Liberals’ HQ elated amid news of majority win

Ontario Liberal leader Kathleen Wynne speaks to supporters after winning the Ontario election in Toronto on Thursday June 12, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Ontario Liberal leader Kathleen Wynne speaks to supporters after winning the Ontario election in Toronto on Thursday June 12, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn


Kathleen Wynne spoke to supporters in Toronto after media outlets reported her party won a majority government Thursday night.


Pumped-up Liberal supporters celebrated at the election-night headquarters.

Supporters watch results at Ontario Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne's provincial election night headquarters in Toronto, June 12, 2014. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

Supporters watch results at Ontario Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne’s provincial election night headquarters in Toronto, June 12, 2014. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

Ontario Liberal Party supporters celebrate after a Liberal Party majority government was called at the election party headquarters of leader Kathleen Wynne in Toronto, June 12, 2014.  REUTERS/Mark Blinch (CANADA  - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS)

Ontario Liberal Party supporters celebrate after a Liberal Party majority government was called at the election party headquarters of leader Kathleen Wynne in Toronto, June 12, 2014. REUTERS/Mark Blinch 

Ontario Liberal Party staff members celebrate after a Liberal Party majority government was called at the election party headquarters of leader Kathleen Wynne in Toronto, June 12, 2014. REUTERS/Mark Blinch (CANADA  - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS)

Ontario Liberal Party staff members celebrate after a Liberal Party majority government was called at the election party headquarters of leader Kathleen Wynne in Toronto, June 12, 2014. 

The mood at the PC headquarters was much more subdued. Polls had put party leader Tim Hudak neck-in-neck with the Liberals. But on Election Day, that wasn’t the case.

A supporter of Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak watches the election results come in for Ontario's provincial election in Grimsby, Ontario June 12, 2014. REUTERS/Fred Thornhill (CANADA  - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS)

A supporter of Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak watches the election results come in for Ontario’s provincial election in Grimsby, Ontario June 12, 2014. REUTERS/Fred Thornhill 

Ontario PC supporters watch the results come in at Tim Hudak's election night party in Grimsby, Ontario on Thursday June 12, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Ontario PC supporters watch the results come in at Tim Hudak’s election night party in Grimsby, Ontario on Thursday June 12, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

An Ontario PC supporter reacts as he watches the results come in at Tim Hudak's election night party in Grimsby, Ontario on Thursday June 12, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

An Ontario PC supporter reacts as he watches the results come in at Tim Hudak’s election night party in Grimsby, Ontario on Thursday June 12, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

And in Hamilton, a handful of supporters were present for NDP Leader Andrea Horwath’s election-night event.

Supporters watch results at Ontario New Democratic Party (NDP) leader Andrea Horwath's provincial election night headquarters in Hamilton, Ontario June 12, 2014.  REUTERS/Aaron Harris (CANADA  - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS)

Supporters watch results at Ontario New Democratic Party (NDP) leader Andrea Horwath’s provincial election night headquarters in Hamilton, Ontario June 12, 2014. REUTERS/Aaron Harris 

A sparse crowd watches television coverage as election results are tallied at the Ontario NDP election night party for Leader Andrea Horwath in Stoney Creek, Ont., Thursday, June 12, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Aaron Lynett

A sparse crowd watches television coverage as election results are tallied at the Ontario NDP election night party for Leader Andrea Horwath in Stoney Creek, Ont., Thursday, June 12, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Aaron Lynett

 

Everything you need to read before you vote in the Ontario election

The Ontario election campaign is in its last few days, with voters set to head to the polls on June 12. Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne is pushing for another stint in office, while PC Leader Tim Hudak has offered a very different vision for Ontario’s future and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath says she would be a fresh face for the government.

Find everything you need to know about the leaders, their platforms and key events during the campaign right here before casting your vote. 

THE PARTY LEADERS

Ms. Wynne, Mr. Hudak and Ms. Horwath are busy touring the province to share their plans for Ontario. Learn more about the people fronting each party with this quick summary of their biographies.

The three leaders also offered up their respective elevator pitches in this video, which features each candidate making a case for the premier’s office with only 30 seconds to speak.

THE PLATFORMS

If you’re looking for more than soundbites on the major issues, use this interactive to compare platforms from the Liberals, PCs, New Democrats and the Green Party. It highlights eight topics, including heath care, education and taxes.

THE LEADERS’ DEBATE

Ms. Wynne was attacked for her party’s spending scandals by both her opponents during the lone leaders’ debate on June 3. Didn’t tune in? Catch up with Adrian Morrow’s article on the debate, or get the abridged version of events from Kaleigh Rogers.

The three leaders also participated in a Globe Debate faceoff, with each touting the virtues of their respective economic plans. Check out their write-ups, and if you like, vote on one and see how you compare with other Globe readers.

THE LEADERS’ TOURS

The party leaders have spent weeks criss-crossing the province — and where they’ve been says a lot about which regions they hope to win. Take a closer look at the leaders’ tours with our interactive.

THE PRESSURE POINTS

It’s not an election without a few tough words. Issues that have cropped up during the campaign include:

The cancelled gas plants: The opposition parties hammered Ms. Wynne over the spending debacle during the leaders’ debate, and they received more ammunition when provincial police ramped up its investigation.

‘Bogus math‘: Economists poked holes in Mr. Hudak’s signature Million Jobs Plan, though he stands by his numbers.

Internal rift: Dozens of NDP members accused Ms. Horwath of abandoning the party’s roots by voting down the Liberals’ budget.

MaRS:  The PCs accused the Liberals of secretly approving $317-million to bail out a real-estate development for a Toronto research centre.

The police: For the first time in its 60-year history, the union presenting the Ontario Provincial Police released a political attack ad. The television ad targets Hudak’s plan.

THE ENDORSEMENT

With the Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives leading the race, The Globe and Mail’s examined their platforms and the state of Ontario’s government and finances through a series of editorials. The last of the four pieces backed Mr. Hudak’s Progressive Conservatives, but with a minority government.

You can also check out the earlier parts of the series here.

Part 1: Advice for the undecided voter

Part 2: Sense and nonsense from the Conservatives

Part 3: Uncertainty surrounds the Liberal platform

As well, we’ve complied a list of editorial endorsements in Ontario elections from 1981 to present. 

TIME TO VOTE

Polls open on June 12 from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. (ET). Find out more about the voting process here. 

Parties rely heavily on corporate, union donations

Almost half of all donations to the Ontario NDP come from unions or corporations, which are only four per cent of their contributor base, an analysis of Elections Ontario data shows.

All three parties count disproportionately on a select group of corporations or unions for their contributions.

The numbers include contributions up until May 14, the second week of the election campaign.

The average NDP contributor donated $90, compared to $250 for the Liberals and more than $500 for the Progressive Conservatives. But that’s not the complete picture.

Corporations, which are roughly four per cent of the NDP’s contributor base, gave more than $1.6-million to the party so far. Compare that to 13 per cent of Liberal contributors who gave a total of $3.6-million, and the PC’s, with 17 per cent of their contributor base giving $3.2-million. The PCs also lead the way with the largest overall percentage of campaign dollars coming from corporations.

Percentage of corporate donations

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

The annual contribution limit caps out at $9,975 per party, per individual contributor. But contributors can also give up to $6,650 annually to each party’s riding associations, and another $6,650 to candidates.

Bruce Power is the heavyweight of contributors, donating $57,800 across all three parties, with about half going to the NDP and the rest split between Liberals and PCs. Labatt Brewing was a close second, giving almost $55,000, split fairly evenly among parties.

Provincial Building & Construction Trades Council Of Ontario is the largest Liberal contributor, with $32,855.

Top 10 Liberal donors

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

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the top NDP contributor is the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, which gave more than $38,000. Nearly all of the NDP’s top 10 contributors were unions.

Top 10 NDP donors

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

The PCs didn’t have a distinct top contributor, with the highest totals hitting just over $19,000, from companies including Rogers, Labatt and Shoppers Drug Mart.

Top 10 PC donors

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

Note: The percentages included in this story are as complete a picture as possible. Elections Ontario data doesn’t differentiate between individuals and corporations, and so our analysis of the data is subject to error.

The most baffling miscalculations made by each of Ontario’s parties

Political parties invest great amounts of time and energy into preparing for election campaigns – far more, generally, than the media covering them. For all that we’re constantly questioning their strategic decisions, an awful lot of thought and research goes into most of them, and even if they don’t pan out there’s usually a good explanation behind them.

Still, this election has contained its share of mysteries when it comes to what the parties were thinking. Here’s a quick look at what was, to these eyes, the most baffling miscalculation by each party.

The Liberals’ debate prep

Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne takes part in the Ontario provincial leaders debate in Toronto, Tuesday June 3, 2014. (Mark Blinch/Canadian Press)

Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne takes part in the Ontario provincial leaders debate in Toronto, Tuesday June 3, 2014. (Mark Blinch/Canadian Press)

Yes, it was bad luck for Kathleen Wynne that the very first topic in her first leaders’ debate – before she’d had a chance to let her nerves settle – was the gas-plants scandal. But that still doesn’t explain why she didn’t have a better plan for the inevitable questions on that subject than to repeatedly apologize while uncomfortably staring straight ahead as the other leaders berated her, then make an awkward and unsuccessful attempt to change the channel to Tim Hudak’s math problems.

Ms. Wynne was being prepped for the debate dating back to last year, so it’s not as though no thought went into this. One theory offered by some Liberal insiders is that, somewhat in keeping with the way their party has made both political and policy decisions since Ms. Wynne took over, there were a lot of people in the room during those sessions – and enough conflicting advice that she didn’t have a clear idea of what she was supposed to do.

Another explanation also floating around is that while they expected Mr. Hudak to be tough on her, the Liberals failed to adjust to the aggressive persona Andrea Horwath had taken on by the time the debate happened. Instead, by this account, Ms. Wynne was prepared for the folksier version of the NDP Leader from the 2011 campaign, and left flummoxed by the attack from both sides.

Or maybe the prep just didn’t take as it should have, with Ms. Wynne’s nervousness getting the better of her. Whatever happened, if the Liberals lose on Thursday, they’ll have cause to look back on the debate with some regret.

The Tories’ hard sell of 100,000 job cuts

Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak shares a laugh with workers at Automatic Coating Limited in Toronto on Tuesday, May 6, 2014.  (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak shares a laugh with workers at Automatic Coating Limited in Toronto on Tuesday, May 6, 2014. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

The more obvious choice for a Progressive Conservative mystery in this campaign might be how Mr. Hudak’s policy advisers managed to badly botch the math behind his pledge to create a million new jobs, causing him no shortage of embarrassment. Chalk that one up to sloppiness, albeit of the fairly remarkable variety. What’s even more confusing is how the Tories rolled out their plan to cut 100,000 jobs from the broader public sector.

When they announced that pledge, a few days in, it seemed obviously intended as something to seize the electorate’s attention and become the talk of the campaign. If it wasn’t, then surely Mr. Hudak would have soft-sold it as relying largely on attrition rather than giving the impression that it involved firing a lot of people.

But by the accounts of many within their party, the Tories were genuinely caught off guard by how much the proposed cuts overshadowed other policies they rolled out in the days that followed, and the extent to which it gave their opponents something to rally against. So in subsequent the weeks, Mr. Hudak did start talking more about attrition – but only after the other parties had reasonably been able to characterize his proposal as mass layoffs.

Prior to the debate, several PC sources have said, there was starting to be a degree of finger-pointing within their party about both the million-jobs math and the jobs-cuts roll-out. A better mood set in because of the perceived momentum swing in their favour, which seemingly had much to do with the focus shifting to Liberal scandals. But there will again be plenty of second-guessing if the motivated centre-left keeps them from office.

The NDP’s slow start

Andrea Horwath speaks at a campaign stop in Toronto on May 7. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

Andrea Horwath speaks at a campaign stop in Toronto on May 7. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

Frankly, almost the entire NDP campaign has been baffling. While there have been occasional signs of what could have worked – Ms. Horwath is a more confident performer than she was in 2011, and when anyone has actually seen them their ads have been pretty good – it remains unclear why the New Democrats forced an election for which they lacked both a policy agenda and enough money to compete with the other parties.

What is especially confusing, though, is why Ms. Horwath was so unprepared for the campaign’s first week. In the run-up to the May 2 provincial budget, neither of the other parties could be certain how the New Democrats would respond. But in retrospect, considering that their rejection of that left-leaning budget clearly had little to do with its contents, the New Democrats should have known well before it was presented what they were going to do. And if they had bluffed publicly about weighing their options while making preparations behind the scenes, they might have run the smoothest campaign out of the gate.

Instead, the New Democrats looked more surprised than anyone by the government falling. It took them the longest to get their logistics sorted out, and more important they lacked a compelling explanation for why they had decided to bring the Liberals down. This was probably the time to make the strongest possible argument about Liberal corruption, as Ms. Horwath tried to do much later; instead she stumbled through a less-than-compelling case about liking Ms. Wynne’s promises but not trusting her to deliver on them.

As a result, Ms. Horwath squandered the spotlight that was on her in those first days. Before long, with the other leaders campaigning more strongly, the narrative of a two-way race had taken hold – one the New Democrats were never able to shake in the weeks that followed.

With ‘Dark Knight’ door hanger and misleading letters, Liberals, Tories accuse each other of dirty tactics

As the Ontario election campaign winds to close, the Progressive Conservative and Liberal parties are both accusing one another of playing dirty.

On one end, a Liberal candidate apologized on social media Wednesday for a door hanger his campaign distributed that the PC Party called “terrorist literature.” On the other, the Liberals are accusing the Tories of intentionally misdirecting voters to the wrong polling station.

The offending door hanger features a photo of PC Leader Tim Hudak walking with his head thrown back laughing. The image — taken earlier in the campaign at a visit to a food packaging manufacturer in Niagara — was superimposed over a scene of a hospital exploding from the movie The Dark Knight. (Mr. Hudak replaces the Joker in the shot.) Underneath it, the door hanger read “Do you trust Tim Hudak and the Ontario PCs with your future?” The door hanger was distributed by the campaign team for Steven Del Duca, Liberal candidate for Vaughan, throughout his riding.

An Ontario Liberal candidates' door hangers feature a photos of PC leader Tim Hudak walking with his head back, laughing. The image, taken earlier in the campaign at a visit to a food packaging manufacturer in Niagara, was superimposed over an image of a hospital exploding from the movie The Dark Knight.

Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak, centre, laughs before he makes an announcement at a packaging plant about creating 40,000 jobs in Ontario with affordable energy during a campaign stop in Smithville, Ont., on Monday, May 12, 2014. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

The original photo. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

The PC Party released a letter from Mr. Hudak’s campaign manager, Ian Robertson, calling the material “disturbing” and “horrifying.”

“Tim and our team have broad shoulders,” Mr. Robertson wrote. “But to first suggest that Tim Hudak would somehow threaten disabled children — as you did this week— and now suggest he would blow up a hospital shows just how unhinged you have become.”

The letter, which also proposed that Mr. Hudak’s children may see the image and become upset, was addressed to Liberal campaign co-chairs, Deb Matthews and David Herle.

Mr. Hudak spoke about the door hanger at a press conference in Mississauga Wednesday, placing the blame on Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne.

“That’s way across the line and the Kathleen Wynne that I used to know never would have stooped to that type of tactic just to cling to power,” Mr. Hudak said.

Early Wednesday morning, Mr. Del Duca tweeted an apology directly to Mr. Hudak, calling the door hanger a “mistake.”

Mr. Del Duca’s campaign office later clarified that the door hanger was not sent out by mistake, but was a mistake in judgement, which they now regret.

Ms. Wynne also condemned comparing Mr. Hudak to a Batman villain while at a campaign stop Wednesday.

“That’s not acceptable,” she said after touring an elementary school in east end Toronto. “I haven’t seen that piece of literature, but this kind of campaigning is not acceptable. It’s not consistent with what we have been doing throughout this campaign, and I understand Steven Del Duca had apologized.”

While the PCs were shaming the Liberals, the Liberals were firing right back, accusing the Tory campaign office of intentionally misdirecting voters to the wrong polling stations.

The Grits drew attention to letters sent to voters in London and Ottawa from the PC party encouraging them to head to the polls. Some of the letters, including a few sent to Liberal supporters with lawn signs, indicated the incorrect address for the area’s polling station.

The letters were sent from the campaign head office in Toronto and were worded similarly to letters that had the wrong address for polling stations sent out during the Niagara by-election.

Ms. Matthews — who is also the Liberal candidate in the London riding where they discovered a letter — said it’s clear the PC Party was intentionally trying to misdirect Liberal supporters.

“They’re telling voters to go to the wrong place. They know exactly what they’re doing,” she told reporters Tuesday outside a Tory campaign stop in London.

“It’s intentional. It’s blatant. It’s irresponsible. It’s outrageous.”

The PC Party apologized, saying it was an honest mistake due to the abundant number of letters they had sent out. Mr. Hudak said there was no foul play, just a mix-up, and said the PC candidates in London and Ottawa have agreed to go door-to-door to apologize in person and give voters the correct information.

“I’m excited to share [our plan] with as many voters as possible. Sometimes you’re mailing out that size of letters, they don’t always go to the right address,” he said.

“I want them to get out and vote.”

With a report from Adrian Morrow 

Meet Kathleen Winn (not a typo)

Meet Kathleen Winn.

No, that’s not a fatigue-induced typo from a reporter on day 39 of Ontario’s marathon election campaign.

Ms. Winn is an administrator at St. Elizabeth Catholic School in Cambridge, Ont. On Monday, she met her namesake, the leader of the provincial Liberal Party.

As Kathleen Wynne arrived at St. Elizabeth for a morning campaign event, she made a detour to the office and posed for a photo with Kathleen Winn.

Ms. Winn, who has been working in the local school system for 29 years, said she still does a double-take when she hears Ms. Wynne’s name.

“You hear it on TV and you jump,” she said. “Especially since she became head of the Liberal party.”

For the most part, she says, people don’t give her a hard time about it. Mostly, she says, she’s the one who brings it up.

“I tell my principal ‘there are two Kathleen Winns [Wynnes] you work for,’” she says.

Which Liberal pitch is most successful in wooing New Democrats?

In the past couple of days, the Ontario Liberals have been stepping up their efforts to win over people who usually vote NDP – including with this op-ed from Kathleen Wynne in the Toronto Star, and this new ad:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qGSE-HgJp_4&list=PLD808265A188F72E5

These efforts aren’t new: Rallying the centre-left has been the Liberals’ strategy from the outset of this campaign. And as I wrote in my Saturday column, there are signs that it’s working. But it’s also worth looking at what seems to be working, which helps explain the current pitch.

At the outset of this campaign, part of the Liberals’ plan seemed to be to convince people who normally vote NDP that Ms. Wynne spoke to their values better than Andrea Horwath. There may be something to that, since the Liberal Leader seems to have more interest than her NDP counterparts in the sorts of ambitious government projects that traditionally set New Democratic hearts aflutter. But based on the findings of our Listening Post project with Innovative Research Group, it doesn’t look like that values claim has been a main driver behind New Democrats’ apparent willingness to switch their votes.

Here, for instance, is what survey respondents said when asked on June 4 and 5 which leader “stands for what I believe.” As you can see, Ms. Horwath did about as well with New Democrats as Ms. Wynne did with Liberals, and their crossover appeal to each other’s parties was about the same as well.

SOURCE: Innovative Research Group

On another question that related partly to values – which leader “cares about people like me” – Ms. Horwath actually outperforms the other leaders in how she plays to likely supporters, and has better crossover appeal. Here are the numbers:

SOURCE: Innovative Research Group

It’s possible that if we had been doing a similar survey in past elections, when NDP leaders tried to position themselves more as the province’s conscience, their numbers would have been stronger on these sorts of questions. But Ms. Horwath made a conscious effort to broaden her appeal by presenting herself as someone who could seriously compete for power on the basis of a pragmatic and practical agenda.

The catch is that effort seems to be a bit of a bust. She still struggles, it appears, to be taken seriously even by some New Democrats as a candidate for the province’s top office. Have a look at the responses to the question of who would make the best premier, and note the share of habitual NDP voters who pick Ms. Wynne instead of Ms. Horwath.

SOURCE: Innovative Research Group

Her struggle on that question ties in to what is by all appearances her biggest problem, and the Liberals’ biggest success in this campaign: the perception that, however much one may like Ms. Horwath, a vote for her is wasted because she has no chance of winning.

Here are self-identified New Democrats’ responses to that very question. Or, as it was phrased in the survey with an agree/disagree choice: “I like Andrea Horwath and the NDP, but I’m worried that voting for them will only help Tim Hudak and the PCs get elected win the election.”

SOURCE: Innovative Research Group

Nearly half of people who usually vote for them agreeing with that statement is a really big problem for the NDP. To understand just how big a problem, consider that in a different question, 78 per cent of New Democrats agreed – and 64 per cent strongly agreed – they’re “afraid” of what the Tories would do in office.

All these factors would help to explain why, it would appear, a good number of New Democrats are willing to set aside their qualms with Ms Wynne’s party at least this once. Here, finally, is how each party’s usual supporters responded to the question: “The Liberals have their problems, but they are still the best party to form government.”

SOURCE: Innovative Research Group

If 29 per cent of people who usually vote for you agree that another party is best to form government – and 14 per cent strongly agree – you’re almost certainly bleeding a lot of votes.

Conversely, if you’re the party benefiting from that, you’ve got your best shot at holding on to office. It may not be for quite the values-driven reasons Ms. Wynne might have hoped, but if it works out she probably won’t complain.

(Responses were drawn from a survey conducted on June 4 and 5 in which 1,100 eligible Ontario voters participated. Asked which party they usually support, 31 per cent of respondents said Liberal, 25 per cent Progressive Conservative, 16 per cent NDP, and 4 per cent Green or other; 15 per cent said they don’t identify with any party and 8 per cent didn’t know. 

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.)

Yes, Tim Hudak won the Ontario leaders’ debate

As part of the ongoing Listening Post project to help us see this election through the eyes of voters, Innovative Research Group surveyed 1,100 Ontarians through its online panel on Wednesday and Thursday to get their impressions coming out of Tuesday evening’s debate.

As usual, the survey asked respondents to identify which party (if any) they normally support, to get an impression of how the leaders and their parties are playing with different vote groups. And it also asked off the top whether they had watched all of the debate, only some of it, had followed it only through subsequent coverage, or hadn’t paid attention to it at all.

We’ll start with a look at impressions of the debate itself, with a big caveat that –  as you’ll see in some other findings we’ll be rolling out over the next day or so –  “winning” or “losing” in that venue doesn’t necessarily translate into voters breaking in one direction or the other.

Having said that, the research seems to confirm what many would suspect: By most available measurements, Tim Hudak won.

To begin with, here’s how survey participants who said they watched some or all of the debate (42 per cent of the total group) responded when asked who they thought did best.

Best in debate, chosen by participants who watched all or some of it

SOURCE: Innovative Research Group

And here’s how those who didn’t watch the debate, but did follow coverage of it (24 per cent of the panel, though possibly a somewhat higher share relative to those who actually watched among the broader electorate) responded to the same question.

Best in debate, chosen by participants who followed subsequent coverage

SOURCE: Innovative Research Group

When we look at how self-identified supporters of each group reacted, it looks like – consistent with the rest of the campaign – Mr. Hudak did a really good job of exciting his own backers. And while most people who usually vote Liberal and New Democrat characteristically didn’t have much time for him, he did a little better than usual among people who don’t identify with any particular party. Meanwhile, even Liberals seemed reluctant to pronounce Kathleen Wynne the winner. Here’s how responses to “who did best” broke down by party affiliation, among those who watched and those who followed coverage.

Best in debate among watchers and followers, broken down by party affilation

SOURCE: Innovative Research Group

When respondents were asked whether the leaders’ performances made them feel more or less favourable toward them, Mr. Hudak and Ms. Horwath both did much better with their own likely supporters than Ms. Wynne did. And while supporters of the other two major parties were as usual disinclined to see him in a positive light, he succeeded a little more than the other leaders in getting unaligned voters to view him favourably. Here’s what the results showed for each leader on this question, again among people who either watched the debate or followed coverage of it.

Opinion on PC Leader Tim Hudak after the debate

SOURCE: Innovative Research Group

Opinion on Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne after the debate

SOURCE: Innovative Research Group

Opinion on NDP Leader Andrea Horwath after the debate

SOURCE: Innovative Research Group

One other set of debate-related data, for now, looks somewhat better for Ms. Wynne than the other numbers because she seems to have resonated with some New Democrats. But again, neither she nor Ms. Horwath were able to please their supporters the way Mr. Hudak did, and playing to his base didn’t seem to stop the PC Leader from connecting with some unaligned voters as well. Here’s how survey participants responded to the question: “During the debate, which leader came across as most capable of fixing the problems that you worry about?

Party leader who seemed most capable of fixing problems during the debate

SOURCE: Innovative Research Group

Again, just how the debate may have affected each party’s chances of winning this election is a little more complicated than these beauty-pageant measurements, and look for more to come on that. But focused solely on performance, it’s easy to see why Mr. Hudak was feeling pretty good on Wednesday morning.

(Responses were drawn from a survey conducted on June 4 and 5 in which 1,100 eligible Ontario voters participated. Asked which party they usually support, 31 per cent of respondents said Liberal, 25 per cent Progressive Conservative, 16 per cent NDP, and 4 per cent Green or other; 15 per cent said they don’t identify with any party and 8 per cent didn’t know. 

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.)

A question for which Kathleen Wynne could still use a better answer

In the final days of Ontario’s election campaign, Kathleen Wynne can expect to be asked repeatedly why voters should trust her. Given the amount of cynicism caused by the mess she inherited from Dalton McGuinty, that subject was already going to come up a lot; it’s all the more top of mind now that the gas-plants scandal is back in the news.

But for all the inevitability of that question, Ms. Wynne still struggles to provide a compelling answer to it. That was obvious during Tuesday’s leaders’ debate, when her opponents effectively put it to her in less polite ways. And it was apparent again during her visit on Thursday to The Globe and Mail’s editorial board.

On policy questions, whatever one thinks of her arguments, she tends to come off more genuine than most politicians – thoughtfully offering her perspective rather than just cycling through a few memorized talking points. But her tendency to think aloud and plunge into bureaucratese can lead to some weirdly dispassionate responses on a topic that could use some emotional connection.

During that editorial-board meeting, the question was put (not by me) to Ms. Wynne very directly: “Why should we trust you?” Here, for the record, is how she answered:

“Well…You will make the choice, as a voter. But what I would bring to you is my record as an individual politician, so the work that I have done in my political career as a minister of education, as a minister of municipal affairs and housing and transportation and aboriginal affairs, and then I would ask you to look at the work that I’ve done over the last 16 months, where I said coming into this job that there were issues confronting us, that there were changes that needed to be made.

“Obviously, the question that comes up over and over again  – that question is usually related to the relocation of the gas plants. I came in knowing that I was going to have to open up the process and put in place a better process – not just around getting the information out, but also around locating that kind of infrastructure, making those kinds of decisions in the future. And so we have changed the rules – I’ve brought in legislation that would change the accountability and would change the way decisions are made and respect the community process. So you could look at the changes I’ve made, you could look at my personal record, and then you’d make that decision.”

Now, it’s entirely possible that you’ll look at that answer and see someone who communicates in an honest way, without falling back on rehearsed lines or rhetorical flourish. Her staff would argue that the understated nature of her response is the way to go, because coming on too strong on this subject would be highly unappealing to potential supporters still angry with her party for its transgressions.

To me, though, it looks a bit like conceding that she’ s not in a great position to expect a lot of trust. This is one instance in which doing a little more to prepare an answer might have done her some favours.

Though hard to gauge, leaders’ debate likely wasn’t must-see TV

One of the great unknowns, when it comes to Tuesday’s leaders’ debate, is how many people actually bother to watch. ‎While polls may give some indication of that, most people I know in politics are highly skeptical of such numbers, because they think some respondents will just say they watched because it’s what they think they’re supposed to say.

Not that it’s much more scientific, but for what it’s worth, I asked a couple of GTA candidates (one Liberal, one PC) who were out canvassing during the debate if they got any sense whether they were interrupting debate viewership.

One of them said only about 10 per cent seemed to be watching; the other put it closer to 20 per cent. ‎Either way, the basic consensus was that it wasn’t exactly must-see TV – and this is among people who (a) were home and (b) were willing to open their door and chat with a candidate.

Another question that’s even harder to answer, and neither of them really had much sense, is how many saw all of the debate and how many only saw some of it – and of the latter group, which part they tended to watch. Ordinarily, the likelihood would be that viewership was highest at the start, and then went down as some viewers got bored. But the early (6:30 p.m.) start-time of this one might have changed that since, particularly in commuter-heavy ridings, not everyone would have been home and settled at the beginning.

If viewership was less front-end-loaded than usual, that’s good news for Kathleen Wynne, since the first segment was by far her worst. But then, if most people just skipped the entire thing, the fact that the early exchange on ethics was what dominated the subsequent clips is all the more potentially problematic for her.