COMMENTARY: With solid core support, Ford ‘mustn’t blink’ in final weeks of campaign
Wednesday marks the mid-point of the 2018 Ontario election campaign. With two weeks down and two more to go, much is being made of the most recent Ipsos/Global News poll that shows Andrea Horwath’s NDP in a virtual tie with the Progressive Conservative Party.
But let’s take a look at what these most recent numbers really tell us.
First, I think it’s hard for anyone to mount a credible argument that Kathleen Wynne will still be premier on June 8. It’s over for the Liberals. The only question is how many seats they will actually be able to hang on to.
WATCH ABOVE: New Ipsos poll puts NDP in slim lead heading toward Ontario election
Second, Doug Ford’s support continues to be solid. Recall that the first two Ipsos’ weekly poll results since the campaign officially began had Ford’s PCs holding steady at 40 per cent.
The results from this past weekend — the first long weekend of the summer season, when politics was the furthest thing from most people’s minds — showed Ford’s support has edged down slightly to 36 per cent. Not exactly free fall. And his supporters continue to be the most committed and the most likely to get out and vote.
Third, I would be delusional if I didn’t acknowledge that the NDP has shown steady growth over the past two weeks. But, again, let’s put the numbers into perspective. Horwath’s support rose just two per cent this week over last. A two-point bump isn’t exactly cause for the NDP to start measuring the drapes in the premier’s office.
So Ford and his team should take a deep breath and stay the course.
Ford, his policies and his values have broad appeal, including to the 905 and suburban 416 voters. It’s one of the reasons I believe he has done so well in the polls, despite his very short time as leader of the party.
He came out of the gate following the party’s leadership race as the personification of change from Kathleen Wynne and that’s still the case. Ford needs to continue to talk about those issues that he truly believes in, and that are a departure from the past 15 years of the Liberals: fiscal restraint; lower taxes, electricity rates and gas prices; support for seniors; expanded transit; better math scores and modern changes to selling alcohol.
At the same time, Ford needs to expose the policies being touted by Andrea Horwath for what they are, namely radical high-cost socialist programs.
Regardless of whether we can afford it, Horwath has laid out a plan that accelerates Wynne’s march toward universality in childcare and pharmacare. She intends continue the chaos in the electricity sector by buying back the Hydro One shares sold by the Wynne government and by closing down the Pickering Nuclear Station in short order.
Just this week, I was shocked by her ideological admission that she would never use back-to-work legislation to bring an end to a strike. Forget the multi-billion dollar mistake in her platform — it’s peanuts compared to the potential cost to the coffers of this news. What public-sector union in their right mind wouldn’t go on strike, knowing there is absolutely no threat of government intervention?
One of Horwath’s other commitments that hasn’t received much attention is her plan to turn Ontario into a sanctuary province. Imagine the potential cost of providing social services to anyone and everyone regardless of their legal status. And what message does this send to the many families who chose to come to Ontario to live and work and who played by the rules to do so?
As we get closer to election day, voters will not only continue to look at the policies of the parties, they will also look to the team supporting the leader.
Unlike Horwath, Ford has solid bench strength in both candidates and incumbent MPPs such as Vic Fedeli, Caroline Mulroney, Rod Phillips, Christine Elliott, Lisa McLeod, and many more. Voters can easily imagine a capable and talented PC cabinet.
This weekend, voters will have a last chance to compare each of the three leaders in the final leaders’ debate. While I think it’s too late for Wynne to sway many voters, both Ford and Horwath have a shot at shoring up their support and showing why they have what it takes to lead our province.
WATCH ABOVE: Election panel weights in on controversies
Ford mustn’t blink. His voting base is solid and his message has appeal. Voters have a very clear choice in this election. And the more they see of Andrea Horwath, the more they’ll realize that Doug Ford is the best choice for premier.
Deb Hutton was a senior advisor to former Ontario premier Mike Harris.
Deb Hutton joins Omar Khan and Tom Parkin on Global News’ regular political panel, appearing on Global Toronto and AM 640 Corus radio throughout the campaign and as part of our election night coverage.