June 5, 2018 10:29 am
Updated: June 5, 2018 11:30 am

Ontario PCs, and Liberals almost entirely ignored the NDP … until they rose in the polls

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath waves goodbye before boarding her bus as she leaves a campaign stop in Brampton, Ont., on Saturday.

Cole Burston / The Canadian Press

In early May, as polls showed Ontario voters shifting to the NDP, the Tory and Liberal campaigns turned to attacking them, a Global News analysis shows.

The shift happened in the second week of May, when the NDP, which had spent all year in third place, tied the Liberals on May 8 and broke past 30 per cent on May 15.

The NDP seemed to be making its gains at the expense of both rival parties, and they were quick to react.

READ MORE: Ontario NDP takes nibble out of Tory majority, seat projections show (May 10)

WATCH: Ontario’s political party leaders are reacting to a new Ipsos-Global poll that shows Andrea Horwath and the NDP are on the rise. (May 15)

The Liberals, who had been more or less ignoring the NDP, issued their first press release attacking them — “NDP Candidate Advocates for a 15% Across the Board Cut in Teacher’s Pay” — on May 10.

Press releases targeting both rivals fell abruptly, starting in the last week of May, in the days leading up to party leader Kathleen Wynne’s unusual admission that she expected to lose the election.

READ MORE: Kathleen Wynne admits Liberals won’t win election, urges voters to still vote for the party

The PCs, for their part, start focusing on the NDP at about the same time that the Liberals did. They issued their first release attacking the NDP — “Andrea Horwath Hiding Real Agenda to Destroy Jobs in the North” — the next day, on May 11.

Unlike the Liberals, though, they’ve kept up the pressure.

Until then in the campaign, the PCs had mentioned the NDP twice just in passing, and the Liberals mentioned them only once.

READ MORE: Kathleen Wynne has busy schedule events despite predicting loss in Ontario election

The NDP started campaigning against its rivals more as the polls looked more and more encouraging. They are now more or less ignoring the Liberals and attacking the PCs.

Starting in early May, the Ontario Proud Facebook page started to publish posts targeting the NDP. Ontario Proud — a conservative site separate from the PC campaign which has 369,000 followers — had traditionally stuck to a steady diet of negative social media memes targeting Kathleen Wynne.

It was a change of tactics: For all of 2018 before May 10, 16 posts on Ontario Proud mention the NDP, or just over one a week. Since May 10, there have been 90, or nearly four per day.

Since the last week of May, their main focus has been the NDP:

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READ MORE: NDP lags, PCs retake lead in Ontario election after final debate: Ipsos poll

“Our whole primary objective has always been the defeat of Kathleen Wynne,” says the site’s founder, Jeff Ballingal. “Once that looked like it was a sure bet, it was time to move past that and start focusing on the next worst party.”

“It was around the same time the parties shifted their focus, when we realized in early May that Wynne was essentially done. She’s been a non-factor for a few weeks now.”

WATCH: Omar Khan with the Liberal Party of Ontario explains why Liberal leader Kathleen Wynne conceded defeat but is continuing to campaign

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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