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Little to get excited about in provincial vote

Ontarians head to the polls next Thursday to decide the outcome of a closely-contested election. None of the parties is a clear-cut choice, however.

The Liberal government has been in power for 15 years, and Ontarians have clearly had enough – polls indicate the party could be reduced to a handful of seats. The real race is between the Progressive Conservatives and the NDP.

It’s no surprise KathleenWynne’s party is down and out, but the NDP’s surge is relatively new. The Tories were coasting to victory, with the public disdain for the Liberals perhaps making Andrea Horwath’s party the official opposition. All that changed with the ouster of Patrick Brown in favour of Doug Ford.

The PCs’ strong numbers carried on in the early going of Ford’s leadership, but began to wane, the drop-off picking up steam in the last couple weeks: the more Ontarians are exposed to Ford, the less likely they are to vote for him.

As with recent elections, the party seems ready, willing and able to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory once again.

Today, however, seat projections by the Laurier Institute for the Study of Public Opinion and Policy (LISPOP) see the Conservative in a minority government situation. The breakdown puts the PCs with 63 seats, followed by the NDP with 54 Liberals with seven.

In Kitchener-Conestoga, Wilfrid Laurier University political scientist Barry Kay’s projections have the riding leaning Conservative by only a few percentage points. Clearly voter turnout – specifically, which party’s supporters do the best job of getting out to vote – will play a key role.

That the NDP is seen to have a shot in the riding tells us something about how the Liberals have fallen off the map and the Tories have messed the bed. The latter is not just a reflection of Ford’s divisiveness, but also of his handling of the local candidate. First, popular MPP Michael Harris was drummed out of caucus on spurious grounds – shades of Patrick Brown – and then Mike Harris Jr., the son of the former premier and Ford family friend, was parachuted in. The combination has not endeared the party to many voters who would otherwise have voted for the incumbent MPP.

The shifting poll results are surely a disappointment for the PCs, who’ve seen their fortunes fall, in part due to Ford’s reputation and missteps and in part due to his failure to resonate with voters. As the seat projects show, Horwath has some reason for optimism, as the party’s fortunes are on the rise despite her lack of name recognition. She has the advantage of not being either Wynne or Ford, both tainted brands. There’s a chance the NDP could form a government for only the second time in Ontario. In the event of a minority government, it would hold the balance of power.

The poll numbers show Ontarians are fed up with the current government, not surprising after 15 years and countless examples of mismanagement, fiscal incompetence and outright corruption. We don’t vote for anything per se, we vote against incumbents at intervals. It’s how we do things, apparently. But we’re really leery of the alternatives, especially Ford. And there’s good reason for that: the Tories’ campaign consists of attacking Wynne and, with the NDP’s rise in the polls, Horwath; there’s very little in the way of ideas, solutions or initiatives of their own.

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