What does this all mean?
With Ontario voters heading to the polls in just eight months, provincial parties are carefully studying the results of Monday’s federal elections to see what lessons, if any, can be learned ahead of the June 2 vote.
Everyone admits that the issues are likely to deviate from those currently in the head, such as whether the candidates have been vaccinated against COVID-19, something that federal conservative leader Erin O’Toole refused to guarantee, which the liberals of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau used against him.
Prime Minister Doug Ford, who remained neutral and banned his group and staff from helping O’Toole’s conservatives during the campaign, warns that “all candidates running for the PC Party have been vaccinated and will be vaccinated or not. they will run for our party. “
But Ford’s political enemies predict such controversies could be ancient history by the time of the provincial vote, and the question on the ballot is more likely to be which leader is most trusted to guide Ontario’s recovery from the pandemic.
“The ‘all my candidates will be vaccinated’ is a no-brainer,” said Michael Balagus, chief of staff to Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath and a veteran party strategist.
“Who the hell knows for June how current this is all going to be?”
In fact, challenges that the pandemic has left in the background still lurk: electricity prices, which Ford promised to cut by 12 percent; climate change; long waits for hospital beds; and a massive deficit due to the billions spent on COVID-19 supports.
Others remain in the foreground, such as improving the quality of life for vulnerable elderly residents of nursing homes and the importance of public health departments.
With the federal elections over, the focus is on Queen’s Park.
On Monday, Trudeau’s Liberals won 78 of Ontario’s 121 federal districts, 37 for O’Toole’s Conservatives, five for Jagmeet Singh’s New Democrats and one for Annamie Paul’s Greens.
But despite failing to win seats, Maxime Bernier’s right-leaning, anti-masking and anti-blocking People’s Party of Canada received 5.5 percent of the popular vote, a margin that could theoretically have cost the federal conservatives more than one year. dozen constituencies.
So Ford was quick to stake his ground in the political center, insisting that his conservatives would not be undermined by right-wing fringe parties in pandemic politics.
“No, I’m not worried about that,” he said Wednesday, when he launched Ontario’s trial vaccination program for many indoor activities and promoted his vaccine in good faith.
“I can’t be up here preaching to get vaccinated and our own team is not vaccinated,” said the prime minister, who last month fired MPP Rick Nicholls from the Progressive Conservative caucus for refusing to get vaccinated.
However, since all three opposition parties have already promised the same vaccination requirement for candidates, that issue appears to have been neutralized.
Instead, rivals pounce on Ford’s hesitancy to introduce a vaccine passport system, claiming it dragged its heels in like a mouthful to libertarian elements in his own party.
“I know a lot of people are concerned about the certificate and what it means for their civil liberties. I know this is a divisive issue and that is understandable, ”said the prime minister. “It is no secret that I was reluctant to use this tool. But our biggest concern, what keeps me awake at night. it’s making sure we never lose our hard progress. “
Conservatives are confident that they intentionally removed from the table anything contentious that Trudeau’s liberals might have used against Ford, mindful of how the prime minister successfully used him as a political punching bag in the 2019 election campaign.
That’s one of the reasons the prime minister changed vaccination mandates in early summer and changed his mind about proof of vaccination certificates on September 1, three weeks before the federal vote.
But liberal leader Steven Del Duca said Ford undermined the government’s public health measures when he publicly expressed his personal doubts about documentation of proof of vaccination.
Del Duca said he recalled the prime minister’s hem on other public health restrictions in the face of the rising number of COVID-19 cases and intensive care unit admissions ahead of the pandemic.
“At the end of the day, you either really believe in these things or you don’t. By his own admission, he doesn’t, ”said the Grit boss, who hopes to regain the Vaughan-Woodbridge leadership that he lost when the PCs took power in 2018.
“That inauthenticity of Doug Ford on these issues is obvious.”
Liberals and New Democrats alike say they will use such lines of attack against progressive conservatives in the coming months, and that the NDP will prepare new announcements with Horwath that will begin running in October.
“Most importantly, while Doug Ford makes sure all of his PPMs are vaccinated, he didn’t make sure his children’s teacher was vaccinated, he didn’t make sure his mother’s personal support worker in a nursing home. of the elderly were vaccinated, “Balagus said. .
That’s a blow to the government’s vaccination or testing policy for health and education workers, which opposition parties said did not comply and put patients and children at risk. Some hospitals have gone further, requiring that staff be fully vaccinated or risk losing their jobs.
All parties caution against comparing apples from Monday’s federal vote to oranges from the 2018 Ontario election, when Ford’s Conservatives won 76 of 124 provincial constituencies to 40 for New Democrats, seven for Liberals and one. for the greens.
So Monday’s poor performance of five seats for the federal NDP may not herald bad news for Howarth, who is leading the new Democrats to their fourth provincial election.
Still, it will face determined challenges from liberals eager to make up the tours they lost during the 2018 Tory collapse.
While the federal Greens fell to 2.2 percent of the vote in Ontario, Green Leader Mike Schreiner was encouraged by the election of partner Mike Morrice at the Kitchener-Center.
(Liberal incumbent Raj Saini resigned as a candidate at the Kitchener-Center mid-season on allegations that he harassed a female employee. Saini’s name remained on the ballot and he finished fourth.)
“We can build on that. We have a strong foundation in this region and we want to target this entire region, ”said Schreiner, who represents nearby Guelph at Queen’s Park.
He insisted that continued challenges from federal green leader Annamie Paul, who came in fourth at the Toronto Center with just 8.5 percent of the vote, have not hurt the provincial party.
“I was disappointed with the results at the Toronto Center, especially since Annamie did so well in the leadership discussions,” he said. “I was surprised it didn’t translate to the ground while riding.”
But Schreiner stressed that “people view the Ontario Greens differently” from the federal party, which has been plagued by internal wars.
“As long as the federal party does not dominate the headlines, I think the provincial party can turn the page.”
Finally, when it comes to the next June election, there is also the matter of the unscientific “Underhill equilibrium theory,” which suggests that Ontario voters choose different parties at the federal level than at the provincial level.
According to that theory, the fact that the liberals are in power in Ottawa favors the progressive conservatives in Queen’s Park. And when the Conservatives are in power at the national level, the Grits and, for a period in the early 1990s, the New Democrats, tend to rule Ontario.
In the 78 years since 1943, different parties have been in power at the federal level and in Queen’s Park for nearly 11 years, or about 85 percent of the time.
Everything will be clear after June 2.
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