On Thursday, June 2, 2022, Ontarians will head to the polls to elect members to serve in the province’s 43rd Parliament. While Ontario’s last election in 2018 was driven by a popular desire for change after 15 years of Liberal government, polling indicates this year’s election is likely to be characterized by a return to more traditional voting patterns in the province.
Ontario’s 2022 general election has focused on two questions:
- How do we address the skyrocketing cost of living in 2022?
- How do we navigate the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic on our health care system, education system, Long Term Care sector, and economy?
Three of the province’s four major parties have now released a platform, containing their party’s pitch to voters and answers to these important questions. With only a week of the campaign left, we are learning more about each party’s electoral strategy – namely, where each party has identified potential pockets of support that may be critical to their success at the polls on June 2nd, by observing where they choose to campaign and make appearances, and the promises they choose to highlight in those appearances.
During the 2018 general election, the Ontario PCs saw major gains in the vote-rich GTA which catapulted them to a majority government, despite the still elusive (and coveted) 416 ridings in the core of Toronto.
While there will still be a strong emphasis on maintaining the seats they picked up four years ago, the PCs have also spent much of their four-year mandate laying the groundwork to court voters in less traditionally-conservative areas such as Northern Ontario and Windsor. On May 13th, Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens formally endorsed Premier Ford and the Ontario PC party, calling on Windsor residents to send PC candidates to Queen’s Park to give Windsor a seat at the table. This is a major validation of the PC strategy over the last number of years.
There is also a strong emphasis on courting the labour vote which was demonstrated in the “Working for Workers” section of the 2022 budget. Organizations such as the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers have publicly endorsed the PCs this election, praising the Ford government for their efforts to end the labour shortage in the skilled trades. This work by the PCs, Premier Ford, and Minister of Labour Monte McNaughton has the potential to change the electoral landscape for the first time in decades.
With the NDP and Liberal parties are both hovering around the same levels of popularity, the PCs will also likely benefit from vote splitting in many ridings, allowing them to win a number of new seats.
Ontario Liberal Party
Following the Ontario Liberal Party’s (OLP) ill-fated performance in the 2018 provincial election, which lost them official party status in the Legislature, expect the Liberals to concentrate heavily on the GTA, and “Fortress Toronto.” The OLP will be hoping to leverage their refreshed bench strength to once again compete against the PCs for the middle-aged suburbanite vote which was critical in the PCs’ 2018 victory. At the same time, in a “primary of the left,” the OLP will be competing with the NDP for the attention of progressive voters and attempting to win back some of the NDP’s 2018 pickups in traditionally Liberal-held areas.
In the GTA, the OLP will have their sights set on ridings that had close races in 2018, such as Scarborough—Guildwood, which Liberal Mitzie Hunter won by just 74 votes over her PC opponent, and Don Valley West, which former premier Kathleen Wynne won by 181 votes over her PC opponent. The OLP will likely also look to ridings in key areas which were won by the federal Liberal Party last September, such as Brampton, where the Liberals hold none of the city’s five provincial seats, despite holding all five federal seats.
The 2018 election was historic for the Ontario NDP, marking the second best showing in a general election in their party’s history (only to be outdone by Bob Rae’s win as NDP leader in 1990). While they benefitted from the decline in popularity of the OLP four years ago, this election the NDP is competing with the OLP for the left-of-centre vote.
NDP leader Andrea Horwath spent the first week of the campaign primarily in suburban areas of the GTA, signaling her party is looking to not only maintain their current seat count, but to pick up in the 905 or at least be a player in some ridings where they have been largely overlooked by voters previously. While this could increase their chances, it also could peel away left-leaning Liberal voters and result in further vote splits, which may ultimately benefit the PCs.
The NDP are also putting a strong emphasis on Don Valley West which was previously held by former Ontario Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne.
Green Party of Ontario
The last election also saw great success for the Green Party of Ontario (GPO), producing the party’s first-ever seat in the Ontario Legislature for leader Mike Schreiner in Guelph. This election, the GPO will look to preserve their seat and may leverage their higher-profile platform commitments, such as cancelling Highway 413, to drum up support in areas like Dufferin—Caledon, where the GPO placed third in 2018, and one of the ridings that would be most impacted by the proposed project. The GPO has also been making a strong push in Parry Sound—Muskoka, which Schreiner mentioned by name during the leaders’ debate.
For the first time, the Green Party has fielded a complete slate of candidates in all ridings (something the Liberal Party had challenges with this time out). While this allowed the leader to participate in the official campaign leaders’ debate, it does introduce organizational challenges as something the party has to manage, which is different from previous campaigns. How the party deals with the challenges of growth will dictate their ability to increase their seat count.
While polling and party strategies give us some indication of how things could shape out on E-Day, campaigns matter and there is still (in campaign terms) a lot of runway before voters head to the polls.
Our Ridings to Watch
While we can’t yet predict everything that will happen on E-Day, here are the top 10 ridings that we will be watching:
1. Vaughan—Woodbridge: OLP leader Steven Del Duca will be facing off against Michael Tibollo, a popular PC Cabinet minister. Del Duca previously held this seat, although he lost to Tibollo in 2018. The seat is held federally by the Liberals.
2. Toronto Centre: Toronto City Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam is running for the NDP in this riding. While this seat is traditionally a Liberal stronghold, the NDP picked it up in 2018, and Wong-Tam is likely to have the name recognition in the community to hold it for the NDP.
3. Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte: The popular three-term Mayor of Barrie and Chair of Ontario’s Big City Mayor’s caucus, Jeff Lehman, is running for the OLP in this seat against PC incumbent and Cabinet minister Doug Downey. While Downey won this seat easily in 2018, he may be in for more of a challenge this election against such a popular and well-liked Mayor as the candidate.
4. Brampton North: The NDP will be running a new candidate in this riding, after incumbent Kevin Yarde lost his party’s nomination contest to human rights advocate Sandeep Singh. In 2022, the NDP won this riding by less than 500 votes, with the PC candidate coming in second. Former Brampton—Springdale MPP and Cabinet minister, Harinder Malhi, is also running again in this riding for the OLP, meaning the seat could potentially be in play for all three major parties. In addition, this is one of several ridings likely to be most affected by the proposed Highway 413, which is sure to be a factor in voters’ minds.
5. Toronto—St. Paul’s: NDP incumbent Jill Andrew will be facing off against OLP candidate Dr. Nathan Stall, a former member of the Ontario Science Advisory Table tasked with advising the provincial government on COVID-19. The NDP benefitted from an unpopular OLP in 2018 and were able to pick up this riding – although Andrew won by just a few percentage points. With a star candidate in Dr. Stall, it will be worth watching whether the OLP are able to reclaim this traditional Liberal stronghold.
6. Essex: Long-time NDP MPP Taras Natyshak announced earlier this year he would not be running again this election. With the seat open, the Ontario PCs are putting a strong emphasis on this riding which the Conservative Party of Canada holds at the federal level.
7. Brampton Centre: NDP MPP and Deputy Leader Sara Singh won this riding by 89 votes in 2018. Singh, who benefitted from a collapse of the Liberal vote, will be in for a fight as she faces off against PC candidate and Brampton City Councillor Charmaine Williams, and Liberal candidate Safdar Hussain. A split in the left-of-centre vote could provide the PCs the opportunity to come up through the middle and claim this seat.
8. York South—Weston: Toronto City Councillor and nephew of Premier Doug Ford, Michael Ford, is running in this riding under the PC banner. While this seat is typically a Liberal stronghold, it was won by NDP MPP Faisal Hassan in 2018. The Ford brand is strong in Etobicoke, so it will be interesting to see if Michael Ford can pick up this seat for the PCs.
9. Cambridge: MPP Belinda Karahalios won this seat as an Ontario PC candidate in 2018. After being removed from caucus, she started a new party with her husband, Jim Karahalios, called the New Blue Party. The Karahalios family is popular in this riding and a split right-of-centre vote may provide an opportunity for a left-of-centre candidate to come out ahead.
10. Thunder Bay—Superior North: Long-time Liberal MPP Michael Gravelle announced in April that he would not be seeking re-election after the cancer he was diagnosed with five years ago returned. Gravelle served in the Ontario Legislature for 27 years, leaving an opportunity for a new face to claim the riding on June 2.