2016—2017 · Vol. 44 No. 2



Queen's Park notes

Ontario NDP prospects improve for 2018 election

With many Ontario supporters of the New Democratic Party still despondent over two successive general election losses—one at the provincial level in 2014 and the other at the federal level in 2015—it may difficult for some New Democrats to imagine a brighter electoral future for their party any time soon. But faint signs of a NDP rebirth, especially at the provincial level, are slowly becoming more evident.

The long reign of the Ontario Liberal Party will be at 15 years when the 2018 general election comes around. It is becoming more difficult to envision how a party currently beset by such poor approval numbers for its Leader and Premier, Kathleen Wynne, can rebound enough over the next 18 months to capture a fifth consecutive mandate. The enthusiasm for Kathleen Wynne, who was widely accepted as a fresh face for the Liberals in 2014, has waned significantly, especially in the Greater Toronto Area and other urban centres. And serious troubles in a number of policy areas— particularly the hydro file with the unpopular proposed sale of 60 per cent of the utility to private interests and the politically-devastating increases in electricity prices—severely imperil the Liberals’ electoral prospects. Add to that the recent humiliating by-election loss in the safe Liberal seat of Scarborough—Rouge River and it seems ever more possible that the Liberal government will not survive past 2018.

With the Liberals in apparent decline, most Ontarians will look to the opposition parties as an alternative. In this regard, Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives are usually considered first by a plurality of voters. But with a rookie Leader in Patrick Brown—who is still regarded as a neophyte by many voters, including PC supporters—the Tories have much work to do if they want to gain the confidence of the electorate. And with many still unsure of Brown’s policy direction, especially given his recent head-spinning convulsions regarding the physical and sexual health curriculum, it may be difficult to convince Ontarians to see him as a potential premier. It is noteworthy that some of Ontario’s more electorally successful Premiers, including Mike Harris and Dalton McGuinty, did not win on their first attempt.

The electoral predicaments in which the Liberals and PCs find themselves might offer Andrea Horwath and the NDP a rare opportunity to leap from third-party status straight to the government benches. Horwath has been conducting extensive outreach to shore up support among unions and other progressive organizations, and her strong support of the $15 minimum wage coupled with her unwavering resistance to the Liberals’ partial sell-off of Hydro One are growing evidence of her determination to forge a new path for her electoral ambitions. If she and her party continue down this path, they may well have the same electoral success as the third parties achieved in the 1990 provincial election and the 2015
federal election.

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