A seat projection published Wednesday by Wilfrid Laurier University predicts the party will get just seven seats. Party leader Kathleen Wynne may not be one of them — her Don Valley West riding might easily fall to the PCs.
In Ontario’s legislature, a party needs at least 63 seats to form a majority. And in Laurier’s prediction, that’s the number the PCs will end up with — a majority, but by the barest possible margin. (The NDP will form the opposition, with 51 seats, according to the projection. )
What if the PCs get just one seat less than Laurier predicts, and form a minority?
In addition to being potentially leaderless and with a tiny caucus, the Ontario Liberals would find themselves with some high-stakes decisions to make between unattractive alternatives.
In a situation like this, Doug Ford would be offered the chance to form a government
But what happens after that is largely up to the Liberals, who could put the NDP in power through joining in a non-confidence vote. The problem is that none of the party’s options are very attractive.
“The Liberals would really be between a rock and a hard place,” says Laurentian University political scientist Nadia Verrelli. “If they do prop up the NDP, they would alienate their base, or at least upset their base. But if they don’t, it paves the way for the PCs to form a minority.”
“It’s a tough decision for the Liberals.”
If they don’t help pass a non-confidence motion, they risk alienating left-of-centre voters. If they do, they risk allowing a rival party to gain credibility by governing.
In principle, they could offer to form a coalition with the NDP, but Verrelli sees this as unlikely — there is very little tradition of coalitions in Canadian politics.
“It seems that there is no appetite for a coalition in Ontario, or in Canada in general.”
Parliamentary math is unkind to the Greens. In Ontario’s 2007 election, they got over 354,000 votes across the province — more than the total population of Oshawa — and no seats at all. But concentrating on one or two winnable seats has been a better strategy for the party, as Elizabeth May showed in British Columbia, and Schreiner hopes to show in Guelph.
In a situation where the balance of power is in doubt and every vote counts, Schreiner could hold a lot of leverage over the NDP, Verrelli says.
“If it’s a weak minority and they depend on (the Greens), they would be very strategic in their support., try to get something out of this to lend their support.”
Could Schreiner ask to join the government itself, perhaps as environment minister, as a condition of support?
“I can see him proposing it, and I can’t blame him if he does. It depends. Are they one seat short of a majority? It may be in the NDP’s best interests to invite him to be minister.”
On the other hand, the NDP may be uneasy about giving credibility to a party that competes with them for votes.
“The Greens do take votes from the NDP,” she says. “If you’re not feeling satisfied with the NDP, it seems natural to go Green.”