Philippe J. Fournier: A first look at Ontario’s election projection shows numbers significantly different from 2018, but PCs continue to benefit from divided opposition
We may still be eight months away from the 2022 Ontario general election, but it looks like the pre-campaign has already begun. Shortly after, the lieutenant-gov. Elizabeth Dowdeswell delivered Prime Minister Doug Ford’s latest throne speech in early October, New Democrats and Progressive Conservatives (PCs) embarked on a publicity blitz trying to define themselves and their opponents with next spring’s election in mind. . new Léger poll released by Postmedia earlier this weekThe power rush in Queen’s Park could potentially boil down to a handful of points for or against each side.
According to Léger, PC Party by Doug Ford remains in the lead with 35% of voting intentions across the province, a substantial but modest 5-point advantage over the Liberal Party of Ontario (PLO). NDP by Andrea Horwath occupies the third place with 25%. These numbers are dramatically different from the outcome of the 2018 election, when PCs secured a majority with nearly 41% of the popular vote. The NDP had gotten just under 34%, and the Liberals, who had been in power for the past 15 years, plummeted to just under 20%.
PCs from Ontario should therefore still be considered favorites right now, especially with a double-digit lead in the rich region of GTA-905 (from 41 to 29 per cent for the PLO, according to Léger). However, as we’ll see below, these numbers suggest that the PCs would need several close divisions to keep their majority in Queen’s Park. If Ontario Liberals went back to the low 30s with popular support, the most likely result would be that the CP would get a plurality, but not a majority, of seats in the Ontario legislature.
However, the PLO re-entering contention remains a big “if”. While the Liberals were second in voting intentions, leader Steven Del Duca still has the lowest profile of the party’s top leaders. Indeed, Léger’s poll measures that fewer Ontario voters have positive impressions of Del Duca (25%) than Premier Ford (38%) and opposition leader Andrea Horwath (37%).
However, Del Duca’s low notoriety also means he’s not perceived as a polarizing figure like Ford, of whom 54 percent of voters have a negative impression. NDP leader Andrea Horwath also has a high level of negative impressions with 41%. According to Léger’s latest numbers, only 32 percent of Ontario voters view Del Duca negatively. (In fact, all Ontario party leaders, including Ontario Green Party leader Mike Schreiner, gets net negative impressions among voters).
As previously mentioned, if the Ontario elections had been held this week, the most likely scenario would have been that Doug Ford’s PC had won the most seats, but not won the majority. According to 338 model Canada Ontario, the PCs get an average of 53 seats, 10 seats below the 63-seat majority threshold. Ontario liberals average 45 seats and Ontario’s NDP drops to 25 seats.
As you can see in the table below, the seat distributions for PLO and PC are highly skewed. The CP holds the top floor of all parties and is currently the only party whose confidence interval extends into majority territory. In contrast, the PLO’s ceiling extends just below the 60 seat mark, while the seat floor drops down to the low 20s. Such large and erratic distributions occur when there are a large number of close-to-three races, which tend to be much more unpredictable.
It’s no secret that Doug Ford benefited from a split of the center and center-left vote in 2018 and Léger’s new numbers indicate that a near-fair split of the non-PC vote remains the most likely path to re-election for Ford. Still enjoying more support than traditional NDP levels in Ontario, she has not yet been able to portray herself and her party as the most suitable replacement for Ford according to available polling data. While Del Duca is still unknown to many Ontario voters, which in itself poses a major challenge for the PLO, these data suggest he has more room to grow among opposition party leaders.
Additionally, Andrea Horwath could face major hurdles in getting her party’s vote at election time, a similar challenge to the federal NDP in last month’s federal election. As in the case of Jagmeet Singh’s NDP, Léger measures support for Ontario’s NDP highest among voters aged 19-34 (34 percent) and lowest among voters aged 55+ (22 percent). Let’s remember it many pollsters had federal NDPs of 20 percent or more along the stretch, but the party only got 17.8 percent of the popular vote. This is the unfortunate trend of political parties enjoying high popularity among young demographics.
Eight months from the end, these first projections have no predictive value, but allow us to imagine several interesting hypothetical scenarios, not the least of which would be: Doug Ford could remain Premier if the PC wins the most seats, but fails to keep the majority? Could the possibility of ousting Ford be enough to cool the obvious animosity between the PLO and the NDP? Will one of these parties be able to merge the anti-Ford vote?
We will be following these numbers closely in the coming months.
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