Now that the province of Ontario is in the midst of a new provincial election there are a few things interested folk can look for that could signal greater trends. Some of these trends will not be evident until the votes are ultimately counted, but polling may indicate which was these trends are moving.
1 – Turnout
Trend lines suggest that turnout in Ontario will continue to decline. I am of the opinion that turnout will rebound to above 50% in this election. 2011 was a toxic, unpleasant campaign and was led by untested leaders: Tim Hudak (PCPO – Niagara West-Glanbrook) and Andrea Horwath (ONDP – Hamilton Centre). Members of the Queen’s Park press have remarked on their improved campaign performance campaign. Ontario will be given better choices this time around.
2 – Will there be a swing to the Progressive Conservatives, and if so, how big?
The Tories are the Official Opposition. If the people of Ontario decide to replace the current government their primary alternative will be Mr. Hudak’s party. Critics of the government will park their vote there even if they remain undecided. As the expression goes, opposition parties aren’t elected, governments are thrown out. The Tories have seemed to been frozen at about 35% for a long time. Can the Tories break through, or will they be stuck as on the opposition benches?
3 – Return of the Liberal Vote
Many Liberal voters were sick of former Premier Dalton McGuinty by the time he left office. His government felt tired and corrupt. I have a suspicion that voter turnout was so anemic in 2011 in part because of Liberal vote decline. Kathleen Wynne (OLP – Don Valley West) is a fresh face and offers Liberal voters a chance to come home without feeling guilty or ashamed. This is part of the reason I believe turnout will increase this time around.
4 – Ontario NDP vote in Brampton
Jagmeet Singh (ONDP – Bramlea-Gore-Malton) is one of the stars of the party. More importantly his team has been building a network inside Brampton. Before the election I was very curious if the ONDP would be able to snag the neighbouring Brampton-Springdale in a by-election. Nationwide and in Ontario the NDP has been working hard to appeal to Sikh voters and South Asian voters more generally. There is a real question whether or not they can make an impact and win additional ridings in Brampton, and perhaps elsewhere in the GTA.
5 – ONDP support in Southwest Ontario
Kitchener-Waterloo. London West. Windsor-Tecumseh. Three ridings the ONDP won in Southwestern Ontario and, with the exception of Windsor, they had a limited history in those ridings. Southwestern Ontario has suffered over many years as the deindustrialization of the province has gone unabated. Through a combination of blue-collar workers, and marginal middle class workers/professionals it appears the NDP has built a good coalition in the region. Don’t forget that the ONDP won Essex in 2011’s general election. It will be interesting to see if they can hold these gains and expand to ridings such as elsewhere in London, Brant, Sarnia and maybe even the rural parts of the region.
Anyone who can answer those five questions, or accurately predict those trends will have a pretty good idea what Queen’s Park will look like after June 12th. I would recommend tracking the signs that might clear up those questions.