With just weeks to go before Ontario heads to the polls, new seat projections based on recent opinion polls suggest the Progressive Conservatives are in jeopardy of forming a minority government due to an upswing in NDP support.
The latest analysis from Barry Kay at the Laurier Institute for the Study of Public Opinion and Policy (LISPOP) sees the Tories form a majority with one seat to spare at 64 MPPs, the NDP taking 48 ridings and the Liberals claiming 12 wins.
“Any more slippage and a majority government goes out the window,” said Kay, an associate professor of political science at Wilfrid Laurier University.
Kay’s projections are based on weighted and aggregated poll data from Ipsos, Pollara and Leger released this week. In total, the polls measured opinion from about 3,000 Ontarians.
Those polls suggest popular support for NDP has narrowly eclipsed that of the PCs, at 38 per cent versus 37 per cent. The Liberals are holding on to 21 per cent of the popular vote, according to the polls.
“It’s very much a two-horse race between the Conservatives and the NDP,” Kay said.
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He added that the Conservatives remain ahead in seats because the NDP’s support is not evenly distributed. In some ridings, the party is favoured to win by large margins, which boosts their level of support in the polls, but not the projected seat count.
Generally speaking, Kay said NDP support is particularly strong in the north, in cities in southwestern Ontario, Kitchener-Waterloo, St. Catharines, Niagara, Kingston and downtown Toronto.
“Those are the areas they’re probably going to gain seats,” he said.
The poll results come ahead of the leaders’ debate on Sunday, which Kay said is the most significant event to come in the campaign.
While still favoured to win Ontario’s June 7 election, the Doug Ford-led Tories have lost what was once a 20-point lead in the polls, Kay said.
In April, LISPOP seat projections showed the Tories with 80 seats based on support at that time, while the NDP and the Liberals were projected to win 22 each.
Kay’s seat projections are based on a methodology called the regional swing model. He said the model has been accurate for provincial elections to within three seats per party going back to the mid-1980s.