In a press conference Saturday morning, Wynne asked voters to continue to cast a ballot for the Liberals as a way to prevent a PC or NDP majority, because having a minority would prevent a government “from acting too extreme – one way or the other.”
“We need Liberals at Queen’s Park to stop a majority for either of the other governments,” Wynne implored.
Darrell Bricker, CEO of Ipsos Public Affairs, says he has never seen a party leader make such a concession. He believes it’s a last-ditch effort to bring strategic, anyone-but-Ford voters, back to the Liberals.
“She’s trying to make that proposition to people who are considering just voting for the NDP to stop Doug Ford,” Bricker says.
“She’s talking to Liberal and NDP switchers, and she’s basically saying ‘Look, all of us agree on the same thing, that we all want to stop Doug Ford. And there’s another way to stop Doug Ford other than voting for the NDP. And that’s voting for me.'”
WATCH: Kathleen Wynne urges voters to still vote for Liberal party
Wynne, who declined to step down as party leader, has been the premier of Ontario since 2013; the Liberals have been in power since 2003. Following a tumultuous last few years in power, recent frustration over sky-high hydro costs has boiled over, with Wynne’s reputation bearing the brunt of voter anger.
Public opinion polls have shown that the Liberal party is set to lose nearly every seat it currently holds, with the NDP nipping at the heels of the Progressive Conservatives for leadership. Polls have also shown that Ontarians want a majority government in power.
Considering the state the Liberals are in, it’s perhaps no surprise the rulebook is being thrown out the window.
“The remarkable thing is how unusual this is. It’s unusual for a leader to admit this in public… rather than trying to rally the troops,” said Nelson Wiseman, political science professor at the University of Toronto.
“I don’t think this is going to help the Liberal vote,” said Wiseman, adding, “I think she gets full points for honesty.”
Political commentator Tim Powers believes Wynne did her team no favours.
“It’s unfair,” said Powers. “It’s unfair to all the people who have worked for you, who are working for your team. It’s unfair to the MPPs — there are MPPs in close races with New Democrats and Liberal supporters might have been inclined to vote for them if they didn’t know their team captain was going to quit on them.”
While Wynne’s statement could bring pause for some voters, Bricker says it’s a double-edged sword.
“It is a very, very risky strategy,” said Bricker. “What she’s really probably done is given ammunition to the Tories.
“People will be giving her a pretty good smack all day long for doing this, but what else is she supposed to do?”
WATCH: ‘Kathleen Wynne is playing a dangerous game’: Andrea Horwath
Wynne’s opponents largely dismissed her plea, with Horwath saying in a statement that “Kathleen Wynne has abandoned the fight against Doug Ford cuts.”
“Her request today for a minority government is a demand that she be allowed to continue to hold the power at Queen’s Park — something voters have already rejected,” Horwath’s statement read.
When asked about the Wynne announcement, PC Leader Doug Ford, speaking at an event in Nepean, Ont., reiterated the message that the election was about “change.”
WATCH: ‘This whole election has been about change’: Doug Ford reacts to Wynne announcement
“This whole election has been about change. People are sick and tired of being the most indebted, subnational government in the entire world,” he said. “People are sick and tired of having the highest hydro rate in North America. People are sick and tired of high taxes.”
Coalition government option
In Ontario’s legislature, a party needs at least 63 seats to form a majority. Should the PCs find themselves in a minority government position, the Liberals could, in principle, join forces with the NDP and pass a motion of no confidence, putting the NDP in power.
Wynne could be toeing the line between leaving the door open to a coalition government with the New Democrats, while trying to discount the NDP’s credibility.
Wynne seems to be suggesting to voters, Bricker says, that “an NDP-Liberal coalition, or minority government, would be better for the province than simply handing the keys to the NDP with a majority.”
Canadians recently saw a similar scenario play out in B.C., with the NDP taking power from Christy Clark’s Liberals after forming an alliance with the Green party.
Ontario election day is Thursday, June 7.
— With files from Jessica Patton and Jessica Vomiero and Patrick Cain