Progressive Conservative Party

Bay Street breathes sigh of relief as Progressive Conservatives sweep Ontario

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A sea of blue swept electoral ridings across the province last night at the Progressive Conservatives secured a commanding majority government, ending 15 years of Liberal rule. This seismic shift saw Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals reduced to non-official party status with only 7 seats, while the New Democrats rode an orange wave into the official opposition benches.

As we’ve noted before, this was Premier-designate Doug Ford’s election to lose. Despite the Tories holding a commanding lead in the early days of the campaign, a series of strong debate performances by NDP Leader Andrea Horwath saw her party leapfrog the Liberals in the polls and came within striking distance of the Conservatives. While polls showed the PCs and NDP running neck-and-neck in the final days before the vote, the first-past-the-post electoral system allowed Ford's party to win a substantial more number seats than the NDP, 76 to 40, even though the popular vote was much closer at 40 per cent to 33 per cent.

As for the Liberals, it couldn’t have gone much worse. It was no surprise that they would lose the election. In a rare move, Wynne conceded defeat last week, saying she knew she was not going to be leading Canada’s largest province for another term. Despite barely holding onto her Toronto-area riding, Wynne resigned as party leader. Whether or not she will stay on as an MPP is yet to be determined. But one this is certain is the Liberals will now have to select an interim-leader.  

So what does this mean for the province going forward, and, in particular, the business community? For starters, there was a sigh of relief on Bay Street this morning. There was concern surrounding the NDP’s plan to raise corporate tax rates at a time when the United States is aggressively slashing their own, potentially impacting competitiveness and making it harder for Ontario to attract foreign investment. Despite the PCs’ promise to make Ontario more competitive, there is little substance to their plan. The Tories failed to release a full costed platform during the election which leaves a lot of lingering questions about their fiscal policy despite Mr. Ford pro-free market stance.

Ontario hasn’t had a new premier in recent history who has never held elected office at Queen’s Park. While critics were quick to point out Doug Ford’s lack of provincial politics experience, he is surrounded by many political veterans and newcomers with senior private sector experience who will likely be appointed to cabinet. Here’s a look at who could potentially head up some major portfolios:

  • Finance minister: Vic Fedeli, former interim PC Party leader, Rod Phillips, former CEO of OLG and Peter Bethlenfalvy, who hails from senior positions at TD, Manulife and others. 

  • Health minister: Christine Elliott, who most recently was patient ombudsman. Prior to that, she was shadow health minister under PC opposition leader Tim Hudak.

  • Energy minister: Todd Smith, who has been the PC’s point man on hydro prices as energy critic.

  • Education minister: Lisa MacLeod, the long-time Tory legislator has been the party’s education critic in the past.

  • Attorney general: Caroline Mulroney, the Harvard educated lawyer who was also a leadership contestant against Ford.

Ford also has a handful of political heavyweights such former deputy leader Steve Clark and others to draw from to fill his front bench. While the dust is still settling from last night’s vote, we should expect the new government to announce its cabinet in the coming weeks.

With the Tories now in power for the first time since 2003, it will be interesting to see how this party will govern. Armed with a majority, you can expect the PCs to move fast on issues such as repealing the carbon tax, moving ahead with the Ring of Fire, and taking action to reduce hydro prices. How exactly they plan to do it, we’ll just have to wait and see. We at Provident will be closely monitoring all developments at Queen’s Park and are ready to assist your organization with navigating the complexities that comes with a new government.

Could an Orange Wave Crash Doug Ford's Party?

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In what many predicted to be a two-way race between the incumbent Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives, the NDP now finds itself polling in second place. Following two strong debate performances, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath’s message appears to be resonating with voters. According to a recent report, the Ontario NDP could be on the verge of riding an orange wave into official opposition status, just like Jack Layton did in the 2011 federal election.

The latest seat projections from Barry Kay at the Laurier Institute for the Study of Public Opinion and Policy show the Tories winning 72 seats, the NDP securing 30, and the Liberals falling to 22. While this still puts the Doug Ford PCs well within majority territory (they need 63 seats to achieve that), the likelihood of the NDP as the official opposition is becoming more of a reality. With these rising fortunes, the NDP finds itself having to fend off more attacks, and even questions about the possibility of a coalition government.

The notion of a coalition government was quickly put to bed by Horwath, who said there was no way she’d partner with the Wynne Liberals, have struggled to make any real progress in the campaign thus far. There’s also the fact that the Liberals remain deeply unpopular in the province, so a coalition wouldn’t be helpful to the NDP’s brand.

On the other side of the spectrum, it's not only the PC Party that is taking notice of the NDP’s recent boost in popularity. Ontario Proud, a right-leaning Facebook page which boasts over 350,000 followers, is now training their sights on the NDP. From a communications perspective, this is a boon: the PCs are in a unique position this election to have such a large and vocal third-party activist -- something the Liberals and NDP can’t currently muster.

While it is far too early to predict the final outcome of the vote, it will be interesting to watch how much the NDP can eat into the Tories’ lead. Will it be enough to reduce their victory to a minority government? That will depend on Ford being able to stay on message and avoid any major gaffes, and for Horwath to continue to grow her popularity (she has benefited from significant increase in net favourability over the last three months) while at the same time making inroads in new ridings across the province - as she works to position the NDP as the "anyone but Ford" option. This could be difficult for the NDP as they have a small base and will need to work hard to win over and retain converts. The NDP surge could be short-lived if the Liberals manage to turn things around, but if they don’t, they could find themselves reduced to third party status -- a remarkable change of scenery for the party which has been in power for the past decade and a half.

The third and final leaders debate will be held on May 27. Watch this space for our insights and analysis as the three parties make their final push ahead of the June 7th vote.

MAKE SURE YOUR BUSINESS IS PREPARED

Provident Communications will be offering our weekly insights throughout the election. Led by me, Vice-President, Public Affairs, our team is ready to assist you with any opportunities or challenges that present themselves over the next month and beyond. For more information, please don’t hesitate to contact me at michelle@providentcomms.com.