COMMENTARY: The PCs are going to blow it again, aren’t they?
A new poll by Ipsos conducted exclusively for Global News has found that a significant number of NDP voters, 46 per cent, are voting for the NDP in order to keep another party out of power. In other words, the NDP is benefitting from the unpopularity of the other two options, and seeming like the least bad option.
Recent polls also indicate momentum for the NDP, including one released this week that has the NDP effectively tied with the PCs. What’s important to note, though, is that while Horwath’s likability, NDP momentum, and room for growth should not be discounted, a Doug Ford-led PC party still has the edge when it comes to being able to garner enough seats to form government after the June 7 election.
The PCs also had the advantage of starting the race with a large — and as polls have indicated for the last year — stable, lead. Well before Doug Ford won the leadership contest, former leader Patrick Brown also had a pretty healthy lead, and even during the Conservatives’ leaderless period, Ontarians kept telling pollsters they preferred a PC government.
With it being his race to lose, though, Ford has had a rather surprisingly rough start to the campaign, with no indication that things are about to get better for him. The allegations of data thievery by several PC candidates are not exactly Ford’s fault, but in a change election, a large subset of voters aren’t going to want to vote for a party that is dealing with allegations of corruption and criminality.
Then there is the audio recording of Ford, which seemingly has him taking part in the kind of shenanigans that would be catastrophic for a leader of a political party two weeks from the election. In speaking to the media hours after the release of the audio, Ford did not deny the veracity of the recording, nor did he provide any substantive insight into the nature of his relationship with the candidate he has been alleged to have helped, Kinga Surma. This only allows voters to fill in the blank via their own imaginations.
Well before the accusations of PC party data thievery and damning audio recordings, though, Ford was already having a rough go on the campaign trail. Whether it has been because of an about face on policy, whining about a question from the media, or remarks from past candidates, Ford and the PCs have been playing defence, or have been knocked off their messaging for the day for a lot of the campaign.
And in an even more surprising twist for the PCs, even their recent attacks have been somewhat lacklustre.
This week, the PCs — as well as their supporters over at the Toronto Sun and Ontario Proud — turned their attention to the NDP candidates who have said dumb things. They held a press conference in order to try and capitalize on this, and announced a policy — to exempt Royal Canadian Legion halls in Ontario from property tax — that, as the Ottawa Citizen’s David Reevely has pointed out, is already in effect in several municipalities across the province.
Not only was the policy announcement seemingly put together on the back of a Deco label, it was also weird, considering the PCs have their own issue with candidates saying dumb things, so one has to wonder why the PCs would risk that being mentioned once again with every media write up on the press conference they held.
WATCH: Doug Ford in the hot seat over data breach allegations
And any two-bit conservative strategist would be able to play up the fiscal responsibility card, imploring the electorate not to vote for the NDP, given its openness on running deficits or for its $1.4-billion accounting error. That’s hard to do, though, when the vast majority of the PC promises made thus far have either been about spending more money or cutting revenue that normally fills the province’s coffers, while the party has yet to provide any details on how they will pay for anything.
Yet on top of the inability of the Ford campaign to really connect with voters outside of his base, his base actually has the potential to alienate more moderate voters.
WATCH: New Ipsos poll puts NDP in slim lead heading toward Ontario election
Case in point: right-wing commentators, ranging from comically shouty to straight up xenophobic, have been decrying the NDP’s announcement of being a sanctuary province. Now, there are legitimate criticisms to be made and questions to be asked, however, there isn’t a lot of thoughtful critique circling around right now. Instead, what we’re largely getting are uninformed, thinly veiled, bigoted assertions peppered with dehumanizing language.
The worst part is that the views being espoused by Ford’s supporters in traditional and social media don’t actually represent Ford’s — not now, and not in his only stint in political office as a Toronto City Councillor. Back in 2013, both Doug and his late brother Mayor Ford voted in favour of making Toronto a sanctuary city. When asked about the NDP’s proposal on the campaign trail this week, Doug didn’t take the bait to attack.
This election could have been stupidly easy for the Tories. They were gifted with a moderate and fully costed platform, which went beyond the Tory base, targeting blue liberals and other voters who just wanted out of the status quo Liberals. The PCs’ polling lead, coupled with their policies, basically put them in the position of being able to run a cat as leader of their party and having the cat test the confidence of the house, eventually forming a cat-led government.
The debate this weekend is unlikely to convince any on the fence voters that they should park their vote with Ford, given that out of the three leaders, Ford is the least versed on policy issues, and if the first two debates serve as any indication, is the weakest debater.
Ford needs more than his base to win. It’s about time someone on his campaign told him that. This race may have started out as Ford’s to lose, but it’s quickly shaping up to be Horwath’s to win.
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