With Ontario voters heading to the polls in June 2022, the next six months will be particularly busy at Queen’s Park. Though with the cost of living rising and the SARS-CoV-2 variant Omicron dramatically increasing case counts, Ontarians continue to face looming crises and are looking to all political parties for leadership.
So, what will the next six months look like and how can organizations make an impact? We wanted to know so we brought together a group of experts for a virtual event titled What’s Next for Ontario’s Political Landscape?
H+K’s National Public Affairs + Advocacy Lead, Will Stewart was joined by Toronto Sun Editor-in-Chief Adrienne Batra, Toronto City Councillor for Ward 10 + Chair of the Toronto Board of Health Joe Cressy and Ontario Real Estate Association CEO and former leader of the official opposition (PC) Tim Hudak.
Here is what we learned:
1. Everyone is in campaign mode
The election is still six months away, but all political parties are in campaign mode. Every government decision is being viewed through a lens of how this will impact the PC’s re-election chances.
The opposition parties are already presenting their own ideas about how they would govern if elected in the spring. On all sides of the political spectrum campaign teams are heavily involved in all major decisions from now until June.
This campaign mind-set presents an excellent opportunity for businesses to engage with government decision makers with the goal of securing buy-in on budget promises or election platform inclusion.
2. The pandemic looms large
While Ontarians may have covid fatigue and want to focus their attention away from it, the pandemic is still top of mind for many voters. In the lead up to the 2022 provincial election, Premier Ford will need to demonstrate the ability to respond to the Omicron variant while also presenting a vision for economic recovery and a world post-pandemic if he wants to secure his second mandate.
3. Housing affordability is a key issue
While the increased cost of living is on the mind of all Ontarians, the cost of housing is taking centre stage as a key issue. Young demographics are concerned about their ability to enter the housing market, while older demographics are concerned about government interventions that may decrease the value of their home and jeopardize their retirement plan.
All parties agree on the need to increase supply, and our event speakers agreed this will be a top issue in the 2022 election. Though it comes down to whichever leader and their party can brand themselves as the best to take on this challenge and execute a meaningful solution should they secure the win on election night.
This learning is particularly relevant for organizations who have developed innovative housing solutions. The lead up to election day provides an ideal moment for these businesses to engage with political leaders and demonstrate how their solution can benefit Ontarians.
4. Racing to take on Premier Ford
The Ontario NDP and Ontario Liberal parties are going through what Councillor Cressy called a “primary” to be the alternative to Premier Ford and the Ontario PC Party. Each will have to demonstrate to voters that they provide a strong alternative plan forward and are the one who has the best chance to defeat Ford in June.
To win the so-called “primary,” the NDP’s and Leader of the Official Opposition Andrea Horwath, will need separate herself from the daily role as opposition leader to put forward an image of Premier in waiting, separate from the issues of the day. Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca will need to demonstrate he understands the concerns of Ontarians and showcase his ability to lead the province, while at the same time fighting the legacy of the Wynne government just four years ago where he played a role in cabinet.
We at H+K will be keeping an eye on the parties’ digital advertisements, the leader’s speaking engagements and new promises made by the parties as critical indicates in how the election will play out and what other key issues will take centre stage.
5. Well positioned to win second mandate
Premier Ford has shown himself to be a strong leader for Ontario throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. He is well positioned to be re-elected with a majority mandate. Look for the Premier’s communications to be very disciplined over the next six months as he positions himself as the one to lead us through the next phase of the pandemic and into economic recovery.
Unlike most parties with a majority mandate, the Ontario PCs will not be looking to just retain their current seat count, they will be looking to gain seats across the province, especially in the northern Ontario.
For those organizations currently operating in Ontario’s north, this provides an elevated opportunity to engage with local government representatives on issues effecting your business and employees.
The next six months will be crucial for all of Ontario’s political parties and the Omicron COVID-19 variant adds an additional element of unpredictability. At H+K our experts in policy, communications, advocacy and public affairs are on top of the latest developments in the Ontario political landscape and can help organizations make a meaningful impact at Queen’s Park.