Why Has Doug Gotten A Sequel?
If I had a time machine and travelled back to April 2019, everyone would have predicted a zero percent chance of another Doug Ford Majority. During that time Doug Ford had a positive impression from only 22% of Ontarians. This was right around the heyday of major cuts to government spending, freezing of government wages, and stagnating minimum wage. Ford showed little regard for positive PR when he cut a large portion of Autism educational services. Somehow Ford was able to turn this dismal reputation of “watered down Trump” and parley it into another likely Majority government. How was he able to do it?
First of all, if we track positivity and approval ratings, Ford benefited massively from the pandemic. Right around March 2020, his positivity rating increased from 23 to 46%. Ontarians thought so little of Ford that his acknowledgement of the pandemic and responsiveness to lockdowns, mandates, and other Covid measures was met with adulation. If anything, Ford's main criticism was that he was too strict on small businesses and held onto mandates for too long. Even though his positivity rating has gone back down, a slight majority (54%) either have neutral or positive opinions of him.
To win in Canada’s two-and-a-half-party system you actually do not need to be very popular. Trudeau has won two straight elections while losing the popular vote. Ford only needs to garner around one-third of the vote to win an election (this is compounded by the NDP and Liberals splitting the left-wing vote). We also have to remember that people do not vote in a vacuum. While Ford has plenty of room for criticism his opponents offer little inspiration for the undecided voter. Andrea Horvath has failed to build any momentum over her past three elections while Steven Del Duca, despite his constant reminder that he has two young children, has the charisma and relatability of a wet paper towel. Despite his cheesy use of “folks” and simplified vocabulary, Ford still emerges as the most personable and charismatic of the major leaders.
Leadership and personality alone are not enough to win an election, so how does Ford fair on the most important issues? When Ontarians are asked what issues they care about, healthcare is still number one by a large margin (26%), but 3 out of the next 4 are related to affordability and the economy. It is no surprise that the NDP is most trusted to handle Ontario’s healthcare system, but the Conservatives still managed to edge out the Liberals by 3%. On the topic of job creation and managing government spending very few trust the Liberals and the NDP. 34% of Ontarians trust the Ford the most to create jobs, compared to 32% for the other parties combined with similar trends holding for government spending. Nearly half of all Ontarians trust none of the major parties to handle the housing crisis.
Overall, Ontarians are pretty pessimistic about the ability of these major candidates to handle the top issues. What should worry the Liberals and NDP is that they have little credibility in the area of job creation and the economy. Whether it is Trudeau’s massive spending in the last few years or Kathleen Wynn’s expensive policies near the end of her term, Ontarians do not trust left-wing parties to handle the government coffers. As affordability becomes a major concern as we exit the pandemic the left-wing must find a way to regain the public trust. It is often a fallacy the Conservatives are the responsible ones with money (usually because cutting taxes while cutting spending has a neutral impact on deficits), but they are simply the lowest common denominator choice for those who care about the economy and affordability.
The Liberals have joined the NDP on the issues of childcare, dental, and mental health promising large expansions to the universal single-payer model. Regardless of someone's political knowledge, we can all intuitively agree that these programs cost massive amounts of money. The onus is on the Liberals and NDP to find a credible way to pay for this expansion in the welfare state without making it far more expensive for middle and lower-class families. As of now, the public simply does not believe the “tax the rich” explanation to be sufficient.
To summarize, Ford is winning this election by default. Most Ontarians do not like him, but more Ontarians dislike Del Duca and Horvath. Somehow Horvath and the NDP have been so incompetent that some of the major unions have shifted their support toward Ford. Hopefully, this election encourages some soul searching. The Liberals have drifted too far left, in my opinion, and the NDP is more concerned about the latest woke virtue signal and has forgotten that they are the party of unions and the working class. Although. I may be projecting my own biased analysis onto the situation. While the solution can be debated, it is clear that Ontario Liberals and NDP lack some major ingredients and are gifting Ford another victory.