Ontario Election Week 3: The Midway Mark

It’s hard to believe, but we’re already at the midway mark of the 2018 election campaign.

As we reach the midway point, the ballot question we highlighted last week of “what kind of change do you want” is driving polls.  We continue to see the rise and momentum of Andrea Horwath’s NDP, largely at the expense of Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals, while Doug Ford’s PC’s have dipped slightly, but appear to be maintaining their core vote.

All parties continue to roll out policy announcements, but as a possible NDP government scenario increases, we expect more scrutiny on their policies and candidates from media and the other parties.

Keep an eye on the StrategyCorp poll tracker to stay up-to-date on the latest read of where the election campaign is headed as we get closer to June 7th.

This week, our focus for each of the parties is on who might be in the mix in the Cabinet conversation.  Cabinet making is an art, not a science, and Premiers-elect must take many factors into consideration including regional representation, age, gender and language. That said, there are a number of possible front bench candidates if they get elected.

Liberal Campaign

With the Liberals falling to third place in the polls since the start of the campaign, there’s no doubt that they have a lot of work to do to rebuild voter support before June 7.  Liberal candidates in swing ridings will be working hard to “get out the vote” from traditional Liberal voters and avoid losing progressive support to the NDP.  With the clock ticking to election day, there isn’t a lot of time left for the Liberals to change the opinions of voters who are seeking a mandate for change in 2018.

Should voters re-elect a Liberal government in June, the Cabinet could look quite different as many of the Liberals’ key cabinet Ministers are in for a tough fight in their local ridings. The Liberals have several prominent candidates who could be up for a Cabinet post if they win their seats including: Naheed Yaqubian (Richmond Hill); Kate Graham (London); Alvin Tedjo (Oakville North-Burlington); Li Koo (Toronto-Danforth); and Robert Quiaff, the current Mayor of Prince Edward County.

A returned Liberal Cabinet could also expect to see a shake-up in key portfolios with veteran Ministers Steven Del Duca, Glenn Thibeault and Mitzie Hunter moving into financial portfolios, or the promotion of existing Ministers Yasir Naqvi, Nathalie Des Rosiers or Marie-France Lalonde into more key portfolios. In the case of a Liberal election loss, Steven Del Duca, Yasir Naqvi, Charles Sousa and Mitzie Hunter have all been touted as potential Liberal leadership candidates.

NDP Campaign

Benefitting from a significant shift in momentum in the last week, New Democrats have begun sketching out possible first moves of a new government.

If she becomes Premier, Andrea Horwath would likely rely on the advice of a former NDP premier of Saskatchewan. In his landmark Political Management in Canada, the late Allan Blakeney, who led his province from 1971 to 1982 advises new premiers to start with a small cabinet. Fewer ministers means fewer personalities to manage, as well as fewer, and generally better political staff.

The NDP is running a diverse group in this election – including 56% women. Should they win the right to form a government, they will likely be able to choose from an equally diverse group. The first NDP cabinet in nearly 30 years will need to balance gender and ethnic identities as well as the constant of Ontario’s regions.

Experienced caucus veterans like Catherine Fife (Waterloo); Peter Tabuns (Toronto-Danforth); Mike Mantha (Algoma-Manitoulin); Peggy Satler (London West); and France Gelinas (Nickel Belt) are likely to be considered front runners for key cabinet posts. Horwath will also want to show off new MPPs who can offer new perspectives and experience from outside elected politics, including Sarah Singh (Brampton Centre); Marit Stiles (Davenport); Kathy Alexander (Sarnia-Lambton); Niki Lunquist (Whitby); and Sol Mamakwa (Kiiwetinoong).

PC Campaign

In the last five months, Doug Ford has gone from private citizen to the leader of the PC Party, and most of his campaign team’s time has been focused on winning a leadership race, and then the provincial election, not on transition planning, though his team will benefit from work done by his predecessor.

Even if the Ford Team is more focused on winning than on transition, we can speculate on who the front runners for Cabinet positions would be.  It should also be noted that any Ford Cabinet would likely be smaller in size than Kathleen Wynne’s most recent Cabinet to demonstrate savings and smaller government to Ontarians.

The PC’s have attracted a wide variety of candidates with strength and experience that would be hard to ignore. For example, former leadership candidates Christine Elliott (Newmarket-Aurora) and Caroline Mulroney (York-Simcoe), would likely find a place in a Ford Cabinet, along with former interim leader Vic Fedeli (Nipissing).  Other incumbents that could find themselves at the Cabinet table include Lisa Macleod (Nepean), Laurie Scott (Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock), Steve Clark (Leeds-Grenville), Jeff Yurek (Elgin-Middlesex-London) and Lisa Thompson (Huron-Bruce).

In Northern Ontario, keep an eye on candidates such as former Harper Cabinet minister Greg Rickford (Kenora) and current MPP Ross Romano (Sault Ste. Marie).

In southwestern Ontario, former MP Susan Truppe (London North Centre) could be in any Cabinet conversation. In Ottawa and Eastern Ontario, fluently bilingual Cameron Montgomery (Orleans) could also be in the mix.

Finally, any Ford win must also go through the 905 and parts of the 416. Should Mr. Ford win on June 7, he may have a lot of tough choices to make from this key region. Some names could include Rod Phillips (Ajax), Peter Bethlenfalvy (Pickering-Uxbridge), Denzil Minnan-Wong (Don Valley East), Stephen Crawford (Oakville), Doug Downey (Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte) and Nina Tangri (Mississauga-Streetsville).

But it’s still a long way to June 7, and as the saying goes, “campaigns matter”.

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