Ontario Votes Roundup: The Seinfeld Election

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Has anything changed two weeks before election day? David Akin walks us through his numbers. Horwath, Schreiner get COVID-19.

Alex Boutilier: Ontario’s 43rd general election is not an election about nothing, but an election where nothing seems to be breaking through to voters.

The public polling released so far projects a comfortable lead for PC Leader Doug Ford, with better-than-even odds he’ll be returned for a second majority term. Both Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath look to be competing for second place.

That’s a much more dangerous proposition for Horwath, who has led the Ontario New Democrats in four straight elections without ending up in the premier’s seat. Del Duca, whose hold on the Liberal leadership is by no means guaranteed, would be in a better spot if the party manages to dig out from the 2018 election’s shellacking.

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It’s been a sleepy campaign, and the polls reflect general stasis.

But every political observer knows that the top-line numbers are only part of the story. Regional battles and riding idiosyncrasies, along with the candidates themselves, play a big part in deciding who gets a seat in the next parliament.

Global News’ Chief Political Correspondent, David Akin, who spends entirely too much time with spreadsheets, joins us this week to lay out his projections on the makeup of Ontario’s next government.

David, nerd out.

David Akin: I always like to scope out the expected close races — the anticipated nailbiters — we’re likely to see once the votes start getting counted. Remember: an election in our first-past-the-post parliamentary system is not just one race, it’s 124 individual races in Ontario. And even though the overall result was a bit lopsided in 2018, there were actually 22 races four years ago where the margin of victory was less than five per cent and another 13 where the winner was five to 10 points up on the second-place finisher.

The closest race in 2018 was one that, you may remember, did not get called until very late in the evening: Liberal Mitzie Hunter’s win in Scarborough—Guildwood. She won by just 74 votes, a margin of victory of 0.2 per cent.

(AB: I did not remember.)

According to our Global News seat projection analysis, Hunter should have an easier time of it this year. While our seat projection could change given that there are still nearly two weeks of campaigning left, we anticipate Hunter could win by a margin of perhaps 20 points. In 2014, when the Liberals won their last majority, Hunter won Guildwood with a comfortable 12-point margin.

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Looking to this year’s election, the closest race we see at this point is likely to be another Toronto riding: Toronto Centre.

Suze Morrison won this riding for the NDP in a walk in 2018 but Morrison is not seeking re-election. Instead, former Toronto city councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam is carrying the NDP banner and she faces David Morris of the Liberals. Morris ran and lost in 2018. So voters in Toronto Centre have two candidates, in Wong-Tam and Morris, who they may be familiar with. It’s definitely a progressive riding and in our model, we have a virtual tie between the two. But we have to pick a winner, though, and today it’s the Liberal Morris by 47 votes or 0.1 per cent. But as we see new polling data over the next several days, that will almost certainly change. In any event: All eyes will be on the heart of Toronto on election night.

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Alex Boutilier: Okay, that seems really nitty-gritty — even for you! What do your top-line numbers say?

David Akin: Good point! Right now we have Doug Ford coming back with another PC majority, winning 70 of the province’s 124 seats. That would be a drop from the 76 seats the PCs won in 2018 but still good enough for Ford … er, four … more years. Steven Del Duca’s Liberals bounce back from that history-making face-plant in 2018 to win 27 seats and they become the Official Opposition while Andrea Horwath’s NDP are looking at a disappointing finish relative to 2018, dropping to 26 seats and third party status. Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner should come back to represent the riding of Guelph.

This projection, by the way, is a model based on the aggregation of five polls published between May 16 and 18 which, combined, takes the voter preference of more than 4,600 Ontarians. When more polls come out over the coming days, we’ll mix those into the model and we expect our final model — and the final results — to be different than what we have here. But the trend right now at least: PC majority with the Liberals and New Democrats in a tight race to see who will be Official Opposition.

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At this point, we have 24 of the province’s 124 seats changing hands; 27 ridings where a winner squeaks by with five per cent or less over the second place finisher; and 14 where the winning margin of victory is between five points and 10 points.

Alex Boutilier: This supports my Seinfeld Election theory. At the end, we’ll be more or less where we started, but feel kind of dirty and wrong about what just happened. Colin, what’s your take on David’s projections and the week that was?

Colin D’Mello: David’s top-line numbers align with what we’re seeing on the campaign trail. The NDP are spinning their wheels f­rom a polling perspective, the Liberals are gaining some momentum (although I use that term loosely) and Doug Ford could probably take a beach vacation (perhaps best to stick to the shores of Lake Ontario) and still maintain his majority.

The NDP is definitely sensing that the party is on shaky ground. It is rounding out the week by making a pitch to drivers with a new truck-free 401 policy and a cap on gasoline prices, appealing to 905 voters who were targeted by the PCs. It’s so late in the campaign, though, that they’re being accused of desperation to stabilize their support.

Meanwhile, Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca is facing constant questions about whether he’ll be able to stay on as leader if he loses the election, and even his seat. Del Duca, obviously, claimed he’ll win his seat and a majority. But it seems the writing might be on the wall if you’re fielding questions about leadership rather than “how will you spend your first 100 days in office?”

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The one bright spot this week was Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner who, by all accounts, was the winner of this week’s leader’s debate. Fate being the cruel master that it is, the sunlight on Schreiner’s solar panels dimmed just as he had some wind in his turbines. He caught COVID-19 this week along with NDP Leader Andrea Horwath which will sideline them both during a crucial period of the election campaign.

So to sum up this week: With first place now seemingly locked in, we’re seeing an increasingly nasty fight for second place between the Liberals and the NDP — leading to a similar outcome of the 2018 campaign. As Seinfeld would say: “Not that there’s anything wrong with that.”

Global’s Coverage of the 2022 Ontario Election, Week Three:

Check out Global News’ promise tracker, keeping tabs on every pledge and policy announced during the campaign.

The NDP says it’s 10 seats away from toppling Doug Ford. Does the math add up?
The Ontario New Democrats are mapping out the road to forming a minority government with the backing of the Liberals and Green Party in a strategy that’s less directed at winning a majority government than denying Doug Ford’s PCs a second term, party insiders say. (Colin D’Mello and Alex Boutilier)

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Party leaders clash over affordability, healthcare and environment during debate
The leaders of Ontario’s four main political parties faced off on Monday night, debating a series of topics including healthcare, affordability and the environment. (Isaac Callan)

Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner sits down with Global News
After his 2018 electoral breakthrough, his strong performance at the leaders’ debate, and before he got COVID-19, Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner sat down with Global News. (Global News)

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath sits down with Global News
Contesting her fourth election as leader, Andrea Horwath has set her sights on the premier’s office. Global News’ Alan Carter sat down with the NDP veteran to talk about the campaign and her aspirations. (Global News)

Ontario NDP, Liberals would bring in law to fight Islamophobia, other hate if elected
Ontario’s New Democrats and Liberals committed Wednesday to bring in a law to fight Islamophobia and other forms of hate if elected to form government next month. (The Canadian Press)

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Ontario Green government would provide grants for home upgrades, if elected
Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner says he wants to tackle the climate crisis while helping Ontarians save on their utility bill. (The Canadian Press)

‘I’ll never be able to afford property’: Housing costs key issue for Ontario voters
When Thiago Lang and his wife began searching for a Greater Toronto Area home last year, they spent most weekends viewing about 15 properties and weekdays placing up to five bids — often over asking — on houses that sold for astronomical prices. (The Canadian Press)

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