And on Friday, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath will do something almost as rare. For just the second time in this campaign, she’ll be playing defence, making a stop in a northern Ontario riding her party has held since 1999.
A Global News analysis of the campaign itineraries of each leader adds some new data points to support what multiple polls have already shown. The NDP, in second place, have the wind at their backs. The front-running Progressive Conservatives are largely playing it safe. Meanwhile, the Liberal mission from day one appears to have been “Save the Furniture” by placing the leader in a series of ridings considered Liberal strongholds like Ottawa-Vanier, Mississauga-Malton, Guelph and London North Centre.
Struggling to avoid becoming the third party in Queen’s Park, Wynne has been campaigning in several ridings her party won by 20 points or more in 2014.
“The Ontario Liberal Party is calling its campaign ‘Care Over Cuts’ but it should be called ‘Save the Furniture’ [or]’Shore the Core’ because that’s what [Wynne’s] doing,” said Warren Kinsella, a Toronto-based lawyer and political consultant who played a key role in the election war rooms for winning Liberal campaigns for both Jean Chretien and Dalton McGuinty. “You can tell that by the ridings she’s visiting.”
Up to and including Friday’s published itineraries, Wynne has made or will make 28 campaign stops but just six, or 21 per cent, have been in ridings where one of her opponents is the incumbent.In fact, on Thursday night she visited for the first time a riding where the PCs are the incumbent, stopping in at a brewery and pub to meet with a handful of supporters in the GTA riding of Whitby.
“Everything can change, but when you look at where she’s going and what’s doing, it’s not a growth strategy,” said Karl Belanger, a veteran of several federal NDP campaigns, including the “Orange Wave” of 2011 that vaulted Jack Layton into the opposition leader’s office in Ottawa.
(For this analysis, each leaders’ appearance at the northern debate, held in the PC riding of Parry Sound-Muskoka, was omitted from the calculations.)
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Whitby, like most Ontario ridings, has had its riding boundaries re-drawn for this campaign and has been given a new name. For this analysis of leaders’ itineraries, Global News has used a transposition of the 2014 general election results on to the new 2018 boundaries to determine which party can be considered the incumbent.
So, for example, if those 2018 boundaries existed in 2014, the vote in Whitby would have been 41.4 per cent for the PCs, 32.8 per cent for the Liberals, and 21 per cent for the NDP.
Global News has relied on two sources to provide it with the transposition of the 2014 vote to the 2018 boundaries. One is researcher Kyle Hutton, the other is an independent researcher who preferred to remain anonymous. Each transposition, arrived at separately, is identical.
The NDP has been most active playing offence, putting its leader in ridings held by an opponent. Of Horwath’s, 23 campaign appearances to Friday, 18 appearances or 87 per cent were in ridings held by Liberals or Conservatives.
“Where the leaders go is a great indicator of how the campaigns feel about its prospects,” said Belanger. “Of course, you want to plant the flag in your own riding from time-to-time but if you’re able to go into enemy territory, it’s because you have a good chance of shoring up a win locally.”
The Progressive Conservatives have played a more balanced game, perhaps a reflection of the party’s position as the comfortable frontrunner in the polls. Of Ford’s 24 campaign appearances — whistle stops, announcements, and rallies — 16, or about two-thirds, were in enemy territory.
Political operatives have differing opinions on the impacts of a visit to a riding by a leader. One study of the 2010 general election in the United Kingdom concluded that a leaders’ visit could help boost vote share for that leaders’ party in a given riding but had little impact on voter turnout.
Veterans of Canadian campaign war rooms believe that in jurisdictions like Ontario or Canada, where party leaders have a lot of ground to cover, a leaders’ visit can help attract new volunteers and cash to a local campaign and that that, in turn, can help improve both a party’s turnout and vote share.
“It can and sometimes does,” said Belanger. “A leaders’ tour is instrumental in building your narrative and telling your story because of the intensity of the media coverage and the scrutiny by the public.”
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Looking even more closely at the ridings each leader has campaigned in, only Wynne and Ford have campaigned in ridings their party held what pollster Greg Lyle has called “blowout wins” in 2014 — wins by 20 points or more. Horwath campaigns in a riding Friday her party won by more than 20 points in 2014.
For Wynne, those ridings are:
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