The big takeaway from the provincial election is the low voter turnout. Only 43 percent of Ontarians voted—the first time the voter turnout was less than 50 percent—and the lowest in any Ontario election ever. This, despite extra days of advance polling and increased access to mail-in voting. Already social media are questioning the Ford government’s legitimacy since he obtained a majority with the support of only 18 percent of Ontarians. For sure it’s a low number, but not much lower than the 20 percent (using the same metric) that allowed Justin Trudeau to keep his job. You could argue that combined with Jagmeet Singh’s 11 percent—the current government has 31 percent of Canadians’ support, but it is still not much of a mandate, and who believes Singh would have voted against this government with or without the deal they made? To those who question the legitimacy of the Ford majority—one thing is clear—he was not responsible for all the NDP and Liberal voters who stayed home.
We were wrong, sort of, about Hamilton East-Stoney Creek in suggesting Paul Miller would be a decisive factor in the NDP losing the seat. As it turned out, Miller’s 2,400 votes combined with the NDP’s Zaigham Butt’s 9.600 would have made it a squeaker but Neil Lumsden would have still come out on top. On the other hand, maybe Miller’s ouster as candidate had something to do with the NDP vote in the riding cratering from the more than 22,500 Miller got in 2018 to 9,600 this year—a drop of 57 percent. Put another way, 13,000 voters who voted NDP four years ago, when Miller was the candidate, didn’t vote this time out. The NDP vote in Andrea Horwath’s Hamilton Centre was down by more than 7,000 votes. On Hamilton Mountain, Monique Taylor’s vote was down by almost 10,000. While The NDP spent most of the campaign duking it out with the Liberals—it was Ford who took six seats from the NDP.
We didn’t think much of the PC decision to muzzle all their candidates with the exception of Donna Skelly. Neil Lumsden played football in front of 25,000 live people and a TV audience of hundreds of thousands for years, so it’s hard to imagine him being stage-struck in a Cable 14 debate. It’s difficult to believe Kory Teneycke, who was Ford’s campaign manager, and author of this gag order, was ever a television news director. His style of suppression of comment probably worked best when he was director of (non) communication for the dour Stephen Harper; but Ford is a different cat altogether—he’s outgoing and performs better off-script than when he is reading prepared remarks. As one PC candidate told me, though, if Ford wins big, it will justify Teneycke’s approach. Still, it is a disservice to voters who take this stuff seriously, even if the campaigns show disrespect for them.
You have to feel some sympathy for Stephen Del Duca. He took on the party leadership when there were not many willing to do it after the 2018 debacle. He apparently paid off most of the party debt, and in the normal course of events could have expected to at least get the Liberals back to official party status. But it didn’t happen. In our view the failure was to recognize that Ontario expects the Liberal party to offer a centrist alternative to the PC’s—not a leftist alternative to the NDP.
After four elections, Andrea Horwath will step down as NDP leader. People may forget that she took over a party that didn’t have official party status—not much better than the Liberals today –and got it up to 17 seats in her first election, added four more seats in the 2014 election and the went up to 40 in the 2018 election. Viewed from where they were in 2011, the 31 seats the NDP just received is a decent outcome, and Horwath can take satisfaction in turning the party over to her successor in a lot better shape than when she first inherited it.