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Ontario By-Election Outcomes Raise Likelihood of Spring General Election

Tonight’s pick-up of a seat by the New Democrats in Niagara Falls means that a provincial general election this spring is looking ever more likely.  While most political observers thought that the province was already heading towards an election around budget time, the NDP is likely to feel emboldened by Wayne Gates’ victory, the party’s fourth by-election pick-up since the October 2011 general election.

Although the Progressive Conservatives had hoped to pick up Niagara Falls (which is close to PC Leader Tim Hudak’s own riding), party insiders are grateful that Gila Martow’s win means that the PCs will hold onto Thornhill.

And even though the expectation had been that Liberals would lose their seat in Niagara Falls – the third loss of a Liberal-held seat since Kathleen Wynne was sworn in as Premier of Ontario just over a year ago – Liberals tonight are disappointed by the margin of their loss in Thornhill.

Today’s two by-elections were called following the resignation last year of Liberal MPP Kim Craitor (Niagara Falls) and PC MPP Peter Shurman (Thornhill).

New Democrat Wayne Gates picks up Niagara Falls, besting PC candidate Bart Maves 39.4%-36.8%

On the heels of this pick-up in Niagara Falls, the NDP will continue to debate internally whether the time is right to withdraw support from the minority Liberal government.   With Wayne Gates’ win in Niagara Falls, the balance is likely to shift to those in favour of a spring election – making it even more likely.

Andrea Horwath’s NDP has achieved some major success in by-elections, winning three others since 2011.  Many attribute this success to the personal popularity of Ms. Horwath, who has been the centrepiece of the party’s campaign, while others note the potency of her labour unions supporters when they concentrate their get-out-the-vote efforts.

As the province heads toward a possible, if not likely, spring general election, the possibility of the NDP forming government and Ms. Horwath going from third-party leader to premier should not be discounted.  Consequently, observers should also expect Ms. Horwath to face more media scrutiny than she has thus far.

PCs hold onto Thornhill as Gila Martow defeats Liberal candidate Sandra Yeung Racco 48.0%-41.5%

PC Leader Tim Hudak was under significant pressure to hold onto Thornhill, an important seat for the party in the GTA, and his supporters will be pleased by his candidate’s convincing win.

When combined with a strong second-place showing in Niagara Falls, tonight’s outcome should be expected to mute some (but not all) of the criticism Mr. Hudak has been facing from within his party’s ranks since the 2011 general election.

Irrespective, the Tories’ position on a spring general election remains unchanged, and the PC Caucus will be prepared to vote down the Wynne government at the first opportunity available.  

Liberal losses demonstrate that Premier’s Wynne’s personal popularity may not be enough

The margins of defeat tonight must be very disappointing for the Liberals.  Though the Premier’s personal popularity has been consistently higher than her party’s, it was not near enough to retake Thornhill or to curb the slide to a distant third in Niagara Falls.

Despite tonight, expect the Liberals to continue to pin their future electoral success on Kathleen Wynne.  The Premier will almost certainly be front and centre for all key government announcements and we believe that once a campaign heats up you can expect to see more partisan commercials similar to the ‘running Premier’ ads.

Polls

Thornhill

Date

Lib

NDP

PC

Actual Results February 13

41.5%

6.8%

48.0%

Most recent poll (Forum) February 12

40%

5%

51%

 

Niagara Falls

Date

Lib

NDP

PC

Actual Results February 13

19.4%

39.4%

36.8%

Most recent poll (Forum) February 12

17%

48%

33%

 

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