Election night numbers to watch for
Tomorrow millions of Ontarians will exercise their right to vote and there are a number of specific electoral outcomes that political pundits will be closely looking at to determine what the new legislature at Queen’s Park will look like — and how it will operate.
Incumbent Progressive Conservative Laurie Scott started the election with a commanding lead. 338Canada.com had Scott polling early on at 55 per cent of the popular vote. That number softened after the televised provincial debate to a still comfortable 50 per cent.
Polling done on May 30 has those numbers rebounding and trending upwards to where Scott began the campaign. Scott has support of 52 per cent of decided voters, the Liberals 18 per cent, the NDP 17 per cent, the Greens 7 per cent, New Blue 3 per cent and the Ontario Party 1 per cent.
New Blue vs Ontario Party
In Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock, Ontario Party candidate Kerstin Kelly has run a very public and professional campaign, while the New Blue Party candidate Ben Prentice has not been nearly as visible.
Unfortunately for Kelly, her campaign appears to be an outlier for the Ontario Party. 338Canada.com has the party as a whole polling at less than 1 per cent, while the New Blue Party, who were able to sign up a full slate of candidates for this election, are polling between 3 and 4 per cent of the popular vote.
Combined, these two new right-wing parties appear poised to gain about 6 per cent of the popular vote, about the same numbers that Maxime Bernier and the People’s Party of Canada polled in the last federal election.
The impact of that 6 per cent of voters is unclear, because based on the federal statistics the PPC drew votes from both the Conservatives and the Greens.
Next door in Peterborough-Kawartha, Progressive Conservative Dave Smith is in a tight race with strong Liberal and NDP candidates. Smith is leading the Liberal challenger by only 3 percentage points. In this riding the New Blue Party is polling 5 percent and the Ontario Party 3 percent.
If Smith loses, that eight per cent who migrated to these new parties maybe pointed out as a reason for his loss.
In 2018, the Progressive Conservatives won 40 per cent of the popular vote. That vote translated into a very comfortable majority government for Doug Ford.
338Canada.com has Ford currently sitting with 37.5 per cent of the popular vote, all but guaranteeing another PC majority.
Current predictions have the Liberals winning 27 per cent of the popular vote, the NDP 23 per cent, Greens 6.4 per cent and New Blue and The Ontario Party combining for about 4 to 5 per cent of the popular vote.
If the PC popular vote slips beneath 36 per cent, a very different result could suddenly be in play, with the likelihood of a Conservative minority a possibility if that occurs.
Leader of the Official Opposition
Despite sitting third in the popular vote, 338Canada.com predicts that the New Democratic Party will win 25 seats to the Liberals’ 20. This will allow Andrea Horwath to remain opposition leader if she choses to continue in politics if she loses a fourth consecutive election as party leader.
338Canada.com predicts that the NDP will lose 15 seats on Thursday, almost all to the Liberals. That, combined with a 33 per cent drop in their popular vote, will likely be bad news for Horwath.
There are a number of 30-something leadership hopefuls waiting in the wings for the Ontario New Democrats who could make a post-election leadership review a messy and publicly embarrassing affair for the veteran member from Hamilton.
It would not be out of the realm of possibility to see Horwath step down as early as Thursday evening, allowing an interim leader to represent the party in Question Period while a leadership convention is organized.
Will Del Duca win a seat?
Many eyes are on the seat of Vaughn-Woodbridge where Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca is attempting to win back his old seat from Progressive Conservative cabinet minister Mike Tibollo.
Tibollo currently leads all candidates with 45 per cent of the popular vote, with Del Duca close behind at 42 per cent. The NDP are only polling at 6 per cent, followed by the Greens at 3 per cent and the New Blue at 3 per cent.
This could be another riding where New Blue and the Ontario Party determine the final outcome.
Official party status for the Liberals
Despite public posturing, the Liberals have probably never really expected to win this election.
Del Duca in 2020 inherited a party $10 million in debt, decimated by the election of 2018 and, with only 7 seats in the house, lacking official party status.
Very quietly a primary goal of the Liberals this election cycle has been to run a frugal and effective campaign that will leave the post-election finances in good order. Other key goals include getting their leader elected and in the house for Question Period, and gain back official party status and the millions in funding that go with that status to hire office and research staff and to help strengthen the party for the run in 2026.
338Canada.com predicts the Liberals to finish with 20 seats on Thursday, almost tripling their number of members at Queen’s Park.
With Del Duca’s fate in Vaughan-Woodbridge too close to call, a likely return to respectability for the party as a whole will have Liberals popping champagne corks sometime Thursday evening.
When Ontarians are motivated and looking for change, they can still turn out in relatively healthy numbers. In 1984, 1990, 2003 and 2018 at least 57 per cent of eligible voters cast their ballots, largely with the goal of defeating an unpopular incumbent premier and replacing them with a new and different leader.
In 2018, 5.8 million of 10.2 million Ontarians cast their ballots.
Typically, when an election does not have an impetus for change, turnouts as low as 48 per cent can be seen as recently as 2011. Some expect this election to reflect those kinds of numbers rather than the more robust turnout of 2018 where anger at Premier Kathleen Wynne provided voters’ motivation.
Progressive Conservatives will not be hurt by a low turnout as that typically favours the incumbent party in power.
The Progressive Conservatives also know their voters, typically older, are far more motivated to vote than the younger demographic who are typically more interested in one of the more progressive options on the ballot. Men over the age of 55 helped put Ford in power in 2018 are likely to turnout in solid numbers again on Thursday.
Motivating voters under the age of 34 remains a challenge for those parties hoping to gain their support.
Recent numbers from Elections Canada on who voted federally shows clearly that the turnout for those under 34 is 56 per cent versus a 75 per cent turn out rate for those between 55-74.