Another Ontario election soon after this one? Don’t count on it

Standing in front of a statue of a bicycle-riding Jack Layton to rather unsubtly push back against claims that she’s abandoned her party’s roots, Andrea Horwath did not sound like someone overly eager to work with either of the other parties in another minority legislature. She wanted to be “100 per cent clear,” she said, that she had no intention of supporting Tim Hudak’s government-slashing plan; nor did she intend to support “corrupt Liberals.”

Considering the likelihood that another minority legislature is exactly what we’re headed for, with Ms. Horwath’s NDP again the third party, such talk is likely to spur speculation that the next government will be extremely short-lived.

The reality, though, is that however nasty this campaign might be getting in its final leg – and however much Ms. Horwath and others seem to be backing themselves into corners – a couple of factors make it unlikely that the province’s politicians will imminently be back on the campaign trail.

One is the possibility of leadership changes. It’s widely expected that if the Liberals win back government, Mr. Hudak will step aside. It’s less of a sure thing that Kathleen Wynne will exit if the Liberals lose, but there’s at least a chance of that. And either way, if the NDP doesn’t make gains, Andrea Horwath could be on her way out as well. If any of the parties is in the midst of a leadership contest, it will be highly reluctant to force another election – giving whoever is in office at least a bit of leeway.

The other, based on watching this campaign, is that the parties would be very hard-pressed financially to fight another election battle shortly thereafter.

That applies, in particular, to the New Democrats. We won’t know until after the election is done how much was raised and spent, but it certainly looks like they’ve been very short on cash even this time around. While they often get outspent by the other two parties, it’s been more noticeable than usual – particularly when it comes to television advertising, which is one of the better barometers.

That may have something to do with unions, annoyed by the NDP’s decision to defeat a left-leaning budget and chance Mr. Hudak’s Tories getting elected, putting away their chequebooks and being reluctant to back up loans. It may also point to lackluster grassroots fundraising. Whatever the case, if the NDP is struggling to pay for this campaign, it’s hard to see how it could pay for anything resembling a competitive effort months later.

Whichever of the Liberal or Tories winds up in opposition could be challenged on the financial front. Both those parties have much better fundraising operations than the NDP, but the corporate cash they both partly rely on is hard to drum up quickly when you’re not in government.

Sooner or later, like pretty much every minority legislature, this one would become unsustainable. But for all the tough talk now, there would be incentive to keep it going for a good while.

Where do voters get their politics news? TV and the Internet, mostly

In this new digital age, how do you reach voters? Increasingly, parties need to go online. But for now TV is still king.



Abacus conducted the survey by talking to 2,002 Canadians over the age of 18 through a mix of online panels and live telephone interviews. The data were demographically weighted in line with the general population, and the margin of error is plus or minus 2.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. The poll was conducted in January and February of this year.

Ask The Globe: Do we, as PM Harper has stated, have the cleanest electricity grid in Canada?

For the duration of the election, The Globe is answering your questions – from fact-checking leaders’ statements to digging deep into policies and promises. Have a question? Tweet it with #AskTheGlobe

Globe reader Greg Bennett asks: Do we, as PM Harper has stated, have the cleanest electricity grid in Canada?

Energy reporter Shawn McCarthy says yes – it’s true. But the answer is a little more complicated:

Conservatives’ attacks on Mulcair not too effective, survey suggests

As explained in today’s story, new survey data from Innovative Research Group suggests the Liberals are having some success with advertising rebutting Conservative attacks against Justin Trudeau. But of course, they wouldn’t need to do so if those attacks hadn’t been effective in branding the Liberal Leader as a “not ready” lightweight to begin with.

To the much more limited extent that the Tories are going after NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair, it appears they’re struggling to find an angle that’s similarly effective.

In the same early-August  survey in which it found the Liberals’ new ad has a significant impact on those who see it, the polling company also tested a pair of anti-Mulcair Conservative ads. Both use the same “job interview” format as the ones against Mr. Trudeau, but the attempts to cast Mr. Mulcair as an opportunistic career politician seemed to have more limited effect.

In fact, when Innovative Research screened the first of those spots (above) – asking respondents a series of questions both before and after they saw it – it found no statistically significant impact on either voting intentions or impressions of Mr. Mulcair relative to the other party leaders.

The second ad, which is slightly more focused on alleging Mr. Mulcair has wasted taxpayers’ money and less so on using his longevity in politics and his past as a (Quebec) Liberal to suggest he’s an opportunist, proved somewhat more effective. Among respondents who hadn’t seen it before, support for the NDP went down by five percentage points after they saw it, although it’s not clear whether that went to the Tories or the Liberals. And the share of respondents who chose Mr. Mulcair as the leader who most “cares about people like me” went down by seven points.

While significant, neither of those hits is huge when an ad is viewed in isolation. And on other perceptions of leaders’ qualities, such as competence and who cares most about the middle class, there was again no clear impact.

Considering how little these two ads have been airing so far, it’s possible the Tories aren’t using their best stuff against the NDP yet. But it’s worth remembering that, even with Mr. Trudeau, they spent a while running spots that didn’t really work before they hit their target. If they decide before this campaign is over to make Mr. Mulcair their main target, they’ll have a much smaller window to get it right.

(Full methodology for Innovative Research’s surveys are available from its website.)