Rivers makes an early election call - leaves some, but not much, room for an upset. Four more years for Doug

By Ray Rivers

May 9th, 2022



When the results are all tabulated sometime after June 2nd, Doug Ford will be back in power as Premier according to today’s poll numbers.

The 2022 election has just begun but already the consensus is that it’s Ford’s to lose. Mr. Ford has travelled a long and rocky road since he first became premier. Still while things look good now for his reelection, as others have found, in politics anything can happen.

Poll positions the day the election started.

Ford’s popularity dropped like a stone almost right after his 2018 election victory. His personal vendetta against Toronto city council, arbitrarily slashing their representation was petty and abusive. His cancellation of renewable energy and other environmental initiatives were irrational and costly. His war against teachers was mean and retrogressive. And his failed campaign against the revenue-neutral carbon tax was a complete waste of energy and tax payers’ money.

Ford took the limelight in briefing Ontario about what needed to be done during the pandemic,

The arrival of COVID saved Ford’s premiership. He took the limelight in briefing Ontario about what needed to be done during the pandemic, though he misplayed his hand on at least a couple occasions.  Other premiers, like Alberta’s Jason Kenny, made Ford look good. And the pandemic forced Ford to work cooperatively with the federal government which ended up serving both of their interests. After all, the feds did the heavy lifting – provided the vaccines and massive subsidies to just about everyone. That federal support was largely responsible for keeping the province from falling into a huge deficit which would have made today’s economic recovery difficult.

Ontario’s jobless rate has fallen to 5.3%, even below what it was pre-pandemic. Strong economic growth is a good thing for a governing party at election time. And further driving that growth is the massive near $20 billion provincial deficit forecast for this year. It seems that Ford’s earlier preoccupation with deficit has been put on hold, or forgotten, these days. Still, with a bit of luck and good management he’ll be able to claim that the province in on track to balance its budget in a only a couple years from now.

Incumbency, particularly during the pandemic has been working for governments facing re-election. And the pandemic is not yet over. Besides voters tend to reward first term governments with a second term, unless they have been really bad to them. And you can’t be all bad when you’re handing out gifts, even if that means bribing people by giving them back their own money – cutting gas taxes and eliminating license plate fees. What’s not to like about getting back two year’s worth of licence fees?

Andrea Horwath: the fourth and probably the last time,

As for Ford’s opponents. Andrea Horwath is leading her party for the fourth and probably the last time, and it’s not apparent that she’s learned much from her previous losing campaigns. Her most recent attack ads, especially at her Liberal opponent, appear desperate. Clearly she’s just trying to hang on to those Liberal voters who supported her last time. But attack ads are more likely to turn them away.

And attack ads don’t replace a solid policy platform. In fact her policy cupboard is pretty scant and so yesterday,  implementing two of her main planks, universal dental and pharmacare, will be redundant and probably a waste of money since the federal government is planning its own nation-wide programs before long. And her performance as opposition leader was barely noticed. She may be the most trusted political leader in Canada but she has been one of the least vocal opposition leaders over the last four years.

Stephen Del Duca; a relative unknown with a swimming pool problem

Stephen Del Duca is a relative unknown for most people. Having held a couple of ministerial posts under the Wynne government he lost his own seat in the last election and now leads a party which doesn’t even hold party status in the legislature – leading it from outside of the legislature. And he did himself no favour when he got into hot water with local authorities over building his backyard swimming pool. But unlike Horwath he has been taking political risks with his ongoing stream of policy pronouncements – though some, like re-introducing Grade 13, do not appear to have been well vetted.

Del Duca is a fighter In the game of politics, and he is willing to take risks which might get the public’s attention, for better or worse. Still, for an aspiring politician any news is good news. He provides a sharp contrast to the more cautious Horwath, something his rising poll numbers are beginning to reflect. Whatever he’s doing seems to be working.

Green Party leader Mike Schreiner has been an effective and rational voice at Queen’s Park but nobody will put money on the Green Party winning anything but Mr. Schreiner’s own seat after the dust settles for June 2nd. The Green’s mainstay is protecting the environment, including climate change mitigation, but the other two opposition parties also claim that as one of their priorities. And that provides an alternative to Doug Ford’s conservatives, who have shown little regard for things environmental, climate change in particular.

The opposition parties all support carbon taxation of some sort, and Horwath has even mused about bringing back the emissions cap and trade program which Ford killed almost immediately after winning last time. They support subsidies for electric vehicles to make them more price competitive, so new car buyers will make the shift away from gas guzzlers. And for some reason education and health care have also become right/left issues, with the opposition parties wanting to see smaller class sizes in schools and the end of private, for-profit, long term care.

The highway Doug Ford will build if he wins – because the Progressive Conservatives don’t think climate change is not a winning issue.

Everybody is promising more affordable housing. But only Ford’s plan has some detail and that involves ramping up urban sprawl into the rural landscape in the GTA. Ford clearly sees the Greenbelt as a land reserve just waiting for new development, rather than a natural endowment for future generations. Consequently it should be no surprise that his proposed new highways projects would run through a good part of the Greenbelt.

As the campaign kicks off, the PCs with 35-40% of Ontario voters backing them, are almost 10 percentage points ahead of the second place Liberals. And when translated to seats that should produce a solid majority for Mr. Ford.

That means that the three main opposition parties will be competing for almost 60% of decided voters. Should the Tories stumble enough to lose that majority seat count, either the Liberals or NDP might be asked to form a minority government. But none of the opposition parties are interested in supporting a Ford minority.

Although there is always someone saying it’s time to unite the left, personalities and tribal party loyalty never allows that to happen. Horwath hopes that her attack ads against Del Duca might give her the edge. But this could backfire since attack ads often say more about the attacker than the victim. Besides all the NDP supporters I know would prefer to win by promoting what they stand for, and not just attacking the the other candidate. More more like Gandhi and less like Putin.

And if Del Duca were to respond to those ads in kind, the anti-Ford crowd might well decide that neither party deserves their support, and just stay home on voting day. And that would ensure another four years for Mr. Ford and his Progressive Conservatives.

Ray Rivers will be with us every Monday until May 30th.

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3 comments to Rivers makes an early election call – leaves some, but not much, room for an upset. Four more years for Doug

  • Kyle Hutton

    Biased opinion sure, but I don’t believe its fair to say the Greens are out of the running for anything but Mike’s seat – and we aren’t just an environmentally focused group. This year we are hammering all three old line parties on their inability to focus on the affordability crisis and only attack each other. People are tired, or they’re angry, because we all know what needs to be done to get on track but no one seems willing to do it. Greens will, and its why I think we have a great chance to grow this year.

  • Joe Gaetan

    Welcome back Ray…you nailed it. Nothing to add.

  • Find this an informative analysis which if we were betting people would place our bets on. However, there are a few curve balls coming up we are sure. The most dependable opinion is “the last lost election for Andrea Horwath”. Mind you we are saying what we are saying with tongue in cheek as apart from the 2018 Provincial Election we have never called one right yet!