With constantly fluctuating polls indicating a tight race between the incumbent Liberals, the PCs and the NDP, it still remains anyone’s guess as to who will form the next government in Ontario. We have been surprised in the past, like with the NDP majority in 1990, and will likely be faced with surprises come Friday morning.

Key Issues

Throughout this campaign there has been little debate on the major issues that will face any party who forms the government, such as the sustainability of the health system to dealing with the deficit. Instead of developed policies on how to govern during an ongoing period of economic uncertainty, we have seen more of a focus on micro issues, sound bites and populist politics.

Click here to see where the parties stand on different sectors from platform documents and media announcements to allow for easy comparison on issues that were talked about.

Possible Election Scenarios

Over the last leg of the campaign, the polls have been pointing to a variety of possible outcomes.  While some polls have the Liberals and the PCs in a statistical tie, others have shown that the Liberals are anywhere from slightly ahead to ahead by a 10-point lead, with others indicating the PCs maintain a slight lead.   Past experiences have also shown that the polls are not necessarily the best predictors of election-day voter preferences.  As a result, it is hard to pin down what Ontario will look like on October 7th. Rather, we must be prepared for a variety of possible outcomes.  The following are the possible scenarios Ontarians could be facing after the election:

Scenario # 1:  Liberal party wins more seats than the PC party, but does not earn a majority

Possible outcome:  Dalton McGuinty will remain Premier of Ontario, but will have to face the Legislature to gain “confidence of the House”.  The premier’s first opportunity to prove he has support to govern will come on a confidence vote on the throne speech, which will likely occur this fall.

To gain and keep the confidence of the House, Premier McGuinty will need to work with opposition parties (most likely the NDP) to find common areas of agreement.  While a formal “coalition” or “accord” could be struck, it is far more likely that the Premier will mirror the past few federal minority governments and govern by negotiating with opposition parties on an “issue-by-issue” basis.

Scenario # 2:  PC party wins more seats than the Liberals, but does not earn a majority

Possible outcome:  This scenario is likely and will have constitutional, legal and political considerations.  In this scenario, Dalton McGuinty would still be the premier of Ontario post-October 6th.

This scenario offers three decision points for Dalton McGuinty:

  1. Resign the government because the Liberals did not win the most seats – This is usual practice for a Premier or Prime Minister who does not win the most seats in an election. The party with the most seats would likely form the government.
  2. Request dissolution of the Legislature and request another election of the Lieutenant Governor – not likely due to a lack of resources for any party to wage another election so soon and as it would be unpopular with the electorate.
  3. Retain status as Premier – Premier McGuinty could stay on and form the government, but would have put forth a throne speech that could be supported by enough MPPs to demonstrate confidence of the house. The PCs and NDP would have to demonstrate through a formal accord or coalition that they could work together if the party with the most seats wanted to form the government.

If the Premier chooses to attempt to govern and is subsequently defeated in the house, we would be facing another provincial election unless another party(s) can gain confidence of the house.  In this scenario, the PC party would (most likely) be given a chance to govern, but would need to be “propped up” by the NDP in a formal arrangement that could prove the ability to govern with the confidence of the house.

If the Premier does resign, the party with the most seats (PC or NDP) could form the government and could govern on an “issue-by-issue” basis.

Scenario # 3:  A majority government

While the data ultimately remains inconsistent, some recent polls have indicated that the Liberals could still have a chance of pulling off a majority for an historic third term. If any party wins a majority of seats (54 seats needed for a majority government – 55 if you want the speaker to be from your party) then the transition will be straightforward and will follow the pattern seen in the last four provincial elections.

Even if the Liberals are reelected, a “new” government will be sworn in and transition planning will occur immediately.  No matter who wins a majority, expect the cabinet to be named within three weeks.  From there, a throne speech and fall economic statement should likely occur in November. While the legislature may not sit again until the new year, there will be some pressure for MPPs to get “back to work” this fall.

What to expect in the coming days and weeks ?

Following the election, map out where you and your issues fit within whichever scenario we face. With the case of a minority government, it will involve tracking where all parties stand on your issue, cultivating relationships across the house and beefing up stakeholder engagement.

Get out and vote!

In the end, this election will be decided by the results at the polls. The polls are open from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. tomorrow.