Ontario Election – The Halfway Point

The halfway point of the Ontario election has come and gone and it’s a good bet you fall into one of two groups – either you’re apathetic or you’re surprised.

Earlier this week, the four Leaders appeared together in the only officially-sanctioned debate.  Andrea Horwath took negative shots at everyone. Doug Ford stuck to his own script. Steven Del Duca tended to speak over everyone and Michael Schreiner of the Green Party rose above the clutter with his focused comments. Three days later and the only thing being mentioned about the debate is that two of the four Leaders have now tested positive for COVID-19.

Polling continues with at least one new poll every day since the campaign started. The latest Nanos poll, taken after Monday’s debate, continues to indicate the PC strength at 36% followed by the Liberals at 29% and the NDP at 20%. No real change at the top here, but a noticeable 4 point drop in the NDP numbers must be troubling for Andrea Horwath.  Doug Ford, on the other hand, will be quite pleased with the campaign and its low-key nature. He doesn’t need to do anything as the voters have seen what he can do in the last year and have clearly formed their opinions. So far, he continues to be the most favoured to be the best Premier from the three main parties and a low-key, error free campaign the rest of the way will likely maintain this.

Steven Del Duca is the new kid on the block and needs to gain some ground to first become an official party in the legislature and secondly the Official Opposition. So far, it remains to be seen if he is making enough impact to achieve both goals.

The NDP appear to be in trouble. Andrea Horwath was criticized for her performance in the debate and has really not offered much new during the campaign. Progressive voters are liking Del Duca’s messaging more and there seems to be a significant shift to the Liberals in this group.

As for the surprises, there have been some interesting developments on the campaign trail. Typical policy positions and support bases are getting turned upside down. First and foremost is the union support for Doug Ford and the PC’s, typically a strength of the NDP. Unions are publicly supporting Ford and his team, including: Liuna; the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades; International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers; International Brotherhood of Boilermakers; SMART Union, Local 285 and IBEW Construction Council of Ontario.

Law and order has always been a base for the PC’s, but it’s the Liberals that have come out swinging with a pledge to ban hand guns. They’ve also stated a desire to look at a 4-day work week and 18 month paternity leave – surely these should have been in the NDP platform…. And the NDP, they just want some attention like offering a 40% reduction in auto-insurance rates? Huh? How are you going to do that?

So, with 2 weeks to go, things seem upside down on many fronts and yet, there appears to be little interest in the election. Polling numbers have not moved much, certainly not enough to topple the governing party. As for the Opposition Parties – they may change places in the standings in the Legislature, or not.

Will things change in the next 14 days? Two parties hope so. One does not.

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