The story of the Ontario NDP’s 2018 election campaign
Andrea Horwath and the Ontario NDP will be the Official Opposition to Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative majority government.
The night came after the NDP seemed to be neck and neck in the polls with the PCs as election day neared — with Horwath trying to consolidate the anti-Ford vote behind her party instead of the Liberals.
But Ford and the PCs swept the 905-region to claim a majority government in Ontario shortly after polls closed.
WATCH: Highlights from the 2018 Ontario election
Here’s how the election campaign played out.
The Ontario election started with PC Leader Doug Ford as the perceived leader in a battle with Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne. During a televised debate days after the writs were drawn up and the campaign officially began, the two of them started trading barbs immediately.
Horwath seemed to stand back and let them fight it out, and ended up starting the race powerfully – many noting her strong debate performance.
When the election officially got underway on May 9, Horwath hit the ground running as she already had a platform, when Ford didn’t.
The “Change for the better” platform had been released two weeks prior and highlighted issues that were important to Ontarian voters, like health care.
At that time, Ford’s PCs were the early leader in the election, and while the NDP had a lead over the Liberals overall, Wynne still led in seat-rich Toronto.
After the first debate, Horwath led attacks on her rivals, calling both Wynne and Ford “corrupt” with press releases titled “Kathleen Wynne must clear the air on allegations of intimidation and scandal,” “Doug Ford backing Wynne hydro scheme – will take Liberal’s hydro mess from bad to worse” and “The real cost of Doug Ford.”
But as campaigning went on, the polls started turning and the NDP solidified their general lead because of two things, University of Toronto political science professor Nelson Wiseman explained.
“One thing that hasn’t changed during the campaign and even before the campaign is the overwhelming majority of Ontarians signal they wanted a change in government,” Wiseman said.
That, combined with the fact that a lot of Canadians vote strategically, had led the NDP to jump ahead of the Liberals.
“What the voters of this campaign sorted out is which party is best positioned to defeat the Conservatives,” Wiseman said. “In this campaign, it became the NDP but it started as the Liberals.”
WATCH: Ont. Leaders’ Debate: Wynne hammers Ford and Horwath’s plans in last televised debates
The other party leaders took notice and started pushing back hard against the NDP in later debates.
Ford led in the 905-regions, which proved to be the NDP’s weak spot.
WATCH: Ontario NDP surge in recent polls
In the end, Horwath said she was proud of their campaign.
“From the very start of this campaign, people wanted change,” Horwath said on Thursday night in her speech. “And I could not be more proud that we offered a positive vision.”
“We will keep fighting for you,” she reiterated.
One thing the NDP had compared to the Tories is the perception of stability, but that wasn’t enough to bump Horwath up over the volatile Ford.
Ford has dealt with multiple scandals – his latest includes a lawsuit by Rob Ford’s widow accusing him of losing her money by mismanaging the family company.
WATCH: Ontario PC Leader Doug Ford responds to sister-in-law Renata’s lawsuit
Wynne’s scandals from her time as premier have also followed her into the election.
That means “the people [had] a favourable impression of [Horwath],” Wiseman explained.
But as the NDP went up in the polls, so did scrutiny on their candidates; and the left-leaning party wasn’t free from scandal.
NDP candidate for Scarborough-Agincourt Tasleem Riaz was accused of sharing an Adolf Hitler quote (which she denies). (She was not elected).
Toronto-St. Paul’s candidate Jill Andrew was accused of using a racial slur to describe Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders. (She was elected).
A decade-old picture of Brampton-East candidate Gurratan Singh (brother of federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh) holding a sign that read, “F— the police,” circulated in late May. Horwath stood by him at the time, saying Singh was “very regretful.” (He was also elected).
Toronto Star (barely) endorses NDP, Ottawa Citizen endorses PCs
The NDP got a boost a week before the election when the Toronto Star endorsed the NDP, saying Horwath was the best chance to “stop Doug Ford.”
The Star said Horwath and the NDP have put forward “a lot of good ideas and [ran] a strong campaign.”
But the editorial read more like a criticism of Ford and his policies than an actual endorsement of the NDP.
“In short, it’s to make sure the PCs aren’t elected and Doug Ford doesn’t become premier after next Thursday,” the editorial reads. “The best way to do that is to support the candidate with the best chance of defeating the PCs in each riding.”
As for other major endorsements? The Ottawa Citizen endorsed Ford, while the Globe and Mail refused to pick a side, asking people to vote for the best candidate in their riding.
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