Tomorrow it's official. The writ will be drawn up, the Ontario Legislative Assembly will be dissolved and elections will be held on June 7th to form a new legislature and perhaps choose a new government. Good people who read this blog should brace themselves for awkward and uncomfortable conversations with friends, family members and coworkers. We should also be ready for a deeply ugly and divisive campaign.
As we enter the election I wanted to call out a few things that Ontarians should be mindful of as we prepare to collectively vote.
1. The Basics
Kathleen Wynne is leading a Liberal Party that has been in power since 2003. While she certainly offered some changes from her predecessor, Dalton McGuinty, voters rarely let political parties govern for more than ten years at a time. If Wynne receives a second mandate that will creep close to twenty. The Tories have been dogged by scandal that left them leaderless as Patrick Brown was forced to resign in disgrace. Wisely (sarcasm) the Tories selected Doug Ford to lead them into the election. This leaves a real opportunity for Andrea Horwath. More than a few Ontarians cannot stand Wynne or Ford. With a smooth campaign it could be an opportunity for the NDP to return to power for the first time since 1990. In addition, the chaos may prove valuable in getting Mike Schreiner and the Green Party their first seat.
2. One Hundred and Twenty-Four, Plus One, Elections
There will be one campaign where Wynne, Ford and Horwath battle it out for Ontarians to pick who would be best suited to be the next premier. However, in Ontario we do not vote for the premier, we vote for our Members of Provincial Parliament. One hundred twenty-four election will be fought across the province shaped by local issues and personalities. While the grand narrative will be important and shape the outcome it will all have to be filtered through a local reality.
3. A Province of Regions
Ontario is a big, big province with 13.6 million residents. The interests of the various components of this province are diverse and no every party will speak to them equally. Unless we see a massive blowout for one party distinct regional interests will assert themselves. Do not expect Southwestern Ontario to behave like Toronto, or Northern Ontario to conform to the Western 905. The various sections of the province will respond to the campaign(s) differently.
4. Anything Can Happen
The Progressive Conservatives are presently in the lead, but Ontarians are not paying attention yet. When they engage with the campaign it is possible numbers will shift. If the climate between the parties becomes toxic voters could turn to unexpected alternatives. While the Liberals are in a bad spot not, they have been in the past too. Any three of the major parties could foreseeably form government this summer. Don't count out any possibility until the ballots are cast.