With just two days of campaigning left until Thursday’s election in Ontario, the Liberal and New Democrat campaigns are coming to grips with the reality that only two scenarios could realistically play out on Thursday night: either Doug Ford wins another majority or he and his PC Party fall just a few seats short.
All reputable Ontario polling aggregator sites — including the CBC Ontario Poll Tracker, the Signal by Vox Pop Labs for the Toronto Star, and the iPolitics/Mainstreet Research election dashboard — are forecasting a Progressive Conservative majority as the most likely outcome.
That does not mean a Ford majority is a foregone conclusion. But it does mean the Liberals and the NDP have their work cut out for them to stop it.
One potential result envisioned by the polling aggregator sites: that Ford’s PCs could win more seats than in 2018 with less of the popular vote, while Andrea Horwath’s NDP could end up as the official opposition despite taking a smaller overall share of the vote than Steven Del Duca’s Liberals.
Still, both the Liberals and the NDP claim there is a path — albeit narrow — that sees votes falling just the right way in the right ridings to keep the PCs below the magic number of 63 seats for a majority. Meanwhile, the PCs are oozing confidence, but say they are not taking victory for granted.
All the parties will now be targeting additional resources to the ridings where their polling tells them the races are the tightest.
That can take the form of moving in extra volunteers from seats that are either seen as safe or unwinnable, blanketing those close ridings with radio ads, or sending in the party leader.
Ford alluded to that on Monday just a few hours ahead of his trip to Windsor-Tecumseh, a riding the PCs are aiming to pick up from the New Democrats.
“We’re travelling all around the province, we’re going to Windsor and going to try to shore up some votes there,” Ford said Monday during his only stop in Ottawa of the four-week campaign.
Meanwhile, the dynamic between the NDP and the Liberals is at best messy and at worst nasty.
“Right across Ontario, there is only one way to stop Doug Ford, and the only way to stop Doug Ford is to vote for the Ontario Liberals,” Del Duca said Monday morning.
Within the hour, Horwath responded to Del Duca’s claim. “On the contrary, it’s the NDP that has momentum right now.”
The reality is that Ford will waltz to another majority unless votes swing to whichever party is best positioned to defeat the PC candidate in each riding where the Progressive Conservatives are vulnerable. In some ridings, that’s a Liberal, in others it’s a New Democrat and in one riding it could be a Green, judging by how often Mike Schreiner has visited Parry Sound-Muskoka.
Yet in their continuing battle to position themselves as the “only” alternative to the PCs, the NDP-Liberal dogfight is actually undermining each others’ efforts to halt a Ford majority.
In Vaughan-Woodbridge, where Del Duca is trying to win a seat against PC incumbent MIchael Tibollo, the NDP is running Facebook ads saying “Only Andrea Horwath and the NDP can beat Doug Ford.”
In 2018, the NDP candidate in Vaughan-Woodbridge came a distant third, more than 15,000 votes behind Tibollo and nearly 7,500 votes behind Del Duca.
The NDP decision to send Horwath on Monday to the ridings of Peterborough-Kawartha and Ottawa West-Nepean incensed the Liberals, who claim only they can beat the PC incumbents in those ridings — even though the NDP finished a close second in both in 2018.
“By heading to those two ridings, Horwath is making it clear that her only focus is clinging to the leadership of the NDP,” said a senior Liberal campaign official who agreed to speak only on condition of anonymity to discuss party strategy.
“What utter desperation and unhinged mudslinging by the Steven Del Duca campaign,” said a senior NDP campaign official in response. “These are ridings the Liberals don’t have a hope in heck of winning, and the NDP came within a hair of winning last time.”
The New Democrats are equally incensed that Del Duca’s tour Monday went to Kitchener Centre, where there is an NDP incumbent.
“The Liberals have campaigned almost exclusively in NDP ridings, while the NDP has worked tirelessly to defeat Doug Ford,” said the official.
The acrimony between the Liberals and New Democrats is arguably as intense as their bitterness toward the Progressive Conservatives.
But it was never in the cards that the two parties would call some sort of truce and actually collaborate to unseat Ford. Just think back to the last Ontario campaign, only four years ago.
Even when Kathleen Wynne publicly admitted that she was going to lose the election, she did not call on Ontarians to vote strategically to stop Ford from becoming premier. She kept on telling people to vote Liberal.
“The more Liberal MPPs we send to Queen’s Park on June 7, the less likely it becomes that either Doug Ford or the NDP will be able to form a majority government,” Wynne said on June 2, 2018.
That’s not a thing the New Democrats are willing to forgive and forget.