Friday, May 2, 2014

Andrea Horwath pulls a "Jack Layton", but this time progressives will flock to Kathleen Wynne's Liberals to stop Hudak's Conservatives...

Here’s why:
  • Premier Kathleen Wynne has successfully branded herself as a smart, hard-working, progressive, yet realistic leader with her performance in office, her messaging since Jan 2013 and her budget introduced yesterday which will be an effective NDP/progressive vote winning tool on the election hustings.  She’s developed a progressive agenda that will easily appeal to the 65% to 70% of the electorate who are centre-left. 
  • Kathleen Wynne has also earned her position as the leader most Ontarians view as the “Best Premier”.  Her performance over the election campaign will probably enhance that position, not weaken it. 
  • PC Leader Tim Hudak’s agenda is still just a retread of the Mike Harris 1990s Common Sense Revolution.  65% to 70% of Ontarians are not interested in a sequel.  Most progressive voters will be scared to return to those dark days. 
  • Tim Hudak remains the unpopular leader he was in 2011.  He continues to use lines that go way over the top and make him look silly to the vast majority of voters (ie. People who don’t vote PC were just “bribed” by the unions, or that Kathleen Wynne “wants to bankrupt this province.”)  He couldn’t even sound sincere when eulogizing his late colleague, Jim Flaherty.
  • NDP Leader Andrea Horwath has spent no time owning any issues, especially the economy or jobs.  It’s been mostly empty populism from her, sometimes even defending Rob Ford.  This has turned off progressive voters in Toronto big time and made them ripe for the picking for Wynne’s Liberals. She has spent the last year saying nothing about the major issues of the day, hoping to coast along and pick up a handful of by-election victories.  She’s been successful on that front, but now the cupboard looks pretty bare.  
We all remember the progressive programs that got killed federally in 2005/2006 after then NDP leader Jack Layton helped kill the Paul Martin Liberal government in Ottawa.  The result was a Stephen Harper Conservative government now well into its eighth year in power.  Progressive voters aren’t looking to see a second Conservative government ruling over them in Ontario. 

The Ontario NDP thinks the timing is right to somehow replace the Grits as the alternative to the Tories?  Nope.  Any NDP surge (which won’t happen) will only produce a Tory majority government and progressive voters who witnessed the so-called Orange Crush in 2011 know it.  A stronger NDP means a stronger Conservative government.  The NDP is not about to be seen as a governing option in Ontario any time soon.

I didn’t support Kathleen Wynne during the Ontario Liberal leadership in 2013.  But her skills and abilities are now clear.  Wynne is a sensational campaigner who seems to be at her best when the chips are down.  And they will appear to be very down for the majority of the election campaign about to start.  Polls might even show her trailing the PCs right up until voting day.  But this seems to fire her up in ways that always seem to make her a winner in the end.  It worked for her during her leadership race, which she was supposed to lose until the last minute, when she cleaned the floor with her opponents.  I expect the same tough odds will make Wynne a stronger campaigner during this campaign too and impress Ontario voters big time. 

Ontarians will finally get a really close look at Wynne, and they will by and large like what they see.  Furthermore, progressive voters scared of Hudak’s PCs will begin to coalesce around the Liberals again as a result.  Horwath’s NDP will turn into spoilers at best. 

Here’s how I see the Ontario election campaign unfolding:
  • The race will be very fluid, with polls showing the three main parties bobbing up and down the first 2-3 weeks.  Most polls will show the PCs and Liberals fighting for first place.  It will be incredibly unpredictable. 
  • This being Wynne’s first campaign, there will be much spin and talk by pundits that Wynne is in trouble. 
  •  With polls showing the PCs in the lead by a point or few points, progressive voters will spend the whole campaign feeling uncomfortable about the prospect of a PC government under dud leader Tim Hudak.
  • The NDP may even score in the high 20s in a poll or two, but the Grits will likely be in a clear first or second place in most of the polls for the entire campaign.
  • Unhappiness with all 3 main parties will be a dominant theme for most of the campaign.  Enthusiasm will be low.  Predictions of the lowest turnout ever will be frequent. 
  • Wynne will impress during the one or two leadership debates as this will be the first time most voters have seen her at her best.  Hudak won’t impress much, and neither will Horwath (at least not any more than voters expect them too.)
  • Voters will, toward the end of the campaign, start to polarize again around the PCs and Liberals, with the NDP sinking back to the mid-low 20s, and it might even look like the PCs are about to win a minority government.  Talk will then turn to the chaos that will ensue when Hudak can’t get any of his program through the legislature, and how we’ll be back at the polls again in six months or even sooner if he can’t get a budget passed (which would be likely).
  • At the last minute, those progressive voters on the fence will swing strongly behind the Liberals, pushing them back up into the high 30s in support, while PC support will flat line again somewhere in the low-mid 30s.  If there is enough of a stampede, the Liberals could be pushed up into the low 40s. 
On election night, the Grits will win.  They might even win a majority.  Tories will be utterly shocked just like Romney Republicans were in 2012.  

Which NDP seats are most vulnerable under this scenario?: Davenport, Trinity-Spadina, Beaches-East York, Parkdale-High Park and Bramalea-Gore-Malton could all go Liberal due to a Grit surge in the GTA.  Outside the GTA, Kitchener-Waterloo and London West, both of which were won in by-elections but are not traditional NDP seats, could fall into Grit hands.  Kitchener-Waterloo region usually votes for the status quo government, and the Grit candidate in Kitchener-Waterloo is quite strong.  If the Grits find a strong candidate in London West, they could win that too. 

Which PC seats are most vulnerable to the Grits?: Etobicoke-Lakeshore, Thornhill, Newmarket-Aurora, Halton and Burlington are all within Grit reach, with Newmarket probably being the easiest pick-up due to the fact that PC MPP Frank Klees is retiring.  Burlington could go Liberal too because it was so close last time and the Grit candidate this time, Eleanor McMahon, is quite strong.  Outliers might even include Northumberland-Quinte West (where former MPP Lou Rinaldi is gunning for a comeback) and Perth-Wellington. If the Grits win those two, they will be forming a majority government. 

Which Liberal seats are vulnerable?  Mostly the usual suspects outside the GTA: Brant, Kitchener Centre, Ancaster-Flamborough-Aldershot, St. Catharines, Windsor West, Glengarry-Prescott-Russell, Ottawa West-Nepean, Sudbury, Thunder Bay-Atitkokan. 

But if the campaign goes the way I think it will, with the Liberal vote staying strong and perhaps even going up, these seats will be held by the Grits for the most part, with one or two exceptions. 

My analysis above all assumes that the Wynne Liberals run a very decent campaign and manage to polarize the electorate between themselves and the Tories.  They are in good shape at the starting gate to do just that. 

Andrea Horwath doesn't seem to stand for much of anything.  She's offered progressives little reason to stick by her and I think most of them will have no difficulty abandoning the NDP to vote Liberal to stop Hudak.  

I do think that Hudak will continue to not impress voters.  Will his campaign be significantly better than his 2011 effort?  He’ll try but I predict there will be little improvement.  If he suddenly finds his inner leader and commands attention on the hustings in ways he has never demonstrated any ability to do in the past, my predictions above will change. 

But my feeling as this election campaign gets underway: Liberal victory, perhaps even a majority. 


Ron Waller said...

Yes, Ontario has never seen a more progressive government than the McGuinty fake majorities... Social spending cuts, corporate tax cuts, doubling the price of electricity, HST on expensive utilities, failed privatization schemes. Like Mulroney, little progressive in progressive conservative...

Ben Burd said...

Rinaldi an outlier - only in his own mind!

Unknown said...

Last I checked, government represents the people.
Who exactly is looking out, as per the oath's sworn, for us besides us?
Unfortunately, I can't add a new box with my name listed because my vote would be discredited. So the option is who will screw me the least - politics at it's absolute worst!

Unknown said...

Great post Matt! Kathleen Wynne has truly branded herself in an exceptional way, and has weathered many storms and the fall outs of those who made silly and poor decisions before her.

It was a great budget announced yesterday. And, I cannot agree more - the NDP's decision was, and is, foolish and wrong.

With respect to Layton - Martin reference, I wouldn't give Layton that much credibility. Sadly, I think the fall of Martin (such a flippin' travesty), had more to do with whomever leaked that email to CTV news all those years ago (which lead to what we refer to now as the "sponsorship scandal"). Whomever that person is... well, only he knows HIS legacy. Layton couldn't have been a part of that, but perhaps took advantage of it.

Sigh... on to paying for an expensive election, with a hint of roulette...

Unknown said...

I honestly have no clue what Andrea Horwath hopes to achieve. There are only 4 possible outcomes: Lib majority, Lib minority, PC majority or PC minority. Only one of those outcomes offers the NDP the opportunity to participate in a meaningful way - a Lib minority government. Which is what we have today. The other 3 potential outcomes would utterly neutralize the NDP. Why roll the dice when you can AT BEST only hope to get what you've got today?