Officially, the Ontario election is only 3 months away; realistically, it is well underway. To commemorate this, on March 3rd Sussex hosted a pre-election webinar where Greg Lyle, Founder and President of Innovation Research Group, and Sabrina Nanji, Founder of Queen’s Park Observer, spoke on the latest polling data and provided valuable insights around what to expect this election season. To keep the conversation going, we wanted to recap five valuable takeaways from this pre-election webinar that Ontarians should be mindful of as election season quickly approaches.
Top Five Takeaways:
Similar to sports, it is no secret that many Ontarians have their favourite political party. Like a devoted Leafs fan, as a seasoned voter you may consistently vote for the same party without giving change a second thought. Change for these voters would be as likely as trading in a Leafs jersey for a Bruins jersey—it just does not happen.
This election, however, will be different. In the middle of a crisis, change is the last thing on a person’s mind. In times like this, it is normal for voters to think and act differently when compared to previous elections. This is something the polls have already indicated. According to recent data from Innovation Research, 27 percent of Ontarians do not believe it is time for a change while 13 percent who want change still believe the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party (“PCs”) are right for the job. Thus, seeing a loyal supporter swing their vote this election in support of the PCs due to fear of change and grave uncertainty amid the pandemic could be a possibility.
It is no secret that Ontarians are struggling with the increased cost of living. While the price of gas continues to dominate news headlines this week with experts warning the rise in fuels may be part of a larger inflationary trend, the outcry around the lack of affordability with housing has not been forgotten. All parties have signalled the need to increase housing supply to balance supply and demand will be a key issue this election. If the government’s release of the Housing Affordability Task Force Report does not convince you that this issue will be a key election item, the proposed housing policy we expect to be released in the coming days will.
As the reality of life during the pandemic continues to shift, we will continue to see uncertainty with the polls. We watched this unfold back in January as the introduction to a new variant and stricter health measures resulted in a significant decrease in approval ratings for Premier Ford. As we get closer to election day it will be important for the PC government that the pandemic remains well managed and controlled. For two years now, the pandemic has caused rapid and significant shifts in public policy and public health measures. While the government has signalled that it looks like we can finally move forward as more measures are lifted in the coming days, we cannot discount the possibility that the pandemic will flare up again before June 2nd. And if it does, we could see an impact on voter decisions.
Anyone familiar with Ontario politics should know that it is virtually impossible to win an election without taking most of the seats in the suburban areas that surround Toronto/ GTA, commonly known as the 905 region. Encompassing Durham, Halton, Peel and York, the 905’s influence on the overall seat count will be the biggest hurdle for all parties.
While the pandemic challenged Premier Ford and the PCs, it provided an opportunity for Premier Ford to show himself as a strong leader who can listen to the concerns and needs of his constituents. His straightforward nature coupled with what many characterize as populist ideas have allowed him to maintain a strong voice that represents the majority of working-class Ontarians. The focus placed on the Ontario worker through the passage and implementation of the Working For Workers Act, 2021 are likely to result in votes going to the PCs, as opposed to the NDP or to the Liberals. While the next few months will remain critical for all parties, the PCs appear to have the upper hand.
In conclusion, these five key takeaways should be considered in any government relations strategy leading up to the Ontario election. While the election still may seem far off, an organization should be mindful of the impact the result of this election may hold for the operations of their business and industry.