With nine days remaining before Ontario’s June 7 provincial election, the provincial NDP and PC parties are in a dead heat when it comes to popular support in most polls. The Liberals have gotten a bit of a boost after Kathleen Wynne’s strong performance in the final televised debate Sunday evening.
At this point in the race, however, good news for the Liberals is also good news for Doug Ford’s conservatives. Each Liberal vote weakens the NDP and gives Ford a clearer path to victory.
According to Mainstreet Research, both Liberal and NDP voters are most likely to switch their votes to their second choices – which is, in most cases, the other. Almost 40 per cent of Liberal voters are very or somewhat likely to switch their votes. Almost 24 per cent of NDP voters say the same. The most common second choice of Liberals (47.7 per cent) is NDP and vice versa (43.3 per cent of NDP voters lean Liberal as their second choice.)
That means the pool of “non-PC” voters is fairly fungible: they’re likely to slide back and forth from NDP to Liberal depending on who they think has the better chance of beating Doug Ford. Likely, because the policy positions of the NDP and Liberal Party are seen as very similar. There wasn’t really anything that much different between them to lock some in one way or another. Until now.
Kathleen Wynne is hitting the NDP hard with the only wedge issue she’s got: unions. The NDP was born out of the labour movement and big unions remain at the heart of the party. Andrea Horwath has said an NDP government will never order striking union members back to work. Yet, government employs thousands of unionized workers and bargains regularly with their public sector unions. If the government is the NDP, and the NDP is the public sector unions, who will represent the citizens and taxpayers in these talks? Nobody, says Wynne.
Wynne has seized on this issue to mark her Liberals as different from Horwath’s NDP in a way that will entice many traditional Liberal voters back from the NDP. It will also keep hardcore NDP supporters from jumping to the Liberals in order to beat Ford, because ultimately they support the unions.
I think Wynne’s strategy will work well enough to grow her vote back to keep the NDP out of government – but, not enough to keep the PC Party out of majority territory. Then again, there is still over a week for the PCs to fuck something up badly.