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         Could Kathleen Wynne Get Caught Up In The Trump Whirlwind Next Election?

 

By Randall White 

Pollster Lorne Bozinoff at Forum Research recently observed that, with the Wynne government’s current extremely dismal polling numbers, “it’s hard to say what the Liberals could do to change voters' minds” between now and the next Ontario election on June 7, 2018.

Whether subsequent headlines such as this one -  “Premier Kathleen Wynne to cut hydro rates by 25 per cent” - will finally work remains unclear. 

However, somewhat broader current polling numbers, and just current events at large, may be suggesting a somewhat broader story.

It may not be the Ontario Liberals themselves who will have the most to say about how they finally do with voters come election time. It may be Donald Trump.

The latest numbers, for instance, have the Liberals down in the polls both federally and provincially (in the Ontario described long ago as “an American State of the Northern type.”)  

And the dominant trend is that the Conservatives are doing best — though the NDP is showing some fresh strength in the latest Forum provincial poll.

The Forum poll was published February 26, based on data from February 15–16. It puts the Ontario Progressive Conservatives at 44%, New Democrats 25%, Liberals 24%, and Greens 6%.

Meanwhile an Abacus federal poll published February 24, based on data from February 17–19, puts the federal Conservative Party at 41% in Ontario, the Trudeau Liberals 39%, NDP 14%, and Greens 6%. (The only province where federal Conservatives do better than Ontario on this reading is Alberta!)

Éric Grenier’s latest federal polling averages for CBC News, based on polls from December 2016 to February 2017, still have the Trudeau Liberals somewhat ahead in Ontario. But the Grits have dropped more than seven points over the past three months, while the Conservatives have risen more than six, and the NDP not quite two points.

One interpretation of these numbers is that it is Donald Trump not Patrick Brown (or even Kathleen Wynne) who is mostly boosting Ontario PC fortunes at the moment. (Brown’s own approval rating in the latest Forum poll has actually dropped by eight points since November.)

According to this view, the thing to watch most closely in prophecies about the 2018 Ontario election is the interim fate of President Trump’s three-ring circus over the next 15 months in the USA.  

Of less but perhaps still some importance (and intrigue) are two pending and conceivably parallel events across the Atlantic Ocean. 

The first is the fate of Brexit in the United Kingdom, following Prime Minister Theresa May’s plan to begin negotiations with the EU officially this coming April. 

The second is the French presidential election that will take place in two phases on Sunday, April 23 and Sunday, May 7.  

More generally, recent rising Conservative numbers in both federal and provincial polls for Canada’s most populous province mostly reflect recent rightward movements in those parts of the global village to which Ontario politics has been most closely related over the past 150 years. 

If these rightward trends in such places as the U.S., UK and France deepen over the next 15 months (arguably aided and abetted in some degree by Narendra Modi’s conservative regime in India, in business since May 2014), Patrick Brown just might be the next new premier of Ontario.

(Prime Minister Modi’s conservatism among Ontario’s Commonwealth brethren in India has apparently also been one of Mr. Brown’s inspirations. And, as yet another species of contemporary magical thinking, how about a new anglophone international trading bloc focused on India — which may soon surpass China as the most populous country in the world?)

But if, on the other hand, Donald Trump does begin to self-destruct early over the next year or so (despite his more disciplined address to a joint session of Congress on February 28), something quite different could happen.

Similar pressures could arise if Brexit does prove a practical nightmare by the winter of 2018  — and/or if the centre-left candidate Emmanuel Macron wins the French election this coming May 7, and then somehow shows some early success down on the ground.

And who knows? Something quite different could happen in Ontario, including the second New Democratic Party government in Ontario history on June 7, 2018 — as close to impossible as that may seem right now.  

Or it could even include a second Kathleen Wynne Liberal majority government — as even closer to impossible as that may seem right now. (Note: even the Toronto Sun has lately worried that, when push finally comes to shove in Ontario politics today, “Liberals know how to win against the odds, PCs don't.”) 

So ... the very final question may be: Does this mean that Ontario politics might suddenly get less partisan-toxic and more interesting and even instructive for ordinary voters over the next 15 months? Or could it still get worse?  

 

 

 

About Randall White

Randall White is a former senior policy advisor with the Ontario Ministry of Finance, and a former economist with the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. He is the author of Ontario 1610-1985: A Political and Economic History and Ontario Since 1985. He writes frequently about Ontario politics.
Posted date : March 07, 2017

View all of Randall White's columns
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