The Ontario New Democrats are mapping out the road to forming a minority government with the backing of the Liberals and Green Party in a strategy that’s less directed at winning a majority government than denying Doug Ford’s PCs a second term, party insiders say.
Sources within the Ontario NDP tell Global News the party is targeting at least 10 additional seats to put the New Democrats within striking distance of forming a minority government along with the Ontario Liberals after the June election.
“So the math for us is … we re-elect the 40 (incumbent candidates) and we have these 10 close seats where we were within five per cent of the Conservatives last time,” one NDP source said, speaking on background.
“So if we can convert those and take those from Mr. Ford, that brings us to 50.”
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath offered that same calculus on Monday after the leadership debate.
“We have 40 (incumbents) going in,” Horwath reminded reporters. “We’re only 10 seats, or as few as 10 seats away from defeating Doug Ford right now.”
“Voters who don’t want to see Doug Ford back in the premier’s chair…. That’s what I ask them to think about,” Horwath emphasized, in what could become the party’s main pitch to voters in the final weeks of the election campaign.
But the NDP’s precarious pathway to power relies on a number of factors that are outside Horwath and the party’s control – the most significant being Steven Del Duca’s Liberals having a mild resurgence after 2018’s electoral drubbing, which saw the party reduced from majority government to just seven seats.
It also relies on the Liberal recovery taking more seats from Ford’s PCs than the NDP.
Del Duca didn’t repeat the NDP’s seat calculation, but he didn’t reject the notion presented by Horwath either.
“If you’re a progressive voter in this province, you want to see the outcomes. You’re not so focused on necessarily who gets to deliver the outcomes, you just want to know that good things are going to happen to you and your family,” Del Duca said Monday.
“When you look at my plan and you look at Andrea Horwath’s plan I think there are some things that we have in common, for example, the repeal of Bill 124, the cancellation of Highway 413.”
All three opposition parties have declared their unwillingness to prop up a minority Ford government, but have left the door open to a potential coalition government.
The NDP math, however, only adds up to a majority if they factor in an additional 13 seats from the Ontario Liberals and Green Party combined to get the parties to the magic number of 63 — a majority of the 124 seats up for grabs in the Ontario legislature.
NDP insiders offered up a list of ridings where the party ranked a close second to the Progressive Conservatives during the 2018 election, suggesting the party would target those seats with additional funds and volunteers to ensure they get their voters to polling stations on election day.
|Ottawa West—Nepean||Jeremy Roberts (PC)||175||0.3%|
|Brantford—Brant||Will Bouma (PC)||635||1.1%|
|Brampton West||Amarjot Sandhu (PC)||490||1.3%|
|Sault Ste. Marie||Ross Romano (PC)||414||1.3%|
|Kitchener—Conestoga||Mike Harris Jr. (PC)||686||1.6%|
|Kitchener South—Hespeler||Amy Fee (PC)||770||1.8%|
|Scarborough—Rouge Park||Vijay Thanigasalam (PC)||963||2.3%|
|Peterborough—Kawartha||Dave Smith (PC)||2,386||3.9%|
|Cambridge||Belinda Karahalios (New Blue)||2,154||4.5%|
|Scarborough Centre||Christina Mitas (PC)||2,019||5.1%|
While the parties share a similar vision of unseating an incumbent premier, questions about a joint effort to campaign against Ford were met with a lukewarm response from both Horwath and Del Duca.
Horwath dismissed her progressive rival as “just not ready to form a government” – an attack levelled against Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau in the 2015 federal election – while Del Duca cautioned the NDP about its campaign tactics.
“Ms. Horwath has spent a lot of time attacking Ontario Liberals rather than taking the fight to where it belongs, and that is with the Ford Conservatives,” Del Duca said on Monday.
The NDP’s math also banks on the party’s ability to retain all 40 seats won during the last election, despite an aggressive push from the Progressive Conservatives to flip New Democrat ridings into the PC column.
Ford has made a major play for Brampton and Windsor, two traditional NDP strongholds, with massive planned spending announcements, including building new electric vehicle manufacturing plants, hospitals and Highway 413 — which Ford has attempted to turn into a campaign wedge issue.
In the debate Tuesday night, Ford also trumpeted endorsements from multiple labour groups – including LiUNA – which might traditionally be more inclined to the New Democrats.
Meanwhile, some Toronto-area ridings, ripped away from the Liberals during the last election, are also at risk of reverting back to the Grits if the party regains its footing under Del Duca.
Still, Horwath is banking on a convergence of the progressive vote behind the NDP during the remainder of the election campaign — making a direct appeal to the roughly 60 per cent of voters who don’t plan for the Progressive Conservatives on June 2.
“We’re your best shot at getting rid of Doug Ford,” Horwath declared.
According to an Abacus Data poll released Monday, Ford’s PCs have maintained their lead over the Ontario Liberals, with the NDP trailing in third place. Abacus’s numbers, pulled from a survey of 1,000 Ontario voters between May 12 and 15, put the PCs with 35 per cent support among committed eligible voters, with the Liberals at 28 per cent and the NDP at 24 per cent.
But the Abacus poll – which is considered accurate within 3.1 percentage points 19 times out of 20 – suggested the NDP would be hard-pressed to retain its urban Toronto gains made in the 2018 election.
Abacus put Liberal support at 41 per cent in the city, followed by 32 per cent for the Tories and 21 per cent for the Horwath’s New Democrats.
Those numbers were drawn before Monday evening’s debate, and it’s not yet known if Horwath, Del Duca or Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner’s performances will materially move the needle.