May 14, 2014 5:56 pm

Ontario election: Tim Hudak makes his case – for turnout, not converts

TORONTO – The man early polls have pegged as the next Premier of Ontario was onstage Wednesday doing his best to come across as both empathetic and authoritative as he laid out his plan for the province.

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“Look, we have some tough choices to make,” Hudak said. “The next number of years are not going to be easy. Whenever you’re in a hole when it comes to jobs or debt, it’s going to be tough slogging. But the longer you postpone that, the deeper the hole gets, the tougher that job is.”

Multiple times, Tim Hudak said his plan won’t please everyone. And he isn’t trying to. His plans for cuts – to taxes, to jobs – doesn’t seek to convert as much as to galvanize those who were already in his conservative-leaning camp.

Next, the question is: Can he get them out to vote?

Last time around, when the Liberals won what former Premier Dalton McGuinty called a “major minority,” Ontarians voter turnout hit a near-historic low. But four of the five ridings with the highest turnout voted Tory.

And this time around, early polls suggest Conservatives are much more likely to make it to the polls.

Among the 52 per cent of respondents who told Ipsos-Reid “nothing short of an unforeseen emergency” would stop them from voting, 42 per cent plan to vote for the Progressive Conservatives. Only 28 per cent would vote Liberal and 27 per cent would vote NDP.

In Depth: Ontario Election 2014

Provincial parties generally need approximately 40 per cent support to win a majority government. The latest polls vary widely but seem to suggest the Conservatives have between 32 and 42 per cent support (One poll done by Innovative Research gives the Liberals a lead with 38 per cent support).

“To win 40 per cent of the vote, you cannot rely on just your base, you’ve got to have swing voters,” Barry Kay, a political scientist at Wilfrid Laurier University said in an interview Tuesday. “Hudak cannot rely just on the conservative base. In fact, we’ve been through three elections where the conservatives couldn’t even win a plurality of seats much less an effectively governing majority.”

Tim Hudak seems to be running a campaign focused on getting his ideologically-minded base out to the polls with talk of cutting the public service, cutting taxes and lowering hydro rates.

On one hand, “Hudak has done a favour to the Liberals by making his 100,000 job cuts the centre of attention,” drawing comparisons to a “Mike Harris 2.0,” Kay said.

Then again, “governments are defeated, not elected.”

Both Hudak and Horwath are hoping voters are sick of the Liberals thanks to such scandals as a pair of pricey cancelled gas plants. And in a May 09 Ipsos-Reid poll, 72 per cent of respondents said it is “time for another party to take over.

Kay expects Hudak to win a minority government – but not thanks to his policies.

University of Toronto professor Nelson Wiseman suggests the Liberals could be the prime victim of low voter turnout.

“The Liberals are in trouble here. Because of the scandals, a lot of people who would normally vote Liberal, some of them might decide ‘You know, I’m a dyed-in-the-wool Liberal, and I’m really upset with what happened but I’ll never vote Conservative or [NDP] so I’ll sit at home.’”

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