Ontario Election 2018 #3 The Long Road Home - Ontario Liberals

Is your organization prepared for the 2018 Ontario election? How could each party impact your success or complicate your future? HOWE&WYE is offering pre-election briefings and strategy development sessions to ensure your organization isn’t caught flat-footed going into the June election.

In spite of poor polling results of the Liberals of late, there is substantial time before the election to start building populous support for the Liberals. They have the luxury of government announcements (e.g. Minimum Wage, resources and an experienced leader on their side. They also have a long history of poorly executed public policy, a public bribery scandal that has embroiled the premier herself, and a legacy of spending disasters and political outrage.

So how do the Ontario PC’s or NDP take advantage of public sentiment to turn the tide in Ontario? The electorate would seem very ready for change in Ontario and HOWE&WYE is here to deliver our pre-election briefings for you and your organization to ensure you are equally prepared for each potential outcome.  

Our team of political veterans and experts have developed an overview presentation that we can provide to clients or others interested in a briefing on the path to victory for each party.   


The path to victory for the Ontario Liberals:

The Ontario Liberals have five main advantages coming into this campaign. 

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First, incumbency matters and does afford the governing party many benefits.  The governing party can dispense favours and in the run-up to the election the government of the day sets the narrative by their control of the legislative and policy process. 

They have the weight of the government communications machine behind all their announcements.  Incumbent MPPs usually have better identified supporter lists – and lists are
the lifeblood of a campaign, especially if it’s a close vote. 

Second, the Ontario Liberal’s have an experienced and skilled campaigner as their leader.  In Ontario, history tells us that experience matters. Since the days of Premier Bill Davis in the 1970’s, only two provincial leaders have won their first elections as leader:  Frank Miller (who barely squeaked out a minority government win) and Kathleen Wynne.  Going into this campaign Ms. Wynne has that experience and even more.  She’s facing a relative newcomer to the provincial scene in Patrick Brown who is untested on the big stage and who will be facing a provincial media that is eager to put him to the test.  Looked at another way, there is nothing left to throw at Kathleen Wynne that she hasn’t faced already.  Don’t underestimate that.  We bet the Liberal’s are counting on it, in fact.

Third, campaigns matter.  The Liberal campaign team that Premier Wynne is assembling is strong and battle tested.  They will be well financed and they will throw everything into their campaign. They won’t go down without a very good fight.

Fourth, the top-line economic numbers are solid. There are certainly parts of Ontario that are suffering.  A lot of people are feeling the pain of an economy in transition.  But the numbers tell a story of a fairly strong and growing economy in most parts of Ontario. Unemployment is at a level not seen in decades.  The budget is (sort of) balanced. The population in the vote-rich GTA is growing and shows no signs of slowing down.  Even communities that have seen their manufacturing base shrink – communities like St. Catharines, Brantford, Windsor – have record low unemployment rates and many signs of strength.  A lot of people vote with their pocketbooks (who has a pocketbook anymore?) and we can expect Kathleen Wynne and her Cabinet to continuously remind us of how good things are going for most of Ontario.  Why change when things are going well? 

Fifth, the “Trump effect”.  Voters in the U.S. wanted change and Trump offered that change (especially in contrast to an incoherent and scattered Hillary Clinton campaign message, but that’s another essay …).  Now, voters in the U.S. are having buyers’ remorse and wondering whether change for the sake of change is a good thing.  If the average U.S. voter is feeling that way, certainly the average Canadian voter watching what is happening south of the border is thinking that too.  How many voters in Ontario will walk into the ballot box and say to themselves “You know, those American’s wanted change, but look what they got? Can we risk it?”  You can bet that’s what Kathleen Wynne’s campaign team will be saying over and over again.

Why the Ontario Liberals are Likely to Lose

Working against the Ontario Liberals are many factors, but the biggest one is time.  It’s time for a change. The government has simply run out of steam and after 14 years in office, the public just wants change.

I’m sure many of my Liberal friends will quibble with the assertion that they’ve run out of new ideas and steam, but the evidence is overwhelming.  Poll after poll is showing the “time for a change” number to be greater than 70%.  Kathleen Wynne’s personal popularity numbers, depending on the pollster, range as low as 9%.  (As one popular Facebook post pointed out, “26% of those polled believe in the existence of Bigfoot, but only 18% believe in Kathleen Wynne” … though maybe those who believe in Bigfoot shouldn’t necessarily have the vote …). 

The best evidence comes from what is being seen on the ground. Recently, Premier Wynne headlined an event in Hamilton that was billed as a nomination meeting for two stalwart Liberal ridings. Media estimates and pictures of the event showed a crowd of less than 100.  Think about that:  An event with the Premier of Ontario, with all the diehard members and supporters for two bedrock Liberal seats and they drew a crowd of … less than 100.      

The feeling around the Ontario Liberals is that of a party that has run out the clock. That feeling translates into fewer volunteers, less fundraising, less enthusiasm and swing voters who dismiss you just because you don’t look or feel like a winner.  Can they turn it around?  Possibly, … but momentum is hard to regain once it’s lost.