Where Ontario’s election race will take place — and where it will be won

Perhaps much to the chagrin of the rest of Ontario, much of the provincial election race will be fought – and won – in and around Toronto.

You can expect to see the leaders of the three major parties spending most of their time in and around the provincial capital, pollsters say, and for good reason: the Greater Toronto Area, plus the Hamilton Area, represent more than half of the 124 places up for grabs on June 2.

“They’re all going to be spending a lot of time in the GTA,” said Éric Grenier, polling analyst at TheWrit.cawho runs the Ontario Poll Tracker for CBC News. “It will really be the place that decides the election, as it always does.”

But different parties are likely to take different approaches in the region.

Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford didn’t spend too much time campaigning in downtown Toronto in 2018, and probably not this time around either.

Progressive Conservative leader Doug Ford came to power winning ridings in suburban Toronto and the surrounding 905 communities. The PCs must retain these seats. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

The PCs won a majority last time out, retaining most of the rural ridings (the party’s traditional stronghold) while winning seats in Toronto’s inner suburbs and surrounding 905 area.

“They’re already always going to fight in the urban areas – so if they don’t win the suburbs, they can’t win the seats they add to their rural base to form a government,” Grenier said. “So for the PCs, I think that’s largely where they’re going to stay.”

This does not mean that New Democrats and Liberals will cede this ground without a fight.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca both spent much of the first two days of their respective campaigns in cities surrounding Toronto.

And the NDP will work to keep its seats in Brampton, the rapidly growing city that has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has made health care a top election priority for many voters there. -low.

The NDP and the Liberals will be in a bitter battle for the many seats in downtown Toronto – and even the Greens could be in the running for a riding in the city center, as leader Michael Schneiner hopes to add at least a second MPP at Queen’s Park.

In the 2018 election, the NDP won the seats in the heart of the provincial capital – ridings the Liberals hope to win back this time.

Both parties will spend the first two weeks battling a kind of “progressive primary” seeking the anti-Ford progressive vote, said Darrell Bricker, CEO of Ipsos Public Affairs.

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath is also set to keep the seats her party won in 2018. In the last election, she benefited from anything-but-Ford sentiment from progressive voters. It’s not clear that the feeling exists this time around. (Tijana Martin/The Canadian Press)

Last time out, the NDP got the vote of all but Ford from Ontarians who hoped to prevent a Progressive Conservative government. This kind of strategic voting is credited with helping the NDP win so many seats in downtown Toronto, among other ridings, like Ottawa Center, in 2018.

But that anti-Ford sentiment doesn’t exist this time around, at least to the extent it did for former Liberal premier Kathleen Wynne, according to pollsters.

According to Frank Graves, president of EKOS Research, “there are a lot of people who don’t particularly approve of Ford”, but who are still willing to vote for the PC party, which has a solid lead in the polls at this early stage. in the countryside.

Graves said the “visceral contempt” that obsessed Wynne in 2018, “is not a factor at this point in this election. Ford isn’t suffering from it.”

The Ontario Liberal Party was decimated in the 2018 election. Relatively unknown leader Steven Del Duca must make a strong first impression on voters, many of whom will be seeing and hearing him for the first time. (Cole Burston/The Canadian Press)

Other Areas to Watch

Even though the Toronto area is where the main action will take place, that doesn’t mean there aren’t other interesting races elsewhere in the province.

Parts of northern and southwestern Ontario could also see action, particularly from the NDP, which held the majority of seats in those regions for several terms, and the Conservatives. Pollsters say workers in those ridings can swing between New Democrats, with whom they align themselves on labor issues, and Progressive Conservatives, who tend to reflect their social values.

“It’s more about who people think they can connect with,” Ipsos’ Bricker said, suggesting Ford may have the edge there.

For Horwath, Grenier said, that could mean giving up ridings where the NDP isn’t very competitive to focus on seats his party already holds.

Here are some of the areas outside of Toronto to watch out for:

Peterborough-Kawartha: This constituency has been an indicator since 1977, so it’s always one to watch to find out where the political winds are blowing. Del Duca had already passed on Wednesday.

East Hamilton-Stoney Creek: Four of the five ridings in and around Hamilton – the hometown of NDP leader Horwath – are solid New Democrat orange. However, incumbent Paul Miller was kicked out of the party due to a “troublesome behavior pattern”. Now, several high-profile candidates are running in the riding, including an Order of Hamilton recipient, a city councilor and a former CFL player.

London-North Centre: Although the NDP won that riding solidly in 2018, that was largely due to disgruntled Liberal voters in the riding, which was previously held by prominent Liberal cabinet minister Deb Matthews for 15 years. Now the PCs view this constituency as a constituency they can take over, so that the region may see visits from chiefs.

Ottawa West-Nepean: The riding had the tightest race in the 2018 election. It was a Liberal stronghold for 15 years until 2018, when the Conservative candidate beat the New Democrat by 175 votes. The Liberals are seeking to retake the seat, while the New Democrats are vying to win it for the first time.