Premier Kathleen Wynne has won a majority parliament and will form the next provincial government. The Liberals won 59 seats in the 107-seat legislature with 38 percent of the popular vote, Tim Hudak’s Progressive Conservatives (PCs) shrank to 27 seats with 31 percent of the vote, and Andrea Horwath’s New Democrats won 21 seats with 24 percent of the vote.

Ontario-2014-Election-Results

There will be much debate over the next few days surrounding the reasons for the outcome tonight.  From our perspective, the important question is: What does a Liberal victory mean in terms of the future direction of public policy in this province? Wynne Victory: What Now?

There is no question that this victory is very much Kathleen Wynne’s.  Few Liberals would have believed that a fourth term was at all possible, let alone a majority win.  While this means she will have uncontested control over the government she will lead, the win also comes with some substantial baggage.

The Liberals are committed to re-introduce a budget that is somewhat of a contradiction.  While sold as a “progressive” budget that focused on near-term spending programs, it still contained a commitment to balance the budget by 2017, with very serious spending restraint in the “out years.”

The political strategy that clearly worked – appealing to those who were frightened by the austerity platform of Tim Hudak and the PC Party – also brings the risk of creating a sense that the status quo is a viable option for Ontario.

While there may well be a downgrade of the Province’s credit rating in the near term, there is unlikely to be a substantial deterioration in the Province’s ability to borrow money, albeit with higher costs than most other Provinces.

As a result, there may be a sense that with a stable majority Government, all is well.  But this isn’t the case.  The reality is that the Province faces major structural problems in its economy and has had a government for almost four years that has been in pre-election mode, election mode, a minority, a change of leadership, and once again in election mode.  Quite apart from its fiscal deficit, there are many decisions that have been deferred or avoided and now must be faced.

Difficult choices will need to be made and many who lent their support to the Liberals in the campaign will be pushing hard that they should not be affected.

The Government has ambitious plans for infrastructure investment, continuing support for education, health care and other social programs.  While the budget contained some tax increases, there is limited scope to generate substantial additional revenue while the economy continues to have rather anemic growth.

Kathleen Wynne has proven herself to be a political leader who has been able to overcome incredible odds to achieve a victory few felt was possible.  She now has a challenge which may be even more daunting.

The job of Premier of Ontario presents more challenges than any political campaign, and offers few easy choices.  During the campaign, Wynne indicated that she would reintroduce her 2014 Budget within 20 days of the election. While parliamentary practice may move that date back a little, we expect a Speech from the Throne and a reintroduced budget to occur in July.  StrategyCorp has developed a Quick Reference Guide for the Liberal platform.

After passing the budget she will need to begin to put her new team together, establish priorities for the next four years and begin to tackle problems that are not easily solved without controversy, conflict and great skill.

There will be no shortage of those who identify problems for the new government.  It is our view that those who simply identify yet another problem will be given short shrift.  Well thought-through solutions that speak to not only the proponent’s special interest, but the broader public interest are likely to be not only welcomed, but eagerly sought.

 

Following Second Loss, Hudak Announces Resignation as PC Leader

With the loss of 10 seats in what will be Ontario’s 41st Parliament, Tim Hudak announced his resignation as PC Leader.  He’ll stay on until the party chooses a new leader. Many political observers will point to the proposal to reduce public sector jobs by 100,000 as a miscalculation that played a big role in the Party’s poor showing. Others will note the impact on the election outcome of an unprecedented number of anti-PC third-party ads, which overwhelmingly opposed Hudak’s Tories.  Leading Conservatives will start jockeying for the party’s leadership immediately.

Horwath Staying on as NDP Leader

While it initially appeared that Andrea Horwath faced difficulty gaining her footing on the campaign trail, her party’s populist campaign ended up boosting the NDP’s share of the popular vote, while maintaining the same number of seats in the legislature. Horwath is staying on as leader of the NDP.

 

Third-Party Advertising

For the past several Ontario provincial election cycles, we’ve seen third-party advertising grow substantially. During this election campaign, no fewer than 20 different unions and political advocacy groups registered with Elections Ontario to run political advertising, the vast majority of them opposing the PC Party and often aimed at Tim Hudak himself.  The most prominent of these third-parties was once again the Working Families Coalition, an organization of a number of labour unions that pooled resources to fund their advertising campaign. Other notables included the controversial decision by the Ontario Provincial Police Association to create anti-Hudak ads; and, by comparison, the limited efforts of the fledgling pro-conservative Working Canadians Coalition.

The Liberals were once again the primary beneficiary of an unprecedented wave of paid media support by unions. The strong rhetoric that many contained (e.g. “children will be at risk under a PC government”) clearly had an impact as the Liberals were able to overcome hurdles their party faced and also benefit from an influx of voters.  At this point it is not possible to determine how large an impact these ads had, but what is clear is that these groups were able to flood the television and radio airwaves between the advertising blackout periods in the campaign, unlike no other groups except the main political parties themselves. It is likely that they had a significant impact on the Tories’ campaign.

 

Polling

The only constant throughout this campaign was that the polls didn’t agree. As we have indicated in previous updates, polling results at the beginning of a campaign are rarely a true predictor of the final outcome. In fact, recent campaigns in B.C, Quebec and Alberta placed polling firms and their methodologies under intense scrutiny, not only because of their largely inaccurate reflections of the outcome but also because they were often contradictory. Seat projection models are even more primitive and often give a false representation of the state of play.

Over the days ahead, the various polling firms will be reflecting on tonight’s results – promoting or defending their various methodologies.  At this hour it appears as though Angus Reid’s polling was closest to the mark.

The variable every pollster must grapple with: Turnout

Who actually shows up to vote is one of the most important variables for polling firms to accurately measure through the campaign period. As we neared the final week, polls increasingly provided two popular vote projects: (i) province-wide vote intention; and (ii) vote intention from likely voters.

As a sampling of the various polls through the campaign period, Ipsos Reid and EKOS had consistently different results. This can largely be attributed to their methodologies and their ‘likely voter’ models. The method of determining “likely voters” is so important to the accuracy of the polls that EKOS adjusted their likely voter model in the final days of the campaign to better reflect age and education in shaping turnout.

A sampling of the polls released in the days before the election are below:

  1. Ipsos Reid: Internet method:
    Ipsos consistently reported the PCs to be in the lead through the campaign period.
Poll: June 3-6 Liberals PCs NDP
Decided Eligible Voters 35% 35% 26%
Likely Voters 32% 40% 24%

(For this survey, a sample of 2,140 Ontarians from Ipsos’ Canadian online panel was interviewed online. The poll is considered accurate to within +/-2.4 percentage points)

  1. EKOS: IVR (interactive voice response) method:
    EKOS consistently reported the Liberals to be in the lead through the campaign period.
Poll: June 8-10  Liberals PCs NDP
Decided Eligible Voters 36.6% 30.2% 21.5%
Likely Voters 41.1%% 33.2% 17.1%

(This poll surveyed a random sample of 1,332 Ontario residents using IVR technology. The margin of error associated with the total sample size is +/-2.7 percentage points, 19 times out of 20)

3. Angus Reid: Internet method:

Poll: June 8-10 Liberals PCs NDP
Decided Eligible Voters 34% 36% 24%
Likely Voters 36% 32% 26%

(This poll was conducted online from June 8-10, 2014. The sample size is 1866. A probability sample of this size carries a margin of error of +/- 2.3%, 19 times out of 20.)