Ontario Premier Doug Ford visited the Lieutenant Governor today to dissolve the Legislature and officially call the province’s 43rd election on June 2.
With the 2022 Ontario budget now doubling as Premier Ford and his Progressive Conservative Party’s (PCs) unofficial campaign platform, they’re in the driver’s seat with most polls favouring another PC majority government, some giving them an 82% chance of doing so. As it was only tabled last week, the Ontario Legislature was dissolved before the budget could be debated or voted on.
Fortunately for Ontario’s opposition parties, election campaigns matter. The NDP, Liberals, Greens, and others will need to make their case to Ontario voters over the next 30 days about why they are the best alternative to the PCs. The biggest challenge for all parties is overcoming potential voter fatigue and voter apathy, having just gone through a federal election last fall.
While the worst of COVID-19 is hopefully in the rearview, we are still likely to see the effects of the pandemic and associated lockdowns, a vulnerable healthcare system, rising inflation and the cost of living dominate the election campaign.
Now that the writ has been issued, Ontario’s provincial election campaign is officially underway and below are key considerations for each of the major political parties.
Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives
The Ontario PCs have 67 incumbent MPPs though some of them are not seeking re-election, notably former Minister of Health and Deputy Premier Christine Elliot who played a key role in Ontario’s response to COVID-19, as well as former Finance Minister Rod Phillips.
Expect Ontario PC Leader Doug Ford and key high-profile candidates to spend a lot of time campaigning in the 905 ridings around Toronto that often decide provincial and federal elections. The Ontario PCs’ path to a majority government is through ridings in Mississauga, York, Vaughan, Durham, and the suburban Toronto ridings in Scarborough, North York, and Etobicoke.
In addition to running on their four-year record of governing including through two years of the pandemic, the PCs will be campaigning on their proposed infrastructure investments in highways, transit and hospitals, and small business growth, but most importantly on their bid to make life more affordable while enabling a strong economic recovery.
Andrea Horwath’s NDP
The Ontario NDP is again being led by Andrea Horwath for her fourth election campaign at the helm. With 38 sitting MPPs from the 2018 election, the Official Opposition must make gains in smaller cities and suburban ridings like the 905 if they are to have a shot at forming government.
Additionally, the NDP will have to fight off a Liberal challenge for key urban ridings, such as in as Toronto and Ottawa. Incumbent NDP candidates in orange urban ridings will need to win for the NDP to stay competitive in this election.
The NDP will be equally focused on making life more affordable for Ontarians dealing with the lasting impacts of the pandemic, having touted a potential income tax freeze for low-income and middle-income households. They will also look to improve the province’s healthcare system by investing in hospital infrastructure, ending for-profit long-term care as well as healthcare and support workers.
Steven Del Duca’s Liberals
While the NDP have been Ontario’s Official Opposition, the Ontario Liberals are positioning themselves to reenter the conversation as the party best suited to replace the incumbent government. Party Leader Steven Del Duca, a former Minister of Transportation and Economic Development in former Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne’s government, has been focusing on policy over personality in the lead-up to the campaign, announcing this week that a Liberal government would introduce a “buck-a-ride” program that would offer $1 transit fares across the province in a bid to increase ridership that is still recovering from COVID-19.
With only seven sitting MPPs in the legislature following the tough 2018 election, the Ontario Liberal Party has a long way to go and must be competitive in urban ridings and suburban 905 ridings to have a chance at forming government. If Steven Del Duca cannot win back traditional Liberal seats that went NDP in 2018, they simply do not have a chance in the election.
Greens and Independents
Mike Schreiner’s Green Party will look to gather some steam and increase their seat count to more than the one that Schreiner currently represents in Guelph.
Former NDP MPP Paul Miller will be running as an independent amid controversy. It remains to be seen if he can win a seat he’s held since 2007, and how the vote split might prevent an NDP MPP from being elected.
The start-up New Blue Party of Ontario, which was founded by Cambridge MPP Belinda Karahalios after she was ousted from the PC Caucus and her husband, will be running candidates across the province, which could impact how the PCs fare in some ridings. Other new breakaway conservative parties include Derek Sloan’s Ontario Party.
We will see the party leaders first in the Northern Ontario debate on May 10 and then, on May 16, they will take the podiums to participate in Ontario’s Leaders Debate. The future of Ontario is in now in voters’ hands.
NATIONAL will be publishing a series of perspective pieces through the next month, as Ontarians head to polls. Stay tuned for regular updates or get in touch with our experts in Public Affairs and Government Relations if you have questions on how this may impact your organization.
——— Troy Aharonian is a former Senior Consultant at NATIONAL Public Relations
——— Yonatan Belete is a former Consultant at NATIONAL Public Relations