Ontario Liberals and NDP insist they can deny Doug Ford his majority in campaign home stretch

There are only nine days left in the campaign trail in Ontario, which isn’t a lot of time for the race to change dramatically, but Liberal and New Democrat strategists say it’s enough time.

Both parties hoped they would have left the other in the dust for good at this point in the campaign and would have sat within clear striking distance of Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives.

It didn’t work that way. The history of the race so far shows how little has changed since the official start of the campaign period almost three weeks ago.

According to CBC News Ontario Poll Tracker (which averages publicly available polls), the Conservatives have consistently led Steven Del Duca’s Liberals province-wide by a margin that has never dropped below seven percentage points.

Meanwhile, the Liberals have been unable to widen a more than five-point gap over Andrea Horwath and her New Democrats, who regularly sit in third place.

Yet the Liberals and NDP insist they see a way to prevent a second term for Ford’s Progressive Conservatives.

Ontario Liberal Party Leader Steven Del Duca and Glengarry–Prescott–Russell Liberal candidate Amanda Simard, right, speak to residents as they witness the aftermath of a major storm in the Hammond community in Clarence-Rockland, Ontario on Monday May 1, 23, 2022. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

“We see enough seats available in strategic regions that we can block Ford from a majority, dragging NDP voters to the Liberal vote,” said a Liberal campaign official. (Party insiders interviewed for this story agreed to discuss their strategies only on condition of anonymity.)

“Voters remember 2018 when voting NDP did nothing to stop the Conservatives,” the Liberal said.

An NDP strategist said the next nine days will see their party aiming to bring forward its proposals for dental care, pharmacare and mental health as a way to make life more affordable.

“For us, the last part of this campaign is going to be pushing very hard on our strengths and matching our strengths to cost of living and affordability,” the NDP said.

The two strategists admit that the level of engagement in the campaign among Ontario voters has been rather low so far and that it has been anything but easy to capture the imagination of the electorate.

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath has not campaigned at in-person events since last Wednesday due to testing positive for COVID-19. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

There is an old saying among political parties and their election teams: “campaigns matter”. Yet nothing seems to have mattered enough to significantly influence overall voter intent, at least not so far.

“There has been virtually no movement in support of the party since the day the election was called,” said Darrell Bricker, CEO of Ipsos Public Affairs, in a statement. Tweeter Monday. “Voters are out of touch and none of the major opposition parties have generated significant interest in change.”

For Ford and his team, it’s a win-win scenario.

The PC campaign was pretty much on cruise control over the long weekend. Ford’s Monday schedule saw him campaign in his own riding and two other Toronto ridings, with no events open to the media.

After questions were asked about why he hadn’t visited any of the locations affected by Saturday’s killer storm, Ford traveled to Uxbridge on Monday afternoon.

The Progressive Conservative campaign would benefit greatly if the vote split between the NDP and the Liberals on election night turns out the way current polls suggest. That could see Ford’s PCs win as many or more seats than in 2018 with a smaller share of the popular vote.

Ontario Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca answered questions from reporters for 50 minutes after unveiling his campaign platform in Toronto on May 9. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

For the Liberals, the ideal situation was that NDP support had collapsed now, sending a signal to voters who want to prevent Ford from winning another term that the only way to do so is to vote Liberal.

After Horwath’s debate night, Liberal campaign workers predicted the gap would widen. Then, when Horwath was sidelined from campaigning in person due to testing positive for COVID-19, it also seemed like the odds were not on the New Democrats’ side.

Still, NDP poll results across the province have remained relatively stable. While those numbers aren’t what the New Democrats wanted, they’re not as low as the Liberals were aiming for either.

Early in the campaign, NDP strategists tried to persuade reporters and the public that they were in the best position to defeat Ford because of the 40 seats they won in 2018 and the 10 other ridings where the NDP candidate NPD edged the PC winner by a margin of less than six percent.

This pitch did not translate to an increase in polls for the NDP, although there are areas where Poller finds the NDP ahead of the Liberals, including southwestern and northern Ontario, as well as Hamilton. -Niagara.

The Liberal strategist insists their campaign is happy with the party’s stance, saying that until the Liberals are tied to the NDP in the final stretch, the anti-Ford vote will coalesce around them in the final stages. days.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath speaks at a rally in Toronto, April 25, 2022, to announce her party’s election platform. (Alex Lupul/CBC)

The NDP strategist is frustrated with some of the Liberals’ campaign tactics.

“It’s infuriating to watch Steven Del Duca spend his time and energy trying to bring down NDP MPs,” the strategist said.

“If he was truly on a mission to take down Doug Ford, he would be spending all his time campaigning in PC-held seats.”

The prospect that the NDP and Liberals could battle to a dead end for second place bothers Tim Ellis, founder of Not One Seat, a volunteer-led group aimed at encouraging strategic voting against the Conservatives.

“The opposition parties had a hard time breaking out because they were busy attacking each other,” Ellis said in an interview Monday.

“This is when they could really shake up the race,” Ellis added. “They could really stand out and make a difference by committing now to work together to defeat Ford. That’s what voters are looking for.”