May 4th is an important day in the world of Ontario politics: it marks one year until the official campaign for the 2022 provincial election begins.
Of course, with a fixed election date, the “unofficial election campaign” will get underway well before May 4, 2022 and, despite the pandemic, some might argue the election is already heating up.
Over the next 12 months, your Sussex consultants will be providing their analysis and insight on a variety of election-relevant issues and developments. With one year to go, though, there are 3 key things anyone engaged in Ontario politics and policy needs to keep in mind:
1. The Horse Race and Confirmed Candidates
You have likely seen recent polling numbers that suggest support amongst the 3 main parties is tightening. We expect these numbers to fluctuate, as the pandemic’s third wave begins to plateau, Ontario’s vaccine roll-out progresses, and the economy recovers. That said, the latest numbers confirm the 2022 election is likely to be a harder fought contest than previously thought. As a result, it is not surprising that within the last few weeks we have seen increased interest in meeting requests with a broader group of parties, legislators, candidates, and senior public servants.
As of May 3, only about 40% of candidates have been nominated by the 3 main parties (147 candidates out of 372 – keep in mind there are 124 seats in the Ontario Legislature). In the coming weeks and months, there will be many more candidates nominated and more of these candidates will start getting their campaigns up and running. Your Sussex consultants are tracking these political developments on an ongoing basis and we are analyzing impacts and opportunities as they pertain to a variety of election eventualities.
2. New Initiatives and Getting Things Done
While we may be a year away from the election campaign, the window to get new issues on to the government’s agenda or to get existing initiatives passed and implemented is considerably smaller.
If your organization has a priority that has yet to be raised with and/or championed by the Ford government, you likely only have a few months left to translate compelling cases into action. After this time, the ability to advance new priorities becomes immensely more complex. If your organization is currently working with the government on rolling out a particular policy or program, you have a bit more time, but the clock is still ticking.
In the months leading up to the election, government – both politically and amongst the public service – will go “tools down” as it looks to tie up loose ends on most any public policy initiative not yet fully implemented and begins to “clear the decks” of any possible challenges heading into the election. Recognizing the importance politics and public policy play in this time-limited space, it is imperative that stakeholders have a plan and timeline that aligns with government, ensuring, in some cases, years of work are not left in the shadows of the election contest and other more political pressing priorities.
3. Advocacy and New Spending Limits
With Bill 254, Protecting Ontario’s Elections Act, 2021 gaining Royal Assent on April 19, contribution limits have increased and the rules for third party advertising have dramatically changed.
Many organizations are looking to increase the stature of their key issues in the lead-up to the election campaign, hoping to get commitments into party platforms. The third-party advertising rules have changed, with spending limits now applying to the 12-month period prior to the issuance of the writ, rather than 6 months as previous. In other words, the limits on third-party advertising are now in effect.
With a lower amount available to third parties to spend raising awareness of their issue(s), digital platforms are likely to become an even more important vehicle for third-party advertising and attention-grabbing tactical plans. Your Sussex consultants would be happy to update you on these new rules and how they might impact your specific advocacy plans between now and this time next year.
The next year will be a turbulent one in Ontario politics. The pandemic and its aftermath will certainly play a leading role during this time. As the election period draws closer, there will be a lot more attention paid to the horse race between the parties. Even in this complex environment, your organization’s public affairs priorities can be achieved, if pursued in a strategic manner that considers these and many other election year dynamics.
If you have any questions or interest in anything outlined above or regarding the greater provincial election cycle and its impacts and opportunities for your business, please let us know. Your Sussex consultant is happy to help.