Current Seat Count: 21

Additional Seats Required for Majority: 33

Regions that Provide the Best Opportunity for More Seats: The North and Southwest.

Why: In this campaign there are (at least) two Ontarios. One in downtown Toronto/Ottawa and the other in hard hit ‘Recession Ontario.’ The issues are different in these two Ontarios and as a result, so too are the ways in which the political parties approach their voters. High electricity rates in the north and high unemployment in the southwest are driving the thirst for change in these regions. The question then for these voters is what kind of change? Andrea Horwath’s campaign focus on pocketbook issues speaks to her desire to make inroads in these regions while contrasting Tim Hudak’s plan to end investments in the auto sector and to further allow the market to drive (ie: increase) electricity prices.

Most Interesting Ridings to Watch: 

+1 Sudbury: Long serving Liberal Cabinet Minister Rick Bartolucci is one of many MPPs not seeking re-election in this campaign. The NDP had a competitive nomination race that brought out 800 party members. Federally the NDP have held the seat since 2008 with popular MP Glenn Thibeault who has built a sophisticated machine which is in place for this provincial campaign.

+2 Windsor West: Windsor has the highest unemployment rate in Ontario and voters there are open to the change message. With the pick up by the NDP in the neighbouring riding of Windsor-Tecumseh in the recent by-election, look for NDP candidate Lisa Gretzky to give cabinet minister Teresa Piruzza a run for her money and if successful, give Horwath all three Windsor-Essex area seats.

+3 Kitchener Centre: Another seat that is considered highly competitive for the NDP due to Liberal cabinet minister John Milloy deciding not to run is Kitchener Centre. In a 2012 by-election, the NDP picked up the neighbouring seat of Kitchener-Waterloo with Catherine Fife’s victory. Kitchener Centre was an early campaign stop by Horwath in this election, signalling it is high on her priority list.

Current Seat Count: 37

Additional Seats Required for a Majority: 17

Regions that Provide the Best Opportunity for More Seats: It’s a mixed bag for the PCs. Smaller town Ontario as well as ridings recently lost in by-elections.

Why: Tim Hudak has gone big with his staunchly conservative election platform. It is meant to appeal to hard-core Tory voters and those that are so mad with the Liberals on waste, scandal and the economy that they will vote for the PCs. This will play well in ridings outside Ottawa and Toronto where the PCs are polling a close second as well as in those traditional PC ridings that have been recently lost in the tempest that are by-elections.

Most Interesting Ridings to Watch:

+1 Niagara Falls: This riding went NDP in the recent by-election but it has a long history of swinging back and forth (usually with the government of the day) between the PCs and the Liberals. Arguably the Liberals held the riding from 2003-2013 due to the popularity of former city councillor Kim Craitor. With a neophyte Liberal candidate (Lionel Tupman – who?) running for the Libs, this riding is ripe for the taking (back) by the PCs.

+2 Peterborough: Elected in 2003, long-time Liberal MPP Jeff Leal is highly popular in the riding and won in 2011 with almost 40 per cent of the vote and a spread of over 4000 votes over the closest (PC) candidate. But the PCs have a new candidate, Scott Stewart, and the rural spirit of the riding matches well with the Tory philosophy. The PCs are looking closely at this one. With a candidate that climbed Mount Kilimanjaro to help raise $100,000 for the local hospital, the PCs are hoping they can win this uphill battle.

+3 Kitchener-Waterloo: Known colloquially as KW, this riding might as well be called EW after former long-time PC MPP Elizabeth Witmer who held the riding from 1990-2012. The results of the 2012 by-election that saw NDP candidate Catherine Fife win KW with almost similar results to Witmer’s former wins (Fife 2012: 40 per cent of the vote with 3,700 spread over 2nd place PC candidate; Witmer 2011: 44 per cent of the vote with 3,800 spread over 2nd place Liberal candidate) indicate the by-election truly was a protest vote (recall the angry teachers that came out in support of the NDP). This is a natural riding for the PCs to take back and with PC candidate Tracey Weiler running again after receiving 31 percent of the vote in 2012, “W” might be the letter of the day in KW on June 12th.

Current Seat Count: 48

Additional Seats Required for a Majority: 6

Regions that Provide the Best Opportunity for More Seats: Poor NDP performance may help the Liberals to flip a couple of formerly Grit seats in downtown Toronto, with Davenport and Trinity-Spadina in play. But the Liberals will have a tough time finding a lot of new opportunities – mostly, they’re trying to hold on to what they have. Although all parties want a majority, a status quo result could suit the Libs just fine, as it’s unlikely that the NDP would call another election anytime soon.  So for the Liberals, it’s really all about…

Seats They Need to Keep: The North (Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury), the Southwest and a couple of one-offs.

Why: Losses in either of these two areas result in a very GTA and Ottawa-centric Liberal party – not a winning formula. The Liberals need to keep any left-leaning support in the North from slipping to the NDP. Horwath is appealing to pocketbook issues that hit northerners hard, such as energy and auto insurance, and there’s a strong NDP presence in almost all northern ridings that’s chomping at the bit to take down incumbent Liberal. The Liberals also need to hold on to the few seats they have in the Southwest that’s otherwise awash in blue and orange. Finally, there are a couple of one-off ridings not in these areas where Liberals might be in trouble. The battle is on.

Most Interesting Ridings to Watch:

+1 Ottawa West-Nepean: Powerful Liberal Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli, former Mayor and Regional Chair for Ottawa and close friend of the McGuinty family, is in a tight battle for his seat against PC candidate Randall Denley. Denley, well known in the community as a former columnist for the Ottawa Citizen for 20 years, missed a win in 2011 by only 1,009 votes. While the riding is urban, it is heavily senior and has as its MP Conservative John Baird, one of Stephen Harper’s heavyweight ministers. Provincially the riding has been Liberal since 2003 when Dalton McGuinty came to power but watch out:  under Mike Harris it was staunchly Tory.

+2 York South-Weston: The saga of Liberal Laura Albanese and the NDP’s Paul Ferreira continues this year in their fourth matchup. This riding has been tossed back and forth between the two since 2007 with a few hundred votes deciding the outcome every time. It’s currently Albanese’s to lose, and the stakes are higher than ever. This will continue to be a ground game of who can get out the vote on E-Day. H+K Perspectives polling shows that Liberal and NDP supporters are almost equally likely to vote, at 28 per cent and 29 per cent respectively.  That one per cent could make the difference in York-South Weston.

+3 Thunder Bay-Atikokan: Bill Mauro faces NDPer Mary Kozorys in TBA, hoping to hold on after a slim 438-vote victory against her last time. Mauro is well-liked, was recently appointed to Cabinet and can keep the investments flowing if the Liberals eke out a victory. But the NDP’s positions on energy and auto insurance appeal to hard-hit northern voters. Word on the ground is that Mauro is winning the war of the lawn signs. Whether that will translate into votes is the big question.