The June 7 election in Ontario can be reduced to one simple question.
Are normally cautious Ontario voters so tired or fed up with Kathleen Wynne and her Liberals that they are ready to gamble on Doug Ford, the closest thing to a Donald Trump that Canada has produced?
The answer appears to be a resounding Yes.
To be clear, Ford is not Trump – he does not carry the same kind of personal, ethical and legal baggage that Trump carried when he became president and still carries today – but there are similarities that cannot be ignored: no prior provincial experience, leading a party that no longer has a policy platform (Ford having trashed it), accountability to no one, advisers (some from the old Stephen Harper team) who counsel him to follow the low road, and a personal conviction that trashing anything and everything his opponents advocate is the path to power.
If he wins, Ontario will have a government that does not believe in climate change and is not interested in doing anything about it, a government that would rather fight with Ottawa than cooperate with it, a government that would slash corporate taxes but not increase the minimum wage, a government whose idea of an energy policy is to fire the CEO and board of Hydro One, a government that would scrap sex education in the schools, a government that would deal with overdose deaths among street addicts by shutting down safe-injection sites.
Is this the leadership Ontario wants?
The answer, if the polls are to be believed, is either Yes or Don’t Care – the latter simply not caring what follows so long as Wynne and the Liberals are ousted.
The polls have barely moved since Ford became leader of the Progressive Conservatives on March 10. They were forecasting a majority PC government then and they still are.
There is no sign that broadside attacks on Ford in recent days by both Wynne and NDP leader Andrea Horwath are having any effect. It’s still early days, but the needle isn’t moving.
A new seat projection, prepared by Wilfrid Laurier political scientist Barry Kay for the Laurier Institute for the Study of Public Opinion and Policy (LISPOP) last week, paints a gloomy picture for the Liberals. The projection, based on recent polls and historical trends in the 124 provincial ridings, shows the PCs winning 80 seats to 22 apiece for the Liberals and New Democrats.
The accompanying map on the Lispop website, shows an ocean of orange (NDP) in Northern Ontario and a blanket of blue (PC) across the south, with splotches of red (Liberal) in Ottawa, Toronto and the GTA.
Waterloo Region is typical of what pollsters are finding across the province. Cambridge and Kitchener Centre (both presently Liberal) would fall to the Tories, who would also pick up the new seat of Kitchener South-Hespeler while holding Kitchener-Conestoga, where, confusingly, Ford has just parachuted Mike Harris, son of the former premier, to replace the PC incumbent Michael Harris (no relation) after the latter was accused of sexting a former intern in his office. The new Mike Harris had just been defeated in a bid for the Tory nomination in Kitchener Centre, but no matter – in this election what the leader wants, the leader gets.
The only faint hope that Prof. Kay could find for the opposition parties in the region is in Waterloo (held by New Democrat Catherine Fife) and Guelph (Liberal in the last election). He concludes that with less than 5 per cent separating the top two parties, they are too close to call.
For the Liberals, the only light in a dark tunnel to June 7 is the conventional belief that Ontario voters do not start paying real attention to the goings-on at Queen’s Park until the last week or 10 days before a provincial election. If that’s true this year, they will be in for a rude awakening on or about June 1.