For Doug Ford and his Progressive Conservatives, the 2022 Ontario election is a “win big or go home” situation.
To obtain a second mandate, Ford must obtain the majority. This is because all the opposition parties say they will not support a PC minority.
With 124 seats up for grabs in Ontario on June 2, the magic number for a majority is 63.
The PC Party won 76 seats in the 2018 election. Direct calculations indicate that Ford’s party cannot afford to lose more than 13 of those constituencies unless it manages to win further seats by overtaking his results last time.
Here are the ridings in which PCs are most vulnerable, according to their 2018 margins, 2022 candidates, and insights from all-party strategists. If Ford’s party can hold on to most of those seats, he’ll be on his way to a second term as premier.
Of all the seats won by the PCs in 2018, Ottawa West-Nepean came in with the slimmest margin of victory. Jeremy Roberts won by just a third of a percentage point. The NDP had never won more than 16% of the vote in that riding before, but it doubled that number in 2018. If traditionally liberal voters who were unhappy or voted strategically for the NDP in 2018 return to the fold, Roberts will have a hard time waiting. But if he wins that seat, it would be a pretty strong sign that the PCs are considering another majority.
The seven ridings of Mississauga should be placed on this list. Voters here tend to sway as a bloc, and they’re a pretty good indication of the provincial mood: in every election in Ontario for the past 30 years, every seat in Mississauga has gone to the party that formed the government. All seven PC incumbents are seeking re-election, and if they all win again, PC will be in very good shape. Of those seats, their narrowest margin of victory in 2018 came in Mississauga-Malton, where Deepak Anand won by 2,300 votes.
Scarborough Rouge Park and Scarborough Center
The PCs won 11 seats in Toronto in 2018, a key part of their victory. Prior to that, the party had not won a single seat in the city since 1999. Four PC victories in the last election were in Scarborough, and you can tell (by how often leaders have come here to campaign or make announcements) that the parties expect these seats to be a dogfight. The Conservatives won Scarborough-Rouge Park by less than 1,000 votes and Scarborough Center (where the PC holder is not seeking re-election) by less than 2,000.
West Brampton and South Brampton
Brampton is a battleground. It’s no coincidence that Ford kicked off the first day of his re-election campaign in this city. The PCs won two crucial seats in Brampton in 2018, both by narrow margins. Amarjot Sandhu won Brampton South by just 490 votes, while Prabmeet Sarkaria won Brampton West by 2,700 votes, and could get a boost this time around since being appointed to Ford’s cabinet. Brampton’s other three seats went to the New Democrats in the last election, and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath brought in her federal counterpart Jagmeet Singh for a mid-campaign rally here.
Kitchener-Conestoga and Kitchener South-Hespeler
PC Party strategists are worried about their chances of securing those two seats, among their lowest wins in 2018, both with margins below 2%. Mike Harris Jr., son of the former premier, is running again in Kitchener-Conestoga, as PCs field a political newcomer in Kitchener South-Hespeler: Crown Attorney Jess Dixon.
Seven MPs who won their seats under the PC banner in 2018 were expelled or left the party caucus. Some of these constituencies are considered safe PC seats, and some are not. Cambridge are among the least safe of the seven. Incumbent Belinda Karahalios is running again, this time for the New Blue Party. It is incredibly rare for anyone outside of the PC-Liberal-NDP parties to win a general election in Ontario: it has happened precisely twice in the last 70 years. Still, the fact that Karahalios is on the ballot can only make it harder for PC candidate Brian Riddell.
The NDP has high hopes of being able to take this riding from Conservative MP Will Bouma. The New Democrats were only short of 600 votes in 2018, and this time their candidate is Harvey Bischof, the high-profile former president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation. Ford made a special visit to the constituency in March to announce a step toward the future redevelopment of Brantford General Hospital and introduced Bouma as a star MLA.
Sault Ste. Married
Another squeaker of a win for PCs in 2018, the riding of Sault Ste. Marie went to Ross Romano with a margin of just 414 votes. Romano was promoted to the cabinet in 2019, Ford has frequently visited the Soo as prime minister and his PC team has also chosen to make a valuable campaign stop there, which probably shows just how much PCs want to s hang on to this riding. PCs are confident that they can not only keep their three seats in Northern Ontario, but gain more in the region.
The Conservatives won all 10 seats in York Region in the last election, and five of those MPs entered Ford’s cabinet. The one seat the Liberals most want to take away from Ford in that region is Vaughan-Woodbridge, because that’s where Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca is running. Del Duca was beaten here in 2018 by PC’s Michael Tibollo, and needs to knock down a margin of nearly 8,000 votes to win the rematch. If he fails, it’s hard to see how the Liberals would win anywhere in York Region, and equally hard to see how Del Duca would justify staying in the lead.
Even though the Liberal Party’s collapse in 2018 resulted in the worst provincial election result in its history, the Liberals came within 1.5% of victory in this downtown Toronto seat last time out. Newcomer candidate Arlena Hebert will get a lot of help from the Liberal campaign in her effort to recapture this target riding from the Conservatives’ Robin Martin.
The Conservatives won this constituency relatively easily in the last election, by a margin of over 7,500 votes, so on the face of it this would not be a natural target. But the Liberals managed to recruit longtime Barrie mayor Jeff Lehman as their candidate. Lehman has won three consecutive mayoral elections for the city, winning more than 90% of the vote in 2014 and 2018. Name recognition alone should give the liberals a chance on the ballot. This riding will be a litmus test for Ford’s affordability case, as increasing numbers of Barrie residents commute to the GTA, making them particularly hard hit by the double whammy of rising prices. real estate and rising gasoline prices.
The candidate who won Durham for the PCs in 2018, Lindsay Park, is not standing in this election. She parted ways with the party last year in a dispute over her COVID-19 vaccination status. That leaves the PCs with a new candidate, albeit one with strong party ties: Todd McCarthy is a senior partner at the law firm founded by the late Jim Flaherty, where Christine Elliott also practiced. His Liberal opponent, Granville Anderson, was MPP for Durham from 2014 to 2018, but came third in the last election, behind the NDP candidate.
Rod Phillips won Ajax in 2018 for PCs, became finance minister, resigned that post after vacationing in the Caribbean during the pandemic, returned to cabinet as long-term care minister, then abruptly announced that he would not run again. The NDP had the former mayor of Ajax as their candidate, but he was rocked by his support for naming a street after the captain of a Nazi warship. All of this makes for a potentially wide-open race.
This is the most trusted flagship riding in Ontario politics: it went to the party that won the most seats in 12 consecutive elections (dating back to when the riding was called just Peterborough). PC incumbent Dave Smith didn’t exactly run away with him in 2018, winning less than 38% of the vote, the third-lowest vote share of all PC wins. But given the constituency’s history, if the people of Peterborough stick with him, it’s a good sign that anyone other than Doug Ford will get another term as prime minister.