Why federal Liberal voters are key to Doug Ford’s electoral chances in Ontario

Doug Ford and his Ontario Progressive Conservatives are aiming to win strong support from voters who just eight months ago backed Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party in the federal election.

Winning over federal Liberal voters is a crucial ingredient for Ford to find his way to victory on June 2. PCs in Ontario simply cannot succeed with the sole support of those who voted for the Conservative Party of Canada last September.

“There just aren’t enough (core) Conservatives in the province that you can win a majority government or even a minority government with them alone,” said David Coletto, CEO of polling firm Abacus Data. .

Recent query by Abacus Data as well as by the polling firm Research Co. found that about one-fifth to one-quarter of Ontarians who voted Liberal in last year’s federal election say they intend to vote for the Conservative Party in the provincial election.

This translates to a potential 500,000 voters who supported Trudeau in 2021 by voting for Ford’s party in 2022.

“It’s certainly a big chunk of the electorate that would make the difference in some of the key ridings,” said Mario Canseco, a seasoned pollster and president of Research Co.

Ford visits Hamilton on May 18 during the provincial election campaign. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

Direct comparisons between federal and provincial races are possible because the constituency maps are almost identical, with the exception of Northern Ontario where there are three additional provincial seats.

The federal Liberals won 39.3% of the popular vote in Ontario last fall, winning 78 seats, including a Toronto sweep and dominance in 905.

Under Erin O’Toole, the federal Conservatives drew 34.9% of the province’s voters, winning 37 seats.

the CBC News Ontario Poll Trackerwhich compiles publicly available polls, currently describes Ford’s PCs as being on track to win another majority government, with Steven Del Duca’s Ontario Liberals and Andrea Horwath’s NDP still locked in a battle to form the official opposition.

PC campaign sources have indicated for months that the Ford government’s approach to certain issues was influenced by a desire to make federal Liberal voters accessible to the party at election time. This included Ford’s stance on mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for his MPs and candidates and his potential change of heart on vaccination passports in Ontario.

PC strategists believe O’Toole’s stance on both issues hurt his federal Conservative campaign in Ontario.

Ontario Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca attends a campaign rally in Toronto on May 17. (Cole Burston/The Canadian Press)

From their data, the two pollsters get some insight into why these federal Liberal voters are willing to vote PC in the provincial race. A common theme is how these voters feel about Ford’s performance as premier and their opinion of Del Duca as a leader.

“Unless they think badly of Mr. Ford, they won’t be willing to look for an alternative, and I think that’s a big part of the story of this campaign so far,” Coletto said. .

“They usually like Doug Ford personally,” he continued. “They see him as a strong leader, they say they have a favorable opinion of him. They think he would make the best prime minister out of all the other choices available.”

Nearly half of federal Liberal/provincial Conservative migrants surveyed in the Abacus poll identify as members of a racialized community, Coletto said.

For its part, Canseco says the combination of factors at play includes the fact that federal Liberal voters who flirt with PCs “have not really made an emotional connection” with Del Duca.

Until recently, many observers would have struggled to imagine any significant overlap in a Venn diagram of federal Liberal and provincial Conservative voters.

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In 2018, Ford wasn’t trying to woo federal liberals. He didn’t really need it, as the PCs achieved victory largely due to a wave of antipathy towards former Prime Minister Kathleen Wynne.

Ford peppered Trudeau with attacks on carbon pricing during his bid for the PC leadership in 2018, then the provincial campaign that followed, and continued through the first half of his premiership. minister. Then in 2019, when Ford was sadly unpopular, Trudeau criticized him at nearly every Ontario stage of the federal campaign.

While the two political rivals have engaged in numerous federal-provincial accusations during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly over the deployment of the vaccine, border controls and the use of rapid tests, they have reached a some level of detente when Trudeau called the federal election last year.

Since March, Ford has shared the stage with Trudeau or his Liberal ministers in a series of joint funding announcements, well worth billions of dollars. Several related to the auto sector in Oshawa, Alliston and twice in Windsor, including one just two days before the start of the provincial campaign, while others focused on public transit and childcare.

The appearance of Ford cooperating with Trudeau on these projects may have made it easier for the PC Party to woo these federal Liberal voters.

The potential that so many could cast aside their allegiance to the federal party in provincial elections can only be a frustration for Del Duca, although he didn’t say so when asked.

Abdul Aleem, an appliance repairman who lives in the riding of King-Vaughan, says he voted Liberal in the last federal election and will “most likely” vote for the Ontario PC Party in the provincial elections. (Mike Crawley/CBC)

“With two weeks to go (until Election Day), standing here and assuming we know how anyone in this province is going to vote, I think we’re getting a bit ahead of ourselves” , said Del Duca during a press conference in Mississauga.

Del Duca said “people who voted for every party federally” hear his message and understand what’s at stake in the provincial campaign.

Del Duca must hope there won’t be too many voters like Abdul Aleem, an appliance repairman who lives in the York Region riding of King-Vaughan, just north of Toronto.

Aleem says he voted for the Liberals in the last federal election and will “most likely” vote for the PC provincially.

“I’m not just looking at the party,” he said, and praised Trudeau’s and Ford’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic as he explained his reasons for voting.

“Doug Ford – he was very calm during the pandemic, he didn’t panic,” Aleem said. “Both our provincial government and our federal government have done a tremendous job. Honestly, I have no complaints about either.”