With less than a week until election day, a few outcomes remain undecided in key ridings across the Ontario.
As of today, aggregate polling is still predicting a majority government for Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives (PCs) with the Ontario Liberals and New Democratic Party both competing for second place and the Official Opposition.
However, if recent history has taught us something it is that anything is truly possible, come election day. Every riding matters because every seat matters. From the 416 to the 905, and all the way up to the Ring of Fire, each party is hoping to come out ahead in some critical regions for a chance at forming government, or at the very least, Official Opposition. Below are some key ridings that you need to watch.
Liberal leader, Steven Del Duca, was the former MPP for the riding of Vaughan—Woodbridge prior to the Wynne government’s defeat in 2018. He lost the seat by an 8,000-vote margin and is now running against incumbent MPP Michael Tibollo with the hopes of winning back the riding. Del Duca is currently the only party leader who does not hold a seat in the Ontario Legislature.
The question remains—if Del Duca is unable to win back this seat, what is his fate as the newly elected leader of the Party? There are two likely scenarios: the first is if the Liberals form Official Opposition and Del Duca loses his riding he can ask a newly elected Liberal MPP from a safe riding to resign their seat for the leader. The second scenario is one where the Liberals remain in third place and Del Duca loses his seat. In either case, the question will arise among Ontario Liberals whether Del Duca remains as leader or steps aside.
The “905” (Mississauga and Brampton ridings)
Mississauga and Brampton ridings, commonly referred to as the “905”, play a critical role in each election. For example, for the past 30 years, every Mississauga seat has gone to the party that formed government. The PC incumbents in the six Mississauga ridings are all seeking re-election.
Of the five ridings in Brampton, two are held by the NDP, one by a former NDP and current Independent, and two are held by the PCs, one of them being Ontario’s Treasury Board President, Minister Prabmeet Sarkaria who is in Ford’s Cabinet. Brampton North remains a riding of concern for the NDP, as their incumbent candidate lost the nomination. MPP Kevin Yarde made the decision to leave the NDP caucus after losing the nomination. Members of the NDP Black Caucus have questioned party leadership and what role race had to play in Yarde’s loss.
Brampton East is currently held by MPP Gurratan Singh, who is the brother of Canada’s NDP leader, Jagmeet Singh. While polling projections have not been released, he could face quite the battle against Hardeep Grewal, an up-and-coming PC and Ford insider who at the age of 18 was elected as one of the youngest riding presidents in the party’s history for Etobicoke North and served as the regional director for the Ontario PC Fund.
Hamilton East—Stoney Creek
Hamilton East—Stoney Creek incumbent, Paul Miller, is seeking re-election as an Independent after a recent falling out with the Ontario NDP. He is pursuing legal action against the party but remains focused on holding the riding that he has served for the past 15 years.
Will the NDP lose the Hamilton seat to an Independent? Or will the Liberals and PCs take advantage of the potential split among NDP voters? This will be an important part of the equation in NDP leader Andrea Horwath’s road to what she defines as a victory.
York South—Weston is one of several ridings where candidates have joined the provincial race from municipal politics. This area has historically been a Liberal stronghold since 2007 but is currently represented by NDP MPP Faisal Hassan.
Toronto City Councillor Michael Ford, nephew of Premier Doug Ford and former Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, is the PC candidate.
It will be interesting to see if the PC momentum will extend to an opposition riding and if Ford Nation can steal an NDP seat in a traditionally Liberal riding.
Don Valley West
Don Valley West continues to be linked to former Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne who has held the riding since 2003. Since announcing that she will not be seeking re-election, this riding has been one to watch. The PCs are likely looking to add this to their seat count, and they have a star candidate to help potentially make that happen.
Following the highly covered resignation of Toronto Chief of Police, Mark Saunders, Ontarians were surprised when he announced his intent to run as a PC candidate. Saunders follows in the footsteps of former Toronto Police Chiefs Julian Fantino and Bill Blair who both made the jump from policing to politics and both of whom upon election were named to their respective Cabinets. It must be noted that recent polls are showing the Liberals in contention to retain the seat with candidate Stephanie Bowman, a longtime financial executive and Bank of Canada board member.
Cambridge is now home to the only sitting member of the New Blue Party. Following her removal from the PC caucus, MPP Belinda Karahalios went on to form the party alongside her husband, Jim Karahalios, who is the leader.
Across Ontario, the party is slowly gaining some notoriety with people becoming curious about its origins as candidate lawn signs continue to pop up. The party has taken a unique stance, particularly related to its strong opinions against all COVID-19 public health measures.
The real risk they pose is the percentage of the vote they can take away from Ford’s PCs.
In Cambridge, while Karahalios does not have much history with the riding beyond her success in the 2014 election, her incumbency will be a key factor in this riding to watch. Her removal from the PC Caucus came after voting against an emergency legislation bill that would give the government increased authority during the pandemic. Her vote seemed to have resonated with her constituents in what she described as “sticking up for the people of Ontario.” This perceived loyalty could impact decision making among voters in her riding.
Sault Ste. Marie
In Northern Ontario, incumbent Minister Ross Romano is seeking re-election. Independent nominee Naomi Sayers is an Indigenous lawyer who is challenging Romano for his seat. Sayers initially sought the Liberal nomination but was rejected following a thorough vetting process, though she contends that it was due to concerns around her strong social media presence. While it is unclear the impact she will have on the final vote count, she is certainly a vocal candidate and one to keep your eye on over the next few days.
Incumbent MPP Norm Miller is not seeking re-election after holding the seat since 2002. There is also no Liberal candidate in the riding following the party’s decision to remove the candidate that was initially nominated after much controversy related to his book which shared his unfounded and offensive views on the “cause” of homosexuality. Green candidate Matt Ritcher has a real chance to take this riding, which would give the party its second seat in Ontario. While still uncertain, this would prove a historic win for the Ontario Greens, particularly given that this riding has been a PC stronghold.
We are now less than one week away from election day
While we have only focused on a handful of ridings above, there are several more which could change the trajectory of the Ontario Liberals and NDP and move the province away from historical voting precedent. The PCs need to spend the next six days making more inroads in urban settings as well as traditional NDP ridings in Windsor, Oshawa, London, and Hamilton. These are the same ridings that the Liberals are also looking to capitalize on. Though, the primary focus for the PCs will be holding onto seats that they took from the Liberals in the 2018 election. In addition to the ones mentioned above, York Centre and Eglinton—Lawrence are both critical to a safe path to victory.
The NDP must maintain momentum and hold on to their existing seats, while making inroads where possible. Losing seats to the Liberals will significantly impact their chances. If unsuccessful, Andrea Horwath’s leadership of the party will come into question, as this could become her fourth election without a victory.
The Ontario Liberals have gained attention with a new leader and a whole slate of new candidates in this election. Their focus will be winning back the 416 ridings that went NDP and 905 ridings that went PC in 2018. The Greens will look to hold their existing riding of Guelph and increase their seat count to two.
NATIONAL will continue to monitor political and industry reactions and provide further updates. Our next perspective piece will be released on Friday, June 3 providing an overview of the election results. As always, our team of Public Affairs experts are available to provide further insights and analysis on how this election could impact your organization.
——— Luc Levasseur is a former Senior Vice-President, Practice Lead at NATIONAL Public Relations