Currently holding 49 of Ontario’s 107 seats, and facing likely losses in at least a couple of ridings (Sudbury, Windsor-West) no matter how well they campaign, Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals are not well-positioned to win back majority government on June 12 .
Winning another minority, though, would be more than good enough for them.
Yes, that’s partly because holding on to power at all would be quite a feat considering the baggage they came into this race with. But there’s another reason as well: If they get another term of government, the path to a majority could be a little easier for them next time around.
The Liberals’ problem, currently, is that they’re not very competitive outside the Greater Toronto Area. They hold 30 of its 44 seats, and only 19 of the 61 elsewhere. And if they win this time, that imbalance will probably become even greater, because pretty much their only chances for pickups are in the GTA.
It’s not lost on many Liberals, though, that federal riding boundaries are currently being redrawn in a way that increases the ratio of GTA seats relative to non-GTA ones. That matters because at present, provincial boundaries match federal ones (other than in the far north, where there’s one extra provincial seat). And the next government could reasonably introduce legislation to adopt the new federal map.
If that happened, and the extra northern seat were kept, that would mean 11 new seats in the GTA, and only four new ones anywhere else. So despite there being slightly more seats outside the Toronto area, a party could actually need fewer of them to get to a majority.
Continuing to mirror the federal map isn’t a gimme. A party opposed to doing so – like, say, the Progressive Conservatives, who are currently stronger in rural and small-town Ontario than in urban and suburban areas – could easily make the case that the last thing the deficit-laden province needs is more politicians.
The logical response to that might be to redraw the provincial map to reflect that the GTA’s population has grown faster than the rest of the province’s, without actually adding more MPPs. But taking seats away from rural Ontario could get messy.
In any event, if the Liberals are re-elected, they’ll probably have a window in which they can push through legislation without too much fear of the opposition parties rising up against them. And it’s entirely possible one of the other parties could be persuaded to embrace a new map regardless.
This would help explain why Liberals will privately admit their hopes revolve almost entirely around the GTA. It may not be healthy for them to be uncompetitive most other places, but it soon might not be as much of a problem for them as it is now.