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Heading into Ontario’s Election Campaign: 3 Key Takeaways from the May 3 Sussex Pre-Election Webinar

Published on
May 6, 2022

The Ontario election is officially underway, and voters will go to the polls on June 2, 2022. To kick off election season in Ontario, Sussex hosted its second pre-election webinar on Tuesday May 3 with Greg Lyle, Founder and President of Innovative Research Group, and Sabrina Nanji, Founder of Queen’s Park Observer. The two talked about the latest polling data and trends, providing valuable insight of what to expect in the next month. Three members of the Sussex team – Patrick Gajos, Brian Zeiler-Kligman, and Sadaf Abbasi – joined in to add further context to the entertaining discussion.

In case you missed it, Sussex has captured three recurring themes that were discussed in the webinar that will remain key factors as Ontarians get ready to cast their ballots in less than a month.

Top Three Takeaways:

1. Affordability Remains a Key Issue

If you tuned in to our first webinar or read “5 Key Takeaways from Sussex’s Election Webinar”, the priority given to the growing concern around affordability should not come as a surprise. As inflation continues to rise to record breaking levels, numerous polls show affordability is the key issue going into the election campaign. With most Ontarians identifying a party’s commitment to reducing the cost of living as most likely to impact their vote, leaders have the next month to prove their party is best for the job.

The PCs and Premier Ford have positioned themselves as the party that represents the everyday worker and are a step ahead of other parties when it comes to their commitment to put money back into the pockets of Ontarians. This is highlighted through measures outlined in the Ontario Budget that was delivered last week, such as committing to lower taxes for individuals making less than $50,000, cutting the gas tax starting in July, and refunding license plate sticker fees. The PCs’ commitment to housing and their plan to build 1.5 million homes in the next 10 years to ease demand and increase affordability is another action placing them ahead of the other parties.

The NDP and Andrea Horwath are striving to catch up to the PCs but have not made strides to effectively communicate a clear plan as to how they will make life more affordable for Ontarians. The next few weeks will provide the NDP with more time to discuss the issues outlined in its platform and how well the party communicates to the public could have a substantive influence on the polls. The Liberals and Steven Del Duca have promised to decrease public transit fares to $1 per ride to make life more affordable for Ontarians, which has gained traction with the media in recent days; however, similar to the NDPs, they have failed to communicate how this plan will affect long-term transit revenues and infrastructure expansion.

2. Compassion and Relatability Will Win Votes

Interestingly, Lyle noted in his polling data that this election marks the first time in Ontario’s history where a PC leader is viewed as the most compassionate when compared to their rivals. Coming out of a pandemic, qualities like compassion and honesty are more valuable than ever. As Premier Ford’s strength is being able to relate to his audience at large, Lyle’s polling highlights the PCs starting in the strongest position they have been in the last 20 years. His polling also illustrates that on top of the PCs core supporters (27 percent), 15 percent support Doug Ford without labelling themselves as defined PC voters. Totaling already 42%, excluding the percentage of unaligned voters, this illustrates the strong position Premier Ford and the PCs are in to win a second mandate. It will be interesting to see if Ontario Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca or NDP Leader Andrea Horwath work on becoming more relatable to the average voter in an effort to swing votes.

3. Elections Matter

Going into the first few days of the campaign, polling provided by Innovative Research shows a clear path to a PC majority. The Liberal Party is positioned to become the official Opposition and regain official party status after a disastrous run in 2018. This is all bad news for Andrea Horwath’s NDP who trail in third place with losses growing across the province. Yet, Doug Ford is not celebrating, and Steven Del Duca is gearing up for a scrum. That is because elections matter. History has shown us time and again that these next 30 days will make it or break it for parties, leaders, and candidates. Recency bias tends to dictate elections, so the next month will provide an opportunity for each leader to capture voter attention and gain their confidence. It does not matter that Doug Ford is the most likeable leader today. It does not matter that Steven Del Duca is an unknown. And it does not matter that Andrea Horwath is struggling to capture the hearts and minds of Ontarians. The only thing that matters is where voters place their “X” on June 2, 2022, and those vying for election have 30 days to make their case to the people.  

While there can be many surprises over the course of an election campaign, the themes identified above will likely remain the dominant ones during the writ period. This is the time where organizations should lay the foundation for engagement with a new government so they can hit the ground running post-election.

Happy to Help.

Sadaf Abbasi, Director: sabbasi@sussex-strategy.com

Patrick Gajos, Director and General Counsel: pgajos@sussex-strategy.com

Amanda DeYoung, Associate: adeyoung@sussex-strategy.com