In six months, Ontarians will go to the polls to elect their provincial government. The June 2, 2022 ballot will be an opportunity for Premier Doug Ford to ask voters for a second term.
Despite the government’s unremarkable performance, described by some as mediocre, conditions appear to be in favor of the Progressive Conservative Party, which could hope to be re-elected. However, it does not enjoy a parliamentary majority.
History shows that at the provincial level, voters like to elect a party of different colors than those in power in Ottawa, in order to strike an ideological balance in governing the Union.
Since 1987, there has been only one Ontario government of the same color as the federal government. Such was the case with Dalton McGinty’s Liberal Ontario government, elected in 2003 during Ottawa’s Liberal Government.
This anomaly can be explained by the fact that at that time the right was divided between the Canadian Alliance and the Canadian Progressive Conservative Party, allowing liberals to dominate the political spectrum.
By being re-elected in Ottawa in 2021, Justin Trudeau’s already liberal government has given Ford a boost in spite of itself.
Traditionally, too, the outgoing government has an advantage in elections, especially when it is running for a second term. Canadian political parties usually rule for two terms before voters present them at the door.
The Progressive Conservative government in Ontario has been elected only once under Ford and is not yet suffering from the erosion of power. So the second term is possible. In addition, monopolized by the epidemic management, Ford did not have the opportunity to fully implement the 2018 program.
The pandemic will play a role in Ford’s reelection, too, but it’s a double-edged sword.
On the other hand, the governments that were in place when COVID-19 arrived in the country enjoyed a certain popularity among the population. With one exception (the government of Nova Scotia), they were re-elected.
But at the same time, it is inevitable that Ford will be judged on how he handled the health crisis. So far, his government has been criticized for the extended lockdowns and the accelerated reopening of the economy before the third wave, as well as for not using rapid tests.
Many Ontarians have suffered financially and psychologically from the pandemic. However, if there is a good chance that the pandemic will be resolved (or nearly) next June, it is unlikely to be the main issue for the election.
Secondary consequences of the pandemic, such as inflation, will be at the forefront of concerns during the election campaign. Canadian voters tend to trust conservative parties more to deal with economic issues. This, again, could benefit Ford.
Ontario’s political scene
The latest polls confirm that Ford is ahead of its political opponents. However, it does not enjoy the overwhelming support of 2018.
The gap between the Progressive Conservative Party and its biggest rival, the Liberal Party, is narrowing. But neoliberal leader Stephen Del Duca remains unknown to Ontarians. He also has a lot of work to do to straighten out his party since it was reduced to a group of seven members in the last election.
The official opposition in Queens Park, NDP leader Andrea Horwath, enjoys undeniable personal popularity. However, his party’s voting intentions waned for several months, putting Ontario’s New Democratic Party in third place.
It is the great suburb of Toronto, with its enormous electoral weight, which will have a decisive influence on the outcome of the next election.
Here, Ford cannot hope to retain all the seats he won in 2018. However, he can count on close three-way struggles, as the Liberals and the New Democrats split the left vote and allow the Conservatives to advance.
Of course, six months is a long time in politics and many unknown women can confuse this issue. However, it can be argued that stars are queuing up for Ford’s re-election in Ontario, whether as prime minister leading a majority government or a minority government.
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