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What to watch for during the election campaign in Ontario?

This Wednesday, Ontario officially enters the election campaign. The Progressive Conservative Party of Doug Ford will try to obtain a second term on June 2nd. For his part, the liberal Steven Del Duca will seek to bring his party back to power four years after a historic thaw. The outgoing leader of the official opposition, Andrea Horwath, she hopes that her fourth campaign at the head of the NDP will be the right one. Overview of the issues and files to monitor by June 2.

The cost of living

Many experts expect this to be the most important issue of the campaign, and many of the announcements already made by the main parties confirm it.

The Progressive Conservatives promise to cut gas taxes starting July 1 and raise the minimum wage. The NDP, which dedicated the first chapter of its election platform to the issue, wants, among other things, to reduce the cost of automobile insurance. The Liberals, still without a platform, want to set public transit fares at $1 across the province.

“Doug Ford will be doing customer service during this campaign. […] He is attacking the rising cost of living by proposing to give money back to Ontarians,” explains Jonathan Malloy, a professor at Carleton University. “People are worried about their personal finances. It is for this reason that you see populist measures from the government,” notes Livianna Tossutti, a political scientist at Brock University. “What will be crucial for voters is affordability and inflationary pressure,” said Lydia Miljan, a professor at the University of Windsor.

The Liberals and New Democrats are also trying to stand out on the left on this theme to seduce the progressive electorate.

The NDP proposes in particular to offer free psychotherapy sessions, a proposal that would cost more than a billion a year. The Liberal Party promises for its part to introduce 10 days of paid sick leave, a measure that an NDP bill had already presented in 2020. The two parties also propose to increase the minimum wage: the Liberals to 16 $ per hour; the NDP at $20 an hour.

Strategic Voting

“The parties will say that there is no strategic voting, but it is obvious that there is,” launches Livianna Tossutti.

The split in the left vote is a dream scenario for Doug Ford, says the political scientist, since it opens the door to a new majority. The Progressive Conservative Party won eight ridings by a margin of less than 2.5% in 2018. And in those races, the combined vote of the Liberal and NDP candidates was, on average, 15 percentage points higher than that of the candidate seconded by Doug Ford.

In April, NDP leader Andrea Horwath launched an appeal to Liberal voters in the hope of reining in the Progressive Conservative Party.

On social media, Liberal Party campaign manager Christine McMillan replied that “only the Liberals could beat the Conservatives”. “I know that we discuss the polls a lot, but what matters are the choices of the parties if they were elected”, insisted its leader Steven Del Duca April 21.

The Liberal Party-NDP agreement in Ottawa could also encourage some undecided voters to shun their provincial counterparts, believes Lydia Miljan. Especially since chefs Steven Del Duca and Andrea Horwath have not closed the door to such an agreement. “It will not be a dominant issue, but it will be raised during the debates,” predicts the professor.

COVID-19

It will remain difficult, in many ways, to ignore the pandemic when campaigning.

The sixth wave of COVID-19 has already peaked in Ontario, which could limit the spread of the disease among the candidates of the different parties. And the curve should flatten by the day of the vote, provides Public Health.

“The less the opposition parties talk about the pandemic, the better,” thinks Professor Lydia Miljan. “They will find that if they demand more health measures, they will disengage voters. »

The NDP and the Liberals are likely to fight for the vote of those concerned about COVID-19, while voters who want to move on will likely vote for Doug Ford, summarizes his side Jonathan Malloy. According to the Carleton University professor, all parties will have to think about the message they want to send on the subject. Will they want to show that they are careful? Or will they want to seduce those who have had enough?

In a first unofficial election event last March, Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca seemed to have chosen the second option by arriving without a mask, like his candidates, in a crowded room. It’s a credibility issue for him, thinks Professor Miljan, considering his criticisms of Doug Ford’s pandemic management.

The Del Duca Mystery

It was on March 7, 2020, just six days before Ottawa declared a state of health emergency, that Ontario Liberal Party delegates elected Steven Del Duca as leader of the party. Defeated in 2018 in the riding of Vaughan-Woodbridge, northwest of Toronto, he has been leading his troops from home for just over two years.

The former minister in Kathleen Wynne’s government is the least known of the leaders of the main parties – and that’s an advantage for him, believes political scientist Jonathan Malloy. “He was a minister, but not a minister with great notoriety. The voters therefore do not yet have an opinion of him, ”he analyzes.

But according to a recent Abacus poll, only 37% of Ontario Liberal Party supporters believe he would be the best premier: Steven Del Duca is less popular than his party, and “that’s a risk”, estimates the analyst of polls Éric Grenier. However, the media coverage inherent in an election campaign could change things, observes Lydia Miljan. “We know how Doug Ford and Andrea Horwath will campaign, but not Steven Del Duca. »

This story is supported by the Local Journalism Initiative, funded by the Government of Canada.

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