outside Oshawa. That could change in a handful of Brampton ridings, where Horwaths former deputy, federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, looks to play a role now that his younger brother is running in Brampton East.

Going for her

A decent record if you exclude privatizing half of Hydro One, which has opened the government up to ridicule from both left and right in light of its mostly failed attempts to rein in hydro rates. The grudging respect that comes with being a woman in politics and having to face down so many detractors. That may not be saying much, but for party faithful looking for something to hang on to, its a balm for fragile confidence.

Going against her

Voter fatigue. For Wynne, its do or die.

The lowdown

Shes been forced to put on a brave face with poll numbers showing her behind, but its a caring image that the Liberals are trying to present, hence the photo ops with seniors and children lately. The Liberals are relying on party brand, hoping that when folks enter the ballot box theyll be swayed by their local races more than who happens to be leader of the party. Most political observers say it will take a dramatic event for Wynne to win. Is there a surprise in store? Anything is possible with Ford. See Patrick Brown.

The experts weigh in on the shape of things to come in Ontario Election 2018

“Women voters will decide who the next premier will be. If they see Ford as too dangerous, that may be good news for Wynne and Horwath. If, however, women vote as they did in the U.S. presidential election in states like Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania that delivered Trump then we could be looking at a very robust majority for Ford.”

Marcel Wieder, president and CEO, Aurora Strategy Group

“The Liberals are in big trouble, but not enough to collapse. The PCs could end up winning nine seats in Toronto, which would be as many as Stephen Harper won in 2011.”

PC party confidant speaking on condition of anonymity

“The Liberals arent going to win arguing why people should vote for them. They have too much baggage. They need to provide reasons why not to vote for the PCs, and especially why not to vote for Ford. They need to make the case against Ford much better than they have been and win the battle for progressive voters with the NDP.”

Lorne Bozinoff, president, Forum Research Inc.

“Its Fords to lose. But this election is not about Ford. Its a referendum on the premier. On the other hand, from a PC perspective, we couldnt have given the Libs more to beat us up with.”

John Mykytyshyn, PCPO political consultant

Whos got it?

This election more than any other in Ontario history will be fought on social media, but getting out the vote involves more than just mobilizing Twitter and Facebook followers. Organization on the ground is the other half of the battle.

PCs

They have a clear advantage with more money and members than ever thanks mostly to former leader Patrick Browns efforts in many ethnic communities.

Tricky question for Ford: how many of those party members will hit the pavement for him now that hes tossed Browns election platform in the dustbin? The answer: theyll fall in line as long as Ford is leading in the polls. Theyre out once his numbers start to slide.

Libs

The Grits have a tested party machine thats won against the odds before. And with Ford in the race, theyre highly motivated despite Wynnes unpopularity.

NDP

The Dippers have a well-deserved rep for knowing how to get out their vote but, crucially, wont have the same level of support from unions this time given new campaign financing rules on third-party political involvement.

Conclusion

The party that can get to more voters at the door may end up winning this one.

The Green Party of Ontario is a decade removed from the height of its popularity in 2007-08, and has yet to win a seat in the Legislature, but leader Mike Schreiner is looking to change that in Guelph, where he finished a respectable third behind the PCs last time. The good news for Schreiner: his participation in debates will raise the partys profile and longtime Liberal incumbent Liz Sandals will not be seeking re-election in the riding. The bad news: we could see a repeat of 2011 and 2014 elections where hotly contested races between Libs and PCs ended up squeezing out the Green vote.

Go to nowtoronto.com/election2018 for complete riding profiles and the latest on Ontario Election 2018.

enzom@nowtoronto.com | @enzodimatteo

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