Wynne’s Liberals leading fundraising race

The Liberals are edging out the PCs in the fundraising race, Elections Ontario data shows.

The Liberals have racked up the most campaign contributions out of any provincial party, totalling $6.6-million since the start of 2013. The PC’s are a close second, just above the $5-million mark. The New Democrats sit at a distant third with $3.3-million.

Campaign contributions

SOURCE: Elections Ontario (data from Jan. 1, 2013 through May 14, 2014)

The PCs are counting on fewer but larger donations, while the NDP are accumulating many smaller sums. The average NDP contributor donates $90, compared to more than $500 for the PCs. Liberal contributions average somewhere in between, at just over $250 each.

Average contribution amount

SOURCE: Elections Ontario (data from Jan. 1, 2013 through May 14, 2014)

Liberals and New Democrats haven’t changed perspectives as quickly as their leaders

One of the oddities of this campaign and the period leading up to it is that the Liberals and NDP often seem to have all but switched traditional roles, with Kathleen Wynne seeming more enthusiastic about government spending and ambitious new programs than Andrea Horwath.

Interestingly, though, if the party leaders have shifted perspectives, that doesn’t seem to have happened as much with people who identify as their supporters.

Among the many questions asked in Innovative Research Group’s first Listening Post survey for us, apropos of the May 2 budget which the NDP rejected to kickstart this election, was whether “in developing its annual budget,” it’s more important for the Ontario government to “Increase spending to provide more and better services to Ontario residents,” or “Hold the line on the growth of government spending in order to provide room to reduce taxes and pay down the province’s debt.”

Here’s how self-identified Liberals responded:

Liberals

SOURCE: Innovative Research Group

And here’s how New Democrats responded:

New Democrats

SOURCE: Innovative Research Group

As for unaligned voters, the other group whose votes Ms. Wynne and Ms. Horwath might be competing for, they wouldn’t seem to be very enthusiastic about the sort of budget Ms. Wynne’s government delivered.

Unaligned voters

SOURCE: Innovative Research Group

These perspectives help explain why for a long time the Liberals were taking a somewhat contradictory two-pronged communications approach, telling some audiences that Ms. Horwath’s party had abandoned its traditional values, and others that the NDP was still the risky party on the left clamouring to spend recklessly.

In this campaign, the Liberals have tended to mostly emphasize the first argument, which rings a bit truer than the second, as they make their play to rally centre-left voters behind them. They may be safe in doing so, since Tim Hudak’s polarizing campaign makes it unlikely that right-leaning Liberals will switch to his party. But it’s safe to say she’s taken at least some risk of alienating her party’s traditional supporters.

(As parties get more sophisticated in targeting messages to individual voters, we want to get as many people as possible involved in helping us keep track of those messages and how they’re delivering them. If you’d be willing to help us tell the story of this campaign by keeping a campaign diary to let us know who contacted you and uploading campaign material, or maybe giving your reaction to ads, issues and events, you can sign up for the Listening Post Network here.)

Who cares most about Liberal scandals?

So far in this campaign, Andrea Horwath has been more aggressive than Tim Hudak in trying to make the Liberals wear the scandals (like gas plants) that occurred under their watch.

The data from our Listening Post survey with Innovative Research Group, though, suggests that attacks on the Liberals’ ethics have gotten a great deal more traction with self-identified Progressive Conservatives than New Democrats.

Perhaps most telling on this front, and some help in explaining why despite its tough rhetoric the NDP has been calling for the Liberals to be put in the “penalty box” rather than given up on altogether, were responses when those who align with each party were asked whether they agree or disagree that “After the past few years, I am so angry at the Ontario Liberals, I will never vote for them again.”

SOURCE: Innovative Research Group

Responses to several other questions point to underlying impressions that help explain this discrepancy between Tories and New Democrats (and unaligned voters, to some extent). Here, for instance, is how people who align with each party responded to the question: “When it comes to waste or mismanagement of government spending, do you think the provincial Liberal government is better or worse than other provincial governments we have had in Ontario?”

SOURCE: Innovative Research Group

A question about whether the Liberals have been better or worse than past governments when it comes to “favours to friends and insiders” brought a similar response:

SOURCE: Innovative Research Group

As a side-note, even most self-identified Liberals don’t seem to think their party of choice has been more ethical than past governments; just that it’s no worse. But it’s quite remarkable how many self-identified New Democrats seem not to think the Liberals have been unusually bad on that front, either.

Now, before going too far in assuming only Mr. Hudak can successfully play the ethics card, it’s worth noting that the pattern is a bit different when it comes to questions about which party would be most ethical in government. Here’s how PCs, New Democrats and unaligned voters responded when asked which party would “do the best job of cleaning up
favours to friends and insiders if they form government”:

SOURCE: Innovative Research Group

Also worth noting is how pessimistic unaligned voters are about any of the parties’ ability to run a clean government. Here’s how they responded to that same question about who would clean up favours to friends and insiders:

SOURCE: Innovative Research Group

So going by these numbers, if Ms. Horwath is able to make more of her likely supporters care more about Liberal scandals, and/or if she’s able to convince more voters who don’t really associate with any party that she’s truly capable of cleaning up corruption, this issue could be a winner for her. But so far, the biggest impact of all the scandal talk seems to be that it energizes Mr. Hudak’s supporters.

(As parties get more sophisticated in targeting messages to individual voters, we want to get as many people as possible involved in helping us keep track of those messages and how they’re delivering them. If you’d be willing to help us tell the story of this campaign by keeping a campaign diary to let us know who contacted you and uploading campaign material, or maybe giving your reaction to ads, issues and events, you can sign up for the Listening Post Network here.)

Here are some warning signs for Horwath’s NDP

The rest of this election may yet vindicate Andrea Horwath’s decision to bring down the Liberal government over a left-of-centre budget, then run on a populist agenda that bears little resemblance to her party’s traditional one.

But there’s no way around it:  The first survey conducted in our Listening Post project with Innovative Research Group produced a lot of warning signs for the NDP.

One perception New Democrats really want to avoid in any campaign is that a vote for them is wasted, because it’s a two-way race between the Liberals and Progressive Conservatives. That’s especially the case in this one, when voters on the centre-left are frightened by the prospect of Tim Hudak winning (more on that in a subsequent post). But the survey suggests that the NDP is very much at risk of being counted out, even by many people who self-identify as New Democrats – let alone Liberals Ms. Horwath might want to win over, or unaligned voters who might be up for grabs.

Here’s what respondents had to say when asked if they agree with the statement that “This election is really a two-horse race, only the Liberal and the Conservatives have a real chance of forming government”:

SOURCE: Innovative Research Group

If Ms. Horwath is indeed having trouble being taken seriously as a potential premier, it might have something to do with getting noticed a lot less than the other two leaders.

While 79 per cent of respondents said they had “read, seen or heard” something about Ms. Wynne and her party “in the last few days,” and 78 per cent said the same thing about Mr. Hudak and his, only 52 per cent answered in the affirmative when it came to Ms. Horwath and hers. And as you can see, she and the NDP were noticed less by every vote group, including New Democrats:

SOURCE: Innovative Research Group

The lifting of the advertising blackout around the time this survey ended, combined with other factors such as Monday’s northern debate with Ms. Wynne and the regular leaders’ debate next week, should help Ms. Horwath get noticed a little more easily. But there’s another potential problem, which is that she did make an impression on our respondents, it didn’t seem to be a very good one.

Consider how she stacked up to Ms. Wynne, with whom she’s fighting for left-of-centre votes, on that front. Here’s how Liberals, New Democrats and unaligned voters – those who reported noticing the leaders and parties in question, which admittedly gets us into some fairly small sample sizes – responded when asked if what they’d seen, read or heard made them more or less likely to vote for a particular party:

Likelihood to vote Liberal

SOURCE: Innovative Research Group

Likelihood to vote NDP

SOURCE: Innovative Research Group

The relatively good news there for Ms. Horwath is that about as many New Democrats and unaligned voters seemed to respond well to her message when they heard it as Liberals and unaligned voters did to Ms. Wynne’s. But the NDP Leader’s negatives are higher with every group. And perhaps more importantly, Ms. Wynne showed more crossover appeal with New Democrats than Ms. Horwath did with Liberals

To underscore that potential crossover appeal, and maybe some of Ms. Horwath’s other challenges as well, here’s a last bit of data out of this survey for now – one that takes us back to how this election launched.

On the question of whether what they “read, saw or heard” about the Liberals’ budget – the one that Ms. Horwath decided to bring the government down over – made them more or less likely to vote Liberal, here’s how each group responded.

Likely to vote Liberal

SOURCE: Innovative Research Group

It’s worth noting that only 51 per cent of New Democrats said they’d read, heard or seen anything about the budget, which is a smaller share than with supporters of the other parties. It’s also a good  reminder that none of this is to say views have hardened to the point where Ms. Horwath couldn’t lead her party to a very good finish.

It’s also possible that in their own public-opinion research, the New Democrats are finding other metrics that offer encouragement about how things have gone so far. But this survey suggests they’ve at least got some fairly serious issues to overcome.

(As parties get more sophisticated in targeting messages to individual voters, we want to get as many people as possible involved in helping us keep track of those messages and how they’re delivering them. If you’d be willing to help us tell the story of this campaign by keeping a campaign diary to let us know who contacted you and uploading campaign material, or maybe giving your reaction to ads, issues and events, you can sign up for the Listening Post Network here.)

Latest vote projection: Liberals get bump from EKOS poll

Vote and seat projection from ThreeHundredEight.com as of May 26.

Vote and seat projection from ThreeHundredEight.com as of May 26.

The projection from ThreeHundredEight.com has been updated with the latest poll from EKOS Research for iPolitics (May 16-23, 1,215 interviewed via interactive voice response, reported margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 per cent, 19 times out of 20). The poll showed the Liberals leading with 35.8 per cent, a drop of 1.3 points compared to EKOS’s last poll of May 13-15. The Progressive Conservatives trailed with 30 per cent (-0.3), the New Democrats with 20.4 per cent (-0.5), and the Greens with 11.9 per cent (+4.6). That Green result is particularly high, and likely a statistical anomaly.

Visit ThreeHundredEight.com for detailed regional and riding breakdowns and methodological information.

Ontario election: Where the leaders are on May 26

There’s a debate in northern Ontario today, but only two leaders will be there. Here’s where they are travelling.

Progressive Conservatives
(Follow Globe reporter Susan Krashinsky, on the PC bus, on Twitter.)

Tim Hudak is the leader not in the north today. He starts with an 8 a.m. town hall in Peterborough (Riding: Peterborough), then has a press conference at Raywal Cabinets in Thornhill at 12:30 p.m. (Riding: Thornhill). At 2:45 p.m., he has a photo opp in Milton (Riding: Halton).

New Democrats
(Follow Globe reporter Adrian Morrow, on the NDP bus, on Twitter.)

Andrea Horwath appears with local candidates in Thunder Bay at 9:30 a.m. (Riding: Thunder Bay-Superior North), before the northern leader’s debate between her and Kathleen Wynne at noon. In the evening, she does an event with local candidates in Sudbury (Riding: Sudbury).

Liberals
(Follow Globe reporter Kaleigh Rogers, on the Liberal bus, on Twitter.)

Kathleen Wynne takes part in the northern leader’s debate at noon, then has a press conference at 1:30 p.m. (Riding: Thunder Bay-Atikokan).

Why skipping the northern debate might be advantageous for Tim Hudak

Tim Hudak has been taking some criticism for declining to take part in Monday’s leaders’ debate, focused on northern Ontario, in Thunder Bay. It’s the only opportunity other than the lone general debate (on June 3) for the three people with a chance of being premier to face off against each other. In the 2011 campaign, Mr. Hudak and Andrea Horwath participated while Dalton McGuinty took a pass; now Mr. McGuinty’s replacement Kathleen Wynne has agreed to appear alongside Ms. Horwath, and Mr. Hudak has decided he has better things to do.

The most obvious explanation for his absence, and in large part the correct one, is that there just isn’t much advantage for him in speaking to the north. His party holds one northern seat, North Bay, that it can safely expect to keep if for no other reason than the popularity of incumbent MPP (and former mayor) Vic Fedeli; it has very little chance elsewhere in this part of the province.

There is another consideration, though, that also helps explain why Mr. Hudak is keeping his distance from Monday’s event.

Talk to people working on Mr. Hudak’s campaign, and the biggest concern you’ll hear about how the campaign has played out so far is the performance of the NDP. Although they’re competing with the New Democrats for a few seats in southwestern Ontario, the Tories are counting on them to split votes with the Liberals elsewhere, particularly in the Greater Toronto Area. They’re worried that Ms. Horwath has underperformed so far, allowing Ms. Wynne to succeed in her efforts to present this as a two-horse race and rally left-of-centre voters behind her.

If that is indeed what’s happening – and again, it’s really hard for anyone to get a full read of this campaign’s dynamics – there’s only so much the Tories can do about it. But there are small opportunities here and there to help Ms. Horwath get taken seriously, and the northern debate might be one of those.

Obviously, very few people south of Sudbury are going to watch. But because there’s so little opportunity to see the party leaders interacting with each other, media interest will be high. And Mr. Hudak’s absence ensures that, when clips of the debate lead provincial election coverage on Monday night or photos of it run online and in the paper on Tuesday morning, Ontarians will see Ms. Horwath and Ms. Wynne going head-to-head, with the former implicitly presented as being on an equal footing with the latter.

It’s unlikely the Tories expect this event in Thunder Bay to be a decisive moment for them one way or the other. But cynical though the calculation may be, it’s not hard to see why they find more advantage than disadvantage in skipping it.

Reaction to Gerald Caplan’s NDP column

On Friday, The Globe published a column from Gerald Caplan — who has worked for the provincial and federal NDP for many years — addressed to Andrea Horwath, saying he was concerned with the direction the Ontario NDP was taking during its campaign.

Here’s an excerpt:

Your election campaign has frankly been a mess. No coherent theme, no memorable policies, nothing to deal with the great concerns of New Democrats everywhere: increasing inequality, the precarious lives of so many working people, reduced public services, global warming. I’m afraid you offer little sense that you understand Ontario’s needs and that if elected you have any serious plan to meet them.

The column provoked a wealth of reaction on Twitter.

Two pairs of mothers and daughters running for NDP

The Ontario NDP campaign is a family affair this time around, with two mother-daughter duos running as separate candidates for the party.

Kitchener-Waterloo MPP Catherine Fife  — who snatched up the riding in 2012’s by-election after PC Elizabeth Witmer stepped down — is running alongside her mother, Sheila Wood, the candidate for Peterborough.

Ms. Fife was co-chair on the candidate search committee, but when Ms. Wood told her at Christmas she was interested in throwing her hat in the ring,  she recused herself from the process. It was a contested spot but her mother won the nomination and is now fighting a tough race for the riding currently held by cabinet minister Jeff Leal.

“We usually talk in the morning and at night and we try to support each other,” Ms. Fife said at a rally for neighbouring riding Kitchener-Centre last Friday.

“I’m very proud of her. I think that she was up for the challenge.”

Catherine Fife and Sheila Wood. (Picture from Facebook)

Catherine Fife, left, and her mother Sheila Wood. (Picture from Facebook)

Though she said it will be a tough fight, Ms. Fife said it would be “amazing” to work alongside her mother at Queen’s Park if they are both successful in their campaigns.

In Huron-Bruce, Jan Johnstone will be repping the NDP while her daughter, Alex Johnstone, is nominated for the party in Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale.

Ms. Fife and the Johnstones share another connection as well: they all got their start in public service as school board trustees, along with seven other NDP candidates running.

The mother-daughter duos are the only parent-child pairs running in the election, but there are some other political family ties. The PC candidate for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell, Roxane Villeneuve-Robertson, is the daughter of former federal agriculture minister Noble Villeneuve, while NDP Thunder Bay-Superior North candidate Andrew Foulds is the son of former MPP Jim Foulds.

Ms. Fife says the best advice she has to offer her mother is to be prepared for the ups and downs that come with political life.

“There’s a lot of cynicism out there about politics right now and when you become the politician, you become the face of some of those challenges,” she said.

“All she can do — and all that I try to do  — is engage the public and talk to people and share our passion for change. At the end of the day, the voters get to choose and we’re just trying to give them a fair option.”

Ontario election: Where the leaders are on May 23

The three leaders are off to different corners of the province today. Here’s where they are travelling.

Liberals
(Follow Globe reporter Kaleigh Rogers, on the Liberal bus, on Twitter.)

Kathleen Wynne sticks to the Greater Toronto Area again today, with an 8:30 a.m. announcement in Toronto’s Little Italy (Riding: Trinity-Spadina), followed by a 12:45 p.m. appearance with students at the nearby École élementaire Pierre-Elliot-Trudeau (Riding: Trinity-Spadina). At 2:30 p.m., she’s out to Mississauga to meet with locals (Riding: Mississauga-Erindale).

Progressive Conservatives
(Follow Globe reporter Susan Krashinsky, on the PC bus, on Twitter.)

Tim Hudak is in southwestern Ontario today, with a lunch speech at the London Chamber of Commerce (Riding: London North Centre). At 3:45 p.m., he appears at a blade manufacturer in Waterloo (Riding: Kitchener-Waterloo).

New Democrats
(Follow Globe reporter Adrian Morrow, on the NDP bus, on Twitter.)

Andrea Horwath is in Ottawa today, starting with an event with a local candidate at 10 a.m. (Riding: Ottawa-Vanier) and a lunch speech with the Canada 2020 series (at which Mr. Hudak and Ms. Wynne have already spoken) (Riding: Ottawa Centre). In the afternoon she appears at the campaign office of candidate Jennifer McKenzie (Riding: Ottawa Centre).