With just two campaign days left before Thursday’s election in Ontario, the Liberal and New Democrat campaigns are grappling with the reality that only two scenarios could realistically unfold Thursday night: either Doug Ford wins another majority, either he and his PC party only missing a few seats.
All reputable survey aggregation sites in Ontario, including the CBC Ontario Poll Trackerthe Signal by Vox Pop Labs for the Toronto Star, and the iPolitics/Mainstreet Research electoral scoreboard — project a Progressive Conservative majority as the most likely outcome.
This does not mean that a Ford majority is a foregone conclusion. But that means the Liberals and New Democrats have their work cut out to stop it.
One potential outcome envisioned by poll aggregator sites: that Ford’s PCs could win more seats than in 2018 with less of the popular vote, while Andrea Horwath’s NDP could end up in the Official Opposition despite a smaller overall vote share than Steven Del Duca’s Liberals.
Yet the Liberals and NDP say there is a path – albeit a narrow one – that sees votes falling in the right direction in the right ridings to keep PCs under the magic number of 63 seats for a majority. Meanwhile, the PCs are overflowing with confidence, but say they don’t take victory for granted.
All parties will now target additional resources in the ridings where, according to their polls, the races are the tightest.
This may take the form of moving additional volunteers from seats deemed secure or unwinnable, blanketing those nearby constituencies with radio advertisements, or sending in the party leader.
Ford alluded to that Monday hours before his trip to Windsor-Tecumseh, a riding the Tories are aiming to take back from the New Democrats.
“We’re traveling all over the province, we’re going to Windsor and we’re going to try to get votes there,” Ford said Monday during his only Ottawa stop of the four-week campaign.
Meanwhile, the dynamic between the NDP and the Liberals is messy at best and bad at worst.
“In all of Ontario, there’s only one way to stop Doug Ford, and the only way to stop Doug Ford is to vote for the Ontario Liberals,” Del Duca said Monday morning. .
Within the hour, Horwath responded to Del Duca’s complaint. “On the contrary, it is the NDP that is on the rise at the moment.”
The reality is that Ford will waltz to another majority unless the votes go to the party best positioned to defeat the Progressive Conservative candidate in every riding where the Progressive Conservatives are vulnerable. In some ridings it’s a Liberal, in others it’s a New Democrat, and in one riding it might be a Green, judging by how often Mike Schreiner has visited Parry Sound-Muskoka.
Yet in their ongoing battle to position themselves as the “sole” alternative to the PCs, the bitter struggle between the NDP and the Liberals actually undermines each other’s efforts to stop a Ford majority.
In Vaughan-Woodbridge, where Del Duca is trying to win a seat against PC incumbent MIchael Tibollo, the NDP is running ads on Facebook saying “Only Andrea Horwath and the NDP can beat Doug Ford.”
In 2018, the NDP candidate in Vaughan-Woodbridge came in a distant third, with more than 15,000 votes behind Tibollo and nearly 7,500 votes behind Del Duca.
The NDP’s decision to send Horwath to the ridings of Peterborough-Kawartha and Ottawa West-Nepean on Monday has infuriated the Liberals, who claim only they can beat the PC incumbents in those ridings – even though the NDP is done closely in both in 2018.
“By going to these two ridings, Horwath is making it clear that his sole purpose is to cling to the leadership of the NDP,” said a senior Liberal campaign official who agreed to speak only on condition of anonymity to discuss party strategy.
“What utter desperation and unbalanced slander from the Steven Del Duca campaign,” a senior NDP campaign official replied. “These are ridings the Liberals have no hope of winning, and the NDP came within a hair’s breadth of winning last time out.”
New Democrats are equally furious that Del Duca’s tour Monday went to Kitchener Center, where there is an incumbent NDP.
“The Liberals campaigned almost exclusively in NDP ridings, while the NDP worked tirelessly to defeat Doug Ford,” the official said.
The acrimony between the Liberals and New Democrats is arguably as intense as their bitterness toward the Progressive Conservatives.
But it was never intended for the two sides to call some sort of truce and actually work together to overthrow Ford. Think back to the last election campaign in Ontario, just four years ago.
Even when Kathleen Wynne publicly admitted she was going to lose the election, she did not call on Ontarians to vote strategically to prevent Ford from becoming premier. She kept telling people to vote liberal.
“The more Liberal MPs we send to Queen’s Park on June 7, the less likely Doug Ford or the NDP will be able to form a majority government,” Wynne said on June 2, 2018.
This is not something New Democrats are prepared to forgive and forget.