Q+A: 338Canada breaks down the polls
And what the parties can do to shake up the campaign
ABOVE THE FOLD
It’s the final stretch of the campaign — and not much has changed since day one. The PCs continue to lead the polls handily, while the Liberals and NDP jockey for second place. Is there enough time to change course? Will strategic voting work? Where are the Tories vulnerable? And can the fringe parties pick up seats?
To help make sense of it all, I spoke with 338Canada’s electoral analyst and polling expert PHILIPPE J. FOURNIER:
It’s been a relatively sleepy campaign with the same storylines throughout. Are you as bored as the rest of us? I am kind of bored, but I may have recency bias here. Growing up in Quebec, our elections have always been compelling — and Ontario, generally, is kind of boring. I figured, maybe it feels like not a lot of people follow this. Maybe there’s a bit of Covid fatigue. Maybe the leaders are not that compelling in the first place.
Let’s dig into that. Voter apathy tends to favour the status quo. The desire-for-change metric hasn’t been as high as in previous elections or moved much since the start of the campaign. Then there’s a big chunk of undecided voters. What does all that tell you about how things will go on election night? When we crunch the numbers, it’s not that we don’t pay attention to the undecideds, it’s just that it’s rare that there’s a sudden movement, that most undecideds will actually go to one party instead of another. The 2018 election in Quebec was one of those elections where polls post-election show that in the last weekend, the vast majority of undecideds all went to the CAQ, and that’s why polls missed the CAQ by four or five points. But that’s rare. Usually, undecideds either don’t vote, or vote in similar proportion to the rest of the population in the end.
Undecideds would have to go to the campaign that has the most momentum, to a compelling leader, the one that has a storyline. And I don’t think that’s either STEVEN DEL DUCA or ANDREA HORWATH.
How does that benefit the frontrunner PCs? I’m looking at the numbers and the age breakdown is stunning. We know that usually Conservative parties throughout Canada and also the United States, they do better with older people, but if you lead the 60-and-over crowd by 25 points, that means that a low turnout election could really be a blowout, because the low turnout will be among young people. It won't be among the 60-plus population — it never is.
Observers and pollsters have been all over the place, simultaneously suggesting the NDP is overtaking the Liberals while the Grits have the best shot at chipping away at a PC victory. What gives? This may sound a bit dumb, but it’s really not — all these takes are valid. The NDP will lose seats — they won 40 in 2018; they’re not going to get close to that. But will they lose enough seats to lose Official Opposition status? I’m not too sure about that. This may be nerd stuff, but the Liberals and NDP, their seat distribution probability is very different.
Meaning: the NDP can count on many solid seats that most likely they will not lose — and that’s a good base for any party to have. However, they’re not competitive in enough ridings. I mean, how many 905 ridings will be NDP — one or two Brampton’s? That’s not enough. Whereas the Liberals, although they’re not leading in many of those seats, they’re at least competitive. So if the Liberals win — let’s say 30 per cent of the vote, which is a bit above what they’re polling at right now — a two-point difference could make a 15 or 20 seat difference. Whereas the NDP, if it polls two points higher than they are right now, it doesn’t make a difference.
Which party would you bet on for Official Opposition then? Does strategic voting work? The NDP has a higher floor, the Liberals have a higher ceiling. So if you really want those anti-Ford voters to reduce Ford to a minority, strategically, in many of those places in Toronto and the 905, they have to vote Liberal. I don’t want to seem partisan — that’s just what the numbers say. There’s a lot of animosity between the NDP and the Liberals of course, and you would need tens of thousands of people voting strategically in many places — I don’t think that will happen. For second place, the Liberals have a better shot, but let’s say the Liberal vote is depressed and they don’t have a good get-out-the-vote machine — the NDP could still finish second.
The Greens are gunning hard for Parry Sound—Muskoka. Can they eke out a win? It’s the only place where they could realistically win [a second seat]. It’s really similar to what happened in Kitchener Centre at the federal level — no Liberal to vote for, and the Greens had a good result in that riding before. So perhaps some Liberals figured, ‘you know what, we don’t want to help the NDP, but we don’t mind another Green legislator,’ so I could see that happening. But if you look at 2018, the PCs crushed Parry Sound—Muskoka — it wasn’t close. You would need all those Liberal voters to go to the Greens. It’s plausible, but it’s not the most likely scenario.
Are there any ridings where the PCs are vulnerable? Scarborough, at the federal level, is red, so you have a strong Liberal brand. If the PCs get too cocky and don't get their vote out on Election Day, those could be ones to watch. To a lesser extent, I would say parts of Southwestern Ontario, around Windsor, where MAXIME BERNIER and the People’s Party of Canada did very well at the federal level. So could those two new right-wing parties [the New Blues and Ontario Party] eat up the PC vote in those areas? It’s possible, but we’re just talking about a handful of seats — it would not be enough to challenge for power.
With one week to go, what would need to happen to change the course of what the polls have pretty much been saying since day one? Unless there’s a scandal that has three-inch thick letters in the newspapers — I don’t see it happening. If I’m the NDP, I’m playing defence: I’m going back to St. Catharines, Niagara, Windsor, London — I’m trying to hold on to as many seats as possible. If I’m the Liberals, I don’t leave the 416 and the 905 until the end. This is where the Liberals can make the greatest gains. Then, perhaps Doug Ford has [a minority with] 60 seats — and then: drama. Wouldn’t that be fun, from an observer’s point of view? But I would be extremely surprised.
WHERE THE LEADERS ARE AT — 9 a.m.: Horwath is in Brampton North to pump up her plan to end hallway medicine. She then heads to Waterloo, Kitchener, and Wellington—Halton Hills.
— 9 a.m.: Del Duca is in Richmond Hill to talk about ending for-profit elder care. He’ll also hit up Markham, Don Valley East and Ajax.
— 9:30 a.m.: Schreiner and Parry Sound—Muskoka candidate MATT RICHTER will be on Zoom to tout an endorsement from SEIU. Schreiner is also canvassing on his home turf in Guelph.
— 7:30 p.m.: Ford will rally the troops in Steeltown, Horwath’s territory, and swing through Hamilton West—Ancaster Dundas and Hamilton East—Stoney Creek.
— PROBES APLENTY: The PCs “were forced to launch an internal investigation into the campaign financing of Willowdale candidate STAN CHO after allegations from a competing campaign about an improper corporate donation.” Story from Global News: “Lawyers for the Ontario Liberal Party sent a letter to Elections Ontario requesting an official investigation after a business owner pledged to pay volunteers overtime in exchange for helping Cho’s campaign. The Liberals claimed that constitutes an ‘illegal donation.’”
Meanwhile: The Grits are asking the Ontario Provincial Police to investigate “the incorporation of 15 companies or associations linked to a Progressive Conservative MPP who’s seeking re-election on June 2. Documents viewed by CBC News, which the Liberals said were sent directly to OPP Commissioner THOMAS CARRIQUE, show VINCENT KE’s staff and their family members set up a series of corporations after he was elected as MPP for the Toronto riding of Don Valley North in 2018. However, PC Leader DOUG FORD said Wednesday morning that the Liberals’ information is inaccurate. PC Party officials say no investigation is warranted because there is nothing wrong with the creation of any of the corporations, several of which are non-profit cultural associations.”
— SIGNED, SEALED, NOT DELIVERED: Four “people are coming forward to say they did not sign the nomination papers of a last-minute Southwestern Ontario Liberal candidate, prompting NDP officials to call for her removal.” More from the Chatham Daily News: “TARAS NATYSHAK, outgoing NDP MPP for Essex, said Wednesday there is now ‘clear evidence of fraud’ in the Liberal Party’s efforts ‘to try to improperly register their candidate on the ballot in Chatham-Kent—Leamington.’” Background: “The Liberal candidate, AUDREY FESTERYGA, replaced ALEC MAZUREK just hours before the nomination deadline after the NDP uncovered social media posts Mazurek wrote as a teen that contained anti-gay slurs. NDP officials have since alleged the Liberals recycled signatures from Mazurek’s nomination papers for their new candidate.”
— ROAD RAGE: In the Sault, the NDP is “suggesting that local PC candidate ROSS ROMANO lives in Sudbury and rents a downtown Toronto parking space for $300 a month. The release went on to say the Sault’s incumbent sent parking fees to his PC association, which have apparently totalled over $5,000. In a response on Twitter, Romano called on NDP leader ANDREA HORWATH to take down the release and issue an immediate apology. ‘These types of lies are dangerous, and Ontarians deserve so much better,’ he says.” SooToday has the story.
— BIG-BOX BIAS: Grit Leader STEVEN DEL DUCA slammed DOUG FORD for being “the puppet of Big-Box billionaires,” promising to raise taxes on corporate profits over $1 billion and force mega-grocery chains to hold “fair and open negotiations with farmers.”
— $64-MENTAL HEALTH CARE: The Liberals also poked holes in the NDP’s pledge for universal mental health care under OHIP, claiming that it will only cover $64 per year. The NDP fired back that the Grits were “wrong” and “misguided,” noting the costed plan is based on StatsCan data.
— TOEING THE PARTY LINE (OR NOT): The Tory war room is underscoring more inconsistencies among Liberal candidates over the controversial Bradford Bypass:
— UBER LOBBY: The Globe delves into “How Uber got almost everything it wanted in Ontario’s Working For Workers Act: From the summer of 2021 up until Bill 88 was passed, Uber lobbyists met repeatedly with provincial policy makers in an effort to obtain a legislative guarantee that its drivers and delivery couriers would not be redefined as employees.”
— THE OL’ COLLEGE TRY: “One of DOUG FORD’s Ontario PC candidates ran a private career college that was shut down after the Government of Ontario found it ran an unaccredited program, ‘misled students’ and failed to act ‘in accordance with law and with integrity and honesty.’” Left-leaning outlet PressProgress has the skinny: “Although BRET SNIDER, a well-connected developer turned Ontario PC candidate, has no details whatsoever about his biography on his official website or Facebook page, Ford’s candidate in Scarborough Southwest previously owned a private career college called the York College of Industry and Technology.”
— ON THE SPECTRUM: “Ontario’s autism program has undergone four major revamps in the past six years, and has seen five different ministers in charge,” the Canadian Press reports. “Three of Ontario’s major political parties are proposing changes to the province’s autism services, aimed at remedying what they see as the mistakes with the current program.”
— THE DOWN-LOH: “Dr. LAWRENCE LOH, the Region of Peel’s medical officer of health, is set to depart his role in Ontario public health to become the CEO and executive director of the College of Family Physicians of Canada.” Global’s got details.
Former PC leader TIM HUDAK headlining a Liberal candidate’s fundraising event — much to the chagrin of the NDP…The Beaverton firing a satirical shot at the Star’s coverage of DOUG FORD 2.0…The Grits ratio’ed on Twitter after they enlisted a dancing chicken mascot to call out debate-dodging PC candidates:
The PCs are racking up more union endorsements, from the HVAC&R Workers of Ontario Local 787 and the Residential Construction Council of Ontario…The Ontario Federation of Labour is backing the NDP.
🥳 HAPPY BIRTHDAY: PATRICK BROWN, Mayor of Brampton and ex-PC leader…JOHN BAIRD, former provincial and federal Tory minister.
⏳ COUNTDOWN: T-minus 7 days until the Election…2 days until advance polls close.