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Do The Harper Conservatives Still Lead In Ontario?
This province is the key battleground for the 2015 election, planned for this fall.
   
By Randall White 
Two recent events might make you think the Conservative Party of Canada’s prospects in this fall’s federal election are fading.
The first is the news that both the Canadian and US economies shrank in the first quarter of 2015 — in Canada’s case by 0.6% and stateside by as much as 0.7%.
The second is Justice Minister Peter MacKay’s announcement that he won’t be running this fall.
On the surface, both events ought to have Prime Minister Stephen Harper worried. 
If our economy is shrinking, where are the vaunted economic management skills of his government?  
And the departure of the former Progressive Conservative unite-the-right statesman Peter MacKay from Nova Scotia, some would say, leaves federal Conservatism in the hands of the old, more strictly conservative Reform/Alliance wing of the party, with its big strength out west. 
These two events also come in the wake of the surprising NDP orange wave in Alberta's provincial election — which now seems to have brought some corresponding surge in federal opinion polls. 
Yet Prime Minister Harper did not look worried in his warm reaction to Mr. MacKay’s announced departure in Nova Scotia this past Friday. It may be that he had other current federal election trends on his mind. 
There is, for example, the support his Conservatives still seem to be enjoying in the key battleground province of Ontario. 
And as pollster Nik Nanos has recently reminded us: Ontario remains “the most important battleground” for the Tories.
Most recent polls do seem to agree that the Harper Conservatives are leading in Ontario right now — even with the Canada-wide NDP surge. 
According to a mid-May Forum Research survey, the federal Conservatives lead slightly in the province (36%), compared to the Liberals (34%) and the New Democrats (26%).
Nanos himself has the Harper Conservatives leading in Ontario at 39%, with the Liberals at 36% and the NDP at only 19%. 
Éric Grenier's latest poll averages, at his influential ThreeHundredEight.com website, have the Conservatives at 36% in Ontario, the Liberals at 33%, and the New Democrats at 23%. 
Frank Graves’s May 22 EKOS poll does show the federal New Democrats tied with the Conservatives in Ontario (31%). And both are ahead of the Liberals (27%).  
Yet as Graves himself explains, even this can be read as “good news for the Conservative party ... The near-parity of NDP and Liberal support in Ontario raises the prospect of vote-splitting and a narrow Conservative victory based on small pluralities of the vote.”
On Grenier’s projections, the two provinces where the federal orange wave appears strongest at the moment — where the New Democrats come first in the three-party ranking — are Quebec and BC. 
The Liberals were way ahead in Atlantic Canada, long before Peter MacKay’s announcement. But the Conservatives have first place in the Prairies and Ontario. (Except for the latest EKOS poll, where the Tories in Ontario are tied with the Mulcair New Democrats.)
Similarly, recent federal Liberal slippage in Ontario probably has something to do with the end of Kathleen Wynne’s Queen’s Park honeymoon over the first quarter or so of 2015. And current polls point to something else that may be giving Stephen Harper some encouragement. 
On Éric Grenier’s latest numbers, for instance, no party has anything close to a majority of seats in the Canadian House of Commons after the 2015 election. But the Harper Conservatives still have the largest number of seats.
Canada-wide and reflecting his best estimates as of May 20, 2015, Grenier say the Conservatives have 31% of the vote and 134 seats. The Liberals sit at 30% of the vote and 106 seats. The New Democrats have 26% and 95 seats.
 
One big question here is can there be a credible Liberal-NDP or NDP-Liberal “coalition” alternative to Mr. Harper, based on these kinds of numbers in this fall’s federal election? 
Or will many 21st century voters who have lost contact with the logic of our parliamentary democratic traditions feel that having a prime minister whose party did not win the largest number of seats in the election (even if it’s not a majority) is somehow unfair? 
At one point it seemed that the recent election in the United Kingdom might help answer various thorny questions that could arise about a House of Commons in which none of parties have a majority of seats. 
But in the end, less than 37% of the popular vote proved enough for David Cameron’s Conservatives to win slightly better than a bare majority of seats in the Mother of Parliaments. 
And Stephen Harper, with all his affection for the old imperial folkways, may be thinking that this contemporary British precedent  — and not the recent behaviour in his home province of Alberta — could be the real federal future in Canada too. 

                     Do The Harper Conservatives Still Lead In Ontario?


     This province is the key battleground for the 2015 election, planned for this fall.

 

By Randall White

Two recent events might make you think the Conservative Party of Canada’s prospects in this fall’s federal election are fading.

The first is the news that both the Canadian and US economies shrank in the first quarter of 2015 — in Canada’s case by 0.6% and stateside by as much as 0.7%.

The second is Justice Minister Peter MacKay’s announcement that he won’t be running this fall.

On the surface, both events ought to have Prime Minister Stephen Harper worried. 

If our economy is shrinking, where are the vaunted economic management skills of his government?  

And the departure of the former Progressive Conservative unite-the-right statesman Peter MacKay from Nova Scotia, some would say, leaves federal Conservatism in the hands of the old, more strictly conservative Reform/Alliance wing of the party, with its big strength out west. 

These two events also come in the wake of the surprising NDP orange wave in Alberta's provincial election — which now seems to have brought some corresponding surge in federal opinion polls. 

Yet Prime Minister Harper did not look worried in his warm reaction to Mr. MacKay’s announced departure in Nova Scotia this past Friday. It may be that he had other current federal election trends on his mind. 

There is, for example, the support his Conservatives still seem to be enjoying in the key battleground province of Ontario. 

And as pollster Nik Nanos has recently reminded us: Ontario remains “the most important battleground” for the Tories.

Most recent polls do seem to agree that the Harper Conservatives are leading in Ontario right now — even with the Canada-wide NDP surge. 

According to a mid-May Forum Research survey, the federal Conservatives lead slightly in the province (36%), compared to the Liberals (34%) and the New Democrats (26%).

Nanos himself has the Harper Conservatives leading in Ontario at 39%, with the Liberals at 36% and the NDP at only 19%. 

Éric Grenier's latest poll averages, at his influential ThreeHundredEight.com website, have the Conservatives at 36% in Ontario, the Liberals at 33%, and the New Democrats at 23%. 

Frank Graves’s May 22 EKOS poll does show the federal New Democrats tied with the Conservatives in Ontario (31%). And both are ahead of the Liberals (27%).  

Yet as Graves himself explains, even this can be read as “good news for the Conservative party ... The near-parity of NDP and Liberal support in Ontario raises the prospect of vote-splitting and a narrow Conservative victory based on small pluralities of the vote.”

On Grenier’s projections, the two provinces where the federal orange wave appears strongest at the moment — where the New Democrats come first in the three-party ranking — are Quebec and BC. 

The Liberals were way ahead in Atlantic Canada, long before Peter MacKay’s announcement. But the Conservatives have first place in the Prairies and Ontario. (Except for the latest EKOS poll, where the Tories in Ontario are tied with the Mulcair New Democrats.)

Similarly, recent federal Liberal slippage in Ontario probably has something to do with the end of Kathleen Wynne’s Queen’s Park honeymoon over the first quarter or so of 2015. And current polls point to something else that may be giving Stephen Harper some encouragement. 

On Éric Grenier’s latest numbers, for instance, no party has anything close to a majority of seats in the Canadian House of Commons after the 2015 election. But the Harper Conservatives still have the largest number of seats.

Looking Canada-wide and reflecting his best estimates as of May 20, 2015, Grenier say the Conservatives have 31% of the vote and 134 seats. The Liberals sit at 30% of the vote and 106 seats. The New Democrats have 26% and 95 seats.

One big question here is can there be a credible Liberal-NDP or NDP-Liberal “coalition” alternative to Mr. Harper, based on these kinds of numbers in this fall’s federal election?

Or will many 21st century voters who have lost contact with the logic of our parliamentary democratic traditions feel that having a prime minister whose party did not win the largest number of seats in the election (even if it’s not a majority) is somehow unfair? 

At one point it seemed that the recent election in the United Kingdom might help answer various thorny questions that could arise about a House of Commons in which none of parties have a majority of seats. 

But in the end, less than 37% of the popular vote proved enough for David Cameron’s Conservatives to win slightly better than a bare majority of seats in the Mother of Parliaments. 

And Stephen Harper, with all his affection for the old imperial folkways, may be thinking that this contemporary British precedent  — and not the recent behaviour in his home province of Alberta — could be the real federal future in Canada too. 

 

 

 

 

 

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 : June 02, 2015

View all of Randall White's columns
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