By throwing in the towel on Saturday, did Kathleen Wynne tip Thursday’s election to the NDP and make Andrea Horwath the next premier of Ontario?
I think she did – and I think that was her intention.
Wynne was close to tears when she announced that she knew she would not be premier after the election. Her declared intentions were to save as many endangered Liberal candidates as possible – by removing her personal unpopularity as an impediment – and to help elect enough Liberals to block either the Progressive Conservatives or the New Democrats from forming a majority government.
Her real target, of course, was not the NDP – most of their platform could have been written by a Liberal committee. It was Conservative leader Doug Ford, whose bombastic manner, ignorance of government and simplistic policies she finds deeply offensive.
Although most opinion polls show the NDP tied with the Tories or a percentage point or two ahead, conventional wisdom has it that the Conservatives could form a government, even a majority one, with fewer popular votes than the NDP.
That’s because the Conservative vote, spread fairly evenly across the province, is considered more “efficient” than the NDP vote, and because the over-45 crowd are deemed more likely to turn out to vote (for the Tories) on Thursday than are the millennials on whose support the NDP depends.
That’s the conventional perspective. As of Sunday afternoon, the CBC Poll Tracker had the Conservatives one point behind in popular vote but with a 77 per cent “probability” of a majority government.
That could be the way it unfolds. However, there is another way of looking at it.
All of the polls in the CBC tracker were completed before Wynne threw in the towel. The most recent one was from Abacus Data, which was in the field from May 29 (last Tuesday) to June 2 (Saturday morning).
Abacus put the NDP ahead of the Conservatives by 37 per cent to 33 (with the Liberals at 23).
The firm also asked respondents which party they would prefer to form a government. Sixty per cent said they would prefer the NDP to 40 per cent who said PC.
Interestingly, 26 per cent of those who said they would prefer an NDP government also said they intended to vote Liberal. Whether that intention will change with Wynne’s capitulation is anyone’s guess.
In an analysis of their poll, David Coletto and Bruce Anderson of Abacus wrote: “Given Ms. Wynne’s admission Saturday that she won’t win the election, these voters represent a large potential pool of swing voters. Here’s what we know about them: six in ten are open to voting NDP, only 25 per cent are open to voting PC, and only one in four (26 per cent) of them would be dismayed if the NDP won the election.
“Looking at this another way, among current Liberal supporters, almost eight in ten would prefer an NDP win over a PC win. And this holds across the province from as high as 90 per cent of Liberals in eastern Ontario to 74 per cent for those living in the GTHA.”
At this late stage, the NDP has the largest pool of “accessible voters.” But how motivated are NDP supporters? Will they turn out to vote in large numbers?
The folks at Abacus believe they will – “Thirty-four per cent (of province-wide respondents) say they are certain to or likely to vote NDP compared with 29 per cent saying the same for the PCs … NDP supporters are as motivated, if not more motivated, than PC supporters.”
So, what is going happen on Thursday? It looks as though it is going to be desperately close. I’m inclined to give the edge to Horwath, but as Coletto and Anderson observe: “Events over the weekend show anything can (happen), so this election is not over and predicting the outcome at this point seems like a fool’s errand to us.”