Wednesday, May 30, 2018

The Ontario NDP replaces the Liberals this year as the slayers of crappy Conservatives...

The latest CBC poll aggregation - May 30, 2018
This ongoing Ontario election campaign continues to fascinate and surprise.

The latest polls are showing Andrea Horwath's NDP either neck-and-neck with Doug Ford's Conservatives, or in a clear lead.  They also show Kathleen Wynne's Liberals languishing somewhere between the high teens and the low 20s.

If those numbers were to hold in the actual popular vote on election day, while the winner may at this point be uncertain, it would also certainly mean a defeat so devastating for the Ontario Liberals that the party might take years if not decades to recover.  

All of these developments have forced me to confront many assumptions I've held about Ontario politics for years:
  1. Ontarians are adverse to voting NDP under any circumstances.  Even when Jack Layton was at the height of his orange wave in 2011, he could only muster 26% of the Ontario vote, barely beating out Michael Ignatieff's Liberals who won 25% that year.  Apparently, given the right circumstances, that's no longer true. 
  2. Earlier this year, voters seemed to have little problem with Doug Ford following his "election" as PC leader, as all opinion polls from March to the start of the campaign showed his party well ahead of the others.  But apparently the focus of this campaign has shone a welcome light on Ford's many shortcomings as he sinks his party in the polls.   
  3. After 15 years, it did seem that outright victory for the Liberals this time was unlikely.  But if the Liberals could do well enough, it might keep a PC victory rather modest and, with a strong base intact, this would allow the Liberals to get a new leader, revitalize their movement and mount a strong campaign against the Ford Conservatives next time. But now, this is less of a concern as the Ontario NDP seems to have replaced the Grits as capable Ford slayers this year! 
The deep hatred of, or at least extreme fatigue with the Liberals now is obvious, as is the desire to kick them out no matter what.  I sympathize with this sentiment.  Any party in power this long has accumulated so many scandals and errors, and many of its stalwarts have become arrogant and a bit out of touch.  Today, we were reminded of one of the many blunders of the Liberals in office.    

The sudden emergence of Horwath's NDP in this campaign as a viable progressive alternative that can challenge the Conservatives has exacerbated the Liberals' problems, crippling their ability to recover.

In addition, Doug Ford has not run the kind of campaign he needed to re-assure Ontarians that he's ready and mature enough for the premier's office.  His empty and clearly dishonest platitudes about his greatness aren't going over so well.

As a progressive, it's been reassuring to me to see the NDP take off as they are doing.  Perhaps Ontario isn't as stodgy and conservative as we've allowed ourselves to believe.  Or perhaps times are changing.   

I've always considered myself to be a very progressive Liberal.  I'm definitely on the far left of that mostly centrist party (so much so that the tendencies of some blue Liberals to care more about tax cuts and business handouts than social justice have always annoyed me.)  I've voted NDP federally as much as I've voted for the federal Liberals.  But I haven't voted NDP provincially since 1995, when I decided to give a vote to my local NDP MPP who had supported equal rights for LGBT people despite strong opposition at the time. 

My support for the Ontario Liberals solidified when they emerged as the main challengers to Mike Harris' PCs in the late 1990s.  I even went to work for them for five years from 1999 to 2004, working for two Liberal MPPs including Thunder Bay's Michael Gravelle and even in the Liberal Caucus Service Bureau.  During that time, I did often see the nasty side of New Democrats, including the fact that they are just as pragmatic and uncommitted to their principles as any other partisan, despite what they may say.

Horwath herself has shown changing priorities over the years, although this year clearly she has hit her stride in a big way.   Her performance this election campaign has been solid, taking full advantage of the political circumstances facing the other two main parties.

Now she remains the only person standing in the way of Doug Ford becoming premier.  That alone is a big reason to vote NDP this year. 

But one bit of warning to progressives who are overjoyed at the prospect of Doug Ford's defeat this year by the hands of the NDP: if it happens, it may only be a temporary reprieve.  NDP administrations tend to provoke major conservative backlashes.  A defeat may not be the end of Ford if he fights to stay on.  And we should all remember back to how his late brother rode a wave of resentment against another New Democrat's administration to victory in 2010.

Of course, if it's a decisive NDP majority, Ford won't be able to escape the anger amongst his own party's supporters at clearly blowing yet another election.  He might get forced out.  Would I vote NDP just to see that happen?  You bet I would.

But still I'm torn.  I want to vote Liberal as I've been mostly a fan of Kathleen Wynne, and I like very much my local Liberal candidate, David Morris, in Toronto Centre.  Still, this is one of many seats that could help stop the PCs from winning the election.

I'll be watching all polls between now and next Thursday to make my final decision.  If it remains close between the NDP and the PCs, I'll be voting NDP to push them over the top.  But if they move well ahead of the PCs in all polls, I'll vote with my heart and give the Grits some much-needed help. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Abandoning the Liberals in certain regions to vote NDP may actually get you a Doug Ford PC majority

NDP tweeter Derek Leebosh turning the tables.
Some New Democrats have been having a field day on Twitter lately, getting their revenge it would seem on Liberals for previous elections when arguments were successfully made to all progressives to vote Liberal to stop Conservatives.

This time, with the NDP apparently moving into second place in the polls, the tables are turned and many NDPers are arguing that all Liberals should abandon their party and vote NDP in order to stop Doug Ford.

These sentiments are understandable as New Democrats have frequently seen the Liberals eat their lunch and collect the bulk of progressive voters in elections, only to fail to deliver on many key progressive promises in government.  

But the future of Ontario is too important for petty partisan griping or score-settling.   

Progressive voters need to think seriously about how best to stop Doug Ford, and in many constituencies swinging behind the local NDP candidate may actually defeat stronger Liberal incumbents and hand victory to Doug Ford's PCs. 

In most of the key battleground constituencies in the 905 region around Toronto, the Ontario NDP is again running paper or parachute candidates to simply fill up the NDP's line-up.   This would include Mississauga, as well as Halton Region, and most of York Region.  The same goes for most of North York, Scarborough and Etobicoke, truth be told.   In most of those ridings, Liberal incumbents are not only fending off their main PC challengers, but also upstart New Democrats stealing the progressive votes they need to win again.

In ridings like Oakville or Milton or Newmarket-Aurora or Eglinton-Lawrence or Scarborough Agincourt, there is no point voting NDP, even if they continue to climb in the polls; the Liberals with a stronger ground game and incumbents there will remain the main challengers to the Tories. 

Meanwhile, in areas like Oshawa, or Sarnia, or Windsor, or most of Hamilton or Niagara Region or London, or most parts of northern Ontario, it is the NDP that will be the main challengers to the PCs.   The Liberals aren't in the game in those constituencies (with the exception of Hamilton West, London North Centre, St. Catharines, the Thunder Bay ridings, and Sudbury.)

Of course, there are also ridings where the Tories have zero chance and it really is a choice between the Liberals and the NDP, like in Toronto Centre, Spadina Fort-York, University-Rosedale, Davenport, Parkdale-High-Park, Beaches-East York, Humber River-Black Creek, and Ottawa Centre.  Voters there can be free to choose between the NDP and Liberals, without risking an accidental PC victory.

But in other key ridings around the province, all three parties legitimately have a chance of victory and it's there where this election will be decided: in my mind, those ridings are Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas, Brantford-Brant, Scarborough Centre, Scarborough Southwest, Etobicoke-Lakeshore, Kingston and the Islands, Kitchener Centre, Cambridge, Peterborough, and London North Centre.

In most of those key constituencies, strong Liberal incumbents are running again.  Voting NDP there actually risks taking away just enough votes from those Liberals to hand the seats to the Conservatives.  

Guelph is also in contention, but is actually a three-way race between Green leader Mike Schreiner, stellar Liberal candidate Sly Castaldi and the PCs hoping to slip up the middle.  The NDP is likely not really in the game in Guelph.  

My message to progressives: know your riding and vote accordingly.

At the outset of this campaign before the NDP started to move up in the polls, I was worried that key working class NDP ridings, like Oshawa, or Niagara Centre, or Hamilton East, or the Windsor or London ridings might fall to the PCs were the NDP to get squeezed out of contention.  But now that the NDP is seemingly stronger, those ridings are likely to be held by the party, which is good as it helps prevent a Ford majority.

Conversely, if strong NDP third place totals in Oakville, or Kingston, or Cambridge, or Peterborough, or Mississauga East-Cooksville, deny Liberal incumbents victory and instead elect a slew of Tories, Doug Ford will be on his way to a majority and we'll be in store for four terrible years.  

Yes, I'd love to stop Doug Ford from winning altogether.  The argument has been made from the outset that it was impossible for Kathleen Wynne to win this election to stop him.  At first, I doubted that analysis, but as the campaign has progressed, it is becoming clear that people just want the Liberals gone in spite of their respect for Wynne.  Now, perhaps the notion that only Andrea Horwath can stop Doug Ford is coming true.  

It's possible that Horwath will continue to surge and pull a Rachel Notley, with the NDP winning constituencies they need to win the election outright.  But at this juncture, I'm still seeing a PC victory.  I'm praying that it's only a minority government, which would greatly limit the damage that Doug Ford could inflict on the province.   

If both the NDP and Liberals can finish strongly in key constituencies and regions of the province, they will be able to hold off the worst case scenario of a Doug Ford majority. 

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Nik Nanos, please give us something more credible to help progressives stop Doug Ford

One aspect of the ongoing Ontario election campaign is unfolding as I expected: most less-than-stellar pollsters are showing the PCs in the lead with the NDP moving into second place.  

The only credible pollster out there - Nanos - last produced results on May 6th which showed the PCs ahead with 41% versus 29% for the Liberals and 24% for the NDP.  If Nanos comes out with a new poll soon that also shows the NDP moving into a clear second place, I'll believe this is truly happening. 

I will agree that it's clear the Tories are ahead for now but by how much is unclear.   It may indeed be true that the NDP is experiencing a surge here that will continue.  

We know the public has major doubts about Doug Ford, which aren't being helped by the recent revelations he attended a big Conservative party fundraiser in late April, right on the eve of the campaign, arrogantly flouting strict new fundraising laws that bar leaders from attending such events.  

His bogus explanation that he was "misinformed" about the event, and somehow didn't clue in during it he was surrounded by donors who had paid at least $250 each to hobnob next to him, speaks to his fondness for dishonesty.  He clearly thinks that rules are made for other people to follow, not him. 

Not to mention the possibility that stolen information from the 407 was used by Tory operatives  to commit mass fraud in dozens of local nomination races.  The stench of Tory corruption, combined with the fact that this is a party where members like Tanya Granic Allen and other bigots determined Doug Ford to be the best person to lead the party, may now be their party's undoing.   Clearly, this is not a gang that's ready to lead the province.  

Considering those doubts about the Tories and the enduring unpopularity of Kathleen Wynne and the Liberals, it's highly plausible that the NDP is moving into second place and has the chance to continue to climb.  Andrea Horwath has been running a strong campaign this time.  I just don't much trust the pollsters putting those numbers out there right now.   They've been too wrong too often in the past for me to just believe these new numbers.

That's why I'm so desperate to get more information from one of the few reliable pollsters out there: what say you, Nik Nanos?

I tweeted him today to find out.  He may not consider me important enough to reply to, but here's hoping he's out in the field as we speak polling Ontarians on their voting intentions.

We've been fooled before by so-called NDP "momentum", like in 2011 when Jack Layton's NDP looked like they'd pull off a miracle.  But in the end, NDP support could only climb to the low 30s, undermining Liberal support in key regions and electing dozens of Conservatives, enough to win a majority.

I cringe to think that's where we're headed again this time in Ontario.   

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Don't trust the pollsters nor the cynical pundits, Kathleen Wynne is going to do better than they think...

The Ontario election campaign has begun in earnest.   I've got a few observations I'd like to share and some predictions.


Remember the 2014 campaign when almost every pollster was predicting Kathleen Wynne's Liberals would be turfed out?  By the end of that campaign, most predicted she'd, at best, win just another minority government.   I, as some will remember, had predicted a Liberal majority that year and I was right. 

Even the night before the 2014 election, CFTO-CTV led its news coverage featuring a bogus Ipsos Reid poll that claimed the PCs had the support of 36% of likely voters across the province, while the NDP and the Liberals would tie at 30%.  The poll even showed the Grits in third place in Toronto.   If you were a progressive voter looking to vote strategically, you'd be confused by this late poll as to how to stop the PCs (which I think was completely the reason why CTV and Ipsos put that poll out.) 

Of course, the public wasn't so easily confused.  The next day, the Liberals swept 20 out of 22 Toronto ridings and took 39% of the provincial vote, versus 31% for the PCs and only 24% for the NDP.  Utter shock was expressed by most pundits and pollsters at the result as almost no one had predicted a Liberal majority.

The only pollster that accurately predicted those vote percentage results was Nanos Research.  His last poll, released almost three weeks before election day, gave the Libs 38%, the PCs 31% and the NDP 24%.

In addition, most other polls had shown a roller coaster race with parties going up and down, including an alleged bump in the polls for Tim Hudak after the leaders' debate.   But for me, it was telling that Nanos' last numbers published before the debate didn't really move at all on election day.  

Since then, I now only truly trust Nanos and disregard most of the rest.   Thus poll aggregators or averages must be also regarded with suspicion.  Today, while most pollsters are pushing the idea that the NDP is in second place, Nanos instead puts the Liberals firmly in second with 31%, with the PCs at 42% and the NDP at 21%.  


The media of course want to sell papers and get you watching their newscasts.  Political reporters and editors are obsessed with the alleged "horse race", focusing more coverage on the latest bogus Forum Research or Ipsos poll rather than more intelligent coverage of ordinary voters and the policies at stake in this election.

Lately, especially amongst the private sector media, I'm seeing a few dominant themes: Ontarians overwhelmingly want "change" in this election; Doug Ford's PCs are far ahead in this race; Kathleen Wynne is dead woman walking (a City political reporter actually called her that after Monday's leaders' debate); and Andrea Horwath's NDP is showing huge growth potential and looks poised to win over progressive voters, thus relegating the Ontario Liberals to third place.   

For three years now, it has seemed to me that most media and pollsters (namely Forum Research and Mainstreet, the only two pollsters to frequently release polls between Ontario elections) have constantly pushed the notion that Wynne was overwhelmingly unpopular and headed for certain defeat.   Even if most reporters didn't fully believe it, their fondness for "political drama" has gotten the better of them.  


The vicious hatred directed toward Kathleen Wynne these last few years has baffled me.  There has never been an elected leader whose agenda has been so relatively popular, yet faced bad polls like this.  According to Forum Research, Wynne is less popular after selling 60% of Hydro One (a decision I have personally found it difficult to care much about, and I'm actually glad my taxes didn't need to go up in order to fund more transit infrastructure) than Mulroney was after he brought in the much-hated GST.

Has Kathleen Wynne been perfect?  Far from it, but her record is fairly solid including investments in public transit, in more accessible post-secondary education, and many other progressive policies.  And choosing to invest in the economy rather than implement austerity budgeting does seem to have benefited the province which now boasts the highest economic growth in the country and record employment.  If Doug Ford can claim Toronto's economic success as his own from his late brother's one circus of a term in office, why can't Kathleen Wynne claim the same?  

The one thing I'd say Wynne hasn't done well was consistently campaign in public on behalf of her agenda since 2014.  She was too busy governing perhaps to be constantly in front of the cameras pushing her own PR narrative.  She hasn't been careful to ensure the public was on board with her decision-making.  Thus, into that vacuum stepped her enemies including hostile media critics, conservatives and others who constantly pushed the notion that her government was vaguely "corrupt" and "incompetent" and had destroyed the finances of the province (despite running the leanest, most cost-efficient per capita government in Canada.)

Yes, Wynne, while quite likeable, can also be quite ruthless.  But is that a reason to hate her and toss her out?  We don't throw out men for being ruthless if they're also quite likeable. 


Ontario voters are adverse to taking big economic risks.  That's a historical political fact.  In my mind, that definitely means one thing: the NDP will not be winning this election.  So please, sorry, my Dipper friends, give it up.

Furthermore, while the desire for a change of regime is real after 15 years of one party, I don't think voters will embrace change they're unsure about just for the sake of it.  Especially as that change agent is Doug Ford, a man with simplistic slogans but clearly not much of a plan for pushing the province forward.    

Here are my predictions for what will happen over the next few weeks:
  1. Kathleen Wynne will campaign vigorously and effectively, articulating clearly her government's successes which are many and where she wants to take us forward.  That "care" not "cuts" theme will slowly resonate and lift Liberal support up.  Folks who supported her in the past will be surprised how convincing she is again this time.  The hateful narrative of the last couple of years pushed constantly by her opponents and the media will be undermined.  Of course, few pollsters will pick up on any of this. 
  2. Doug Ford will do his best to keep it together.  Thus far, he's sort of succeeded, but as scrutiny ramps up, his refusal to give little more than vague generalities when questioned for specifics, let alone articulate a coherent vision for the province, will slowly erode Tory support back into the mid-high 30s.  If by some miracle, Ford over-performs and does stick to a clear message that resonates, his support currently in the low 40s will be maintained.   But I'm not counting on it.  
  3. Andrea Horwath will continue to push her message that she's change for the better.  Although those tired of left-wing policies won't agree.  Cynics will decide it's probably better to keep the devil we know than the one we don't.  After many bogus pollsters show her about to break through with an historic result, like Jack Layton in 2011, her support in the end will fall back to the low-mid-20s (even though, again, most pollsters will completely miss this.)   
  4. On election night, most observers will be shocked how close the result will be between the PCs and the Liberals.  The majority of pundits and pollsters who declared Wynne to be "dead woman walking" will have to eat serious crow.
My current prediction: it could actually go either way between the PCs and the Liberals, with the NDP well back with 20 or so seats.  I'll give the edge for now to a narrow PC minority win. 
We'll see how the campaign actually goes.  And I'll be waiting to see what the next Nanos poll has to say.  While the fundamentals are in place and won't change, it's also true that campaigns do matter. 

I'm no rabid partisan.  It's true I'm mostly fond of the Liberals and feel most comfortable calling myself a centrist with progressive tendencies.  I've voted Liberal and NDP over the years, and even voted for John Tory for Toronto mayor in 2014 (but hope not to do so again this year.)

I don't vilify Doug Ford, nor do I only see bad things to come from him.  I do oppose most of what he stands for and find his ignorance of the general public, policy and governance to be appalling.  He's not a good fit for premier of Ontario.  

But after 15 years of Liberal rule, I do sympathize with those who want change.   Ten years is usually the max one party stays in power in Canada.  Had the PCs instead elected Christine Elliott as leader and not Doug, a huge PC majority would've been inevitable.

One thing is for certain: this will be a fascinating election campaign and I look forward to seeing if my gut instincts are correct.  Please return to this site as I'll try to post as often as I can on how the campaign is unfolding. 

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Granic Allen fired by Doug Ford after handing him the PC leadership...

Social conservative extremist Tanya Granic Allen was removed yesterday from the Ontario Progressive Conservative candidate roster by leader Doug Ford after more of her homophobic bigotry was revealed.

Yesterday, the Liberals held a press conference to reveal a 2014 video of Granic Allen speaking at a Croatian-Catholic youth conference in Ontario, in which she said:

“When I think of the suffering of the people who lived in [Croatia] and the suffering that went on during the war, the sacrifices of generations of families, was it all for nothing?  Did these people spill these blood on the frontlines… for what? For a values system and for the Catholic faith. But was that blood spilled for nothing?  What I hear about [Croatia] trying to push radical sexual education on the young or gay marriage, you know I almost vomit in disbelief.  How can this be happening? Just 20 years ago we were liberated from this communism, and now we’re embracing a lack of values and a lack of ideals that commies would have us embrace?”

Of course, this was just the latest example of extreme statements by Granic Allen.  Before yesterday though, we didn't have video, which perhaps made the difference in changing Doug Ford's mind about her.

This is all incredibly ironic considering Granic Allen's leadership candidacy earlier this year was instrumental in bringing a whack of social conservatives back into the party, garnering her 15% of the vote in the first tally.  About 80 per cent of that vote moved to Doug Ford on the second tally, which proved crucial to his eventual squeaker win over Christine Elliott.

It was clear that Ford was grateful to Granic Allen, calling her a friend and pledging that she "will play an important role in our government."

Even after some old blog posts of Granic Allen were revealed in which she compared women wearing burkas to ninjas and disparaged gay marriage, Ford still allowed her to contest and win the nomination in Mississauga Centre.

But yesterday's video proved to be the final straw.  I must say it's a wise and calculated move.  I'm sure that Ford's advisers knew their party might soon be in trouble with the vast majority of Ontario voters who are moderate and have no problem with LGBT people were more of Granic Allen's homophobic extremism revealed.  So those advisers no doubt pressed Ford hard to get rid of her and he listened. 

"We are a party comprised of people with diverse views that if expressed responsibly we would respect. However, the fact is her characterization of certain issues and people has been irresponsible,” Ford said in the statement yesterday.

This may be the first time I can remember Doug Ford has done the right thing on LGBT issues.   When he was just a city councillor and general enabler of his late brother in Toronto, he refused to attend Pride parades and generally had nothing good to say about us.  But clearly the responsibilities of provincial leadership are pressing upon him, not to mention pressure from Conservative advisers who know the public better than he does.    

I have to say I'm quite relieved by this.  I wasn't looking forward to Granic Allen possibly getting elected to Queen's Park next month.  But now that won't happen.

I must also give kudos to the Liberal war room.  This was their second successful hit against Doug Ford this week alone, the first being the release of the video of Ford telling private developers in a secret meeting he'd carve up the Greenbelt around Toronto for housing development, which led to an instant backlash and full reversal of his plan one day later.

And now Granic Allen is gone as a result of yesterday's Liberal presser.  

For those progressives wondering which of the two parties - the Liberals or the NDP - will form the biggest challenge to Doug Ford's Conservatives, I think it's pretty clear the Liberals are proving again it's them, forcefully knocking Ford off his game, forcing him to backtrack and flip flop.  I expect that will continue.

I'll write very soon about the overall state of political affairs in Ontario as the election campaign officially gets underway this week.