(Sorry if anyone missed my wonderful revelations over the past few days, but a workin' man has things to do)
The common assumption these days is that current Ontario Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty is more or less doomed come October 6th, when Ontarians will vote en masse to kick out his 8-year old government after a series of scandals, gaffes, and questionable ideas. After all, with a 76% disapproval rating, one doesn't often get a second wind (or a third, in McGuinty's case).
However, recent polls are showing that McGuinty's Liberals are on something of an upswing. While not yet surpassing the leading Ontario Progressive Conservatives lead by Niagara MPP Tim Whodat - er, Hudak - the Liberals are pulling away from their deficit of 10 percentage points to under 5 points, a relatively good position for an old government to be in. This comes on the heels of a flurry of ads from all three parties (Lib, PC, NDP) in an attempt to steer the narrative before the campaign officially launches in September.
It's impossible to say whether or not the ads have anything to do with it, but it seems pretty obvious that new revelations about Hudak's past and current positions on several key important and unimportant subjects may have swung some voters. The timing is simply too coincidental to dismiss.
The end result of all this is that the election will not be as one-sided a fight as expected. Of course, anything can happen, but assuming that this is a standard boring election, McGuinty may be back in the fight.
The other issue arising out of Ontario these days is the question of the possible NDP surge. I explained in an earlier post that right now, provincial Dippers are experiencing a small uplift in their popular vote, thanks to their federal cousins supplanting the Liberals on the national stage as Official Opposition.
Ontario's New Democrats, lead by Hamilton MPP Andrea Horwath, are no exception. They've increased in their poll average since before the May 2nd election by over 3%, sitting at 21% more or less since then, compared to 17.5% before.
This is good news for Ms. Horwath. In the 2007 provincial election, the New Democrats averaged nearly 18% in the year leading up to the campaign, and ended up with under 17% on election day. This time around, they're averaging 19%. And while the most recent Nanos poll has pegged them lower (16.6%), it's likely the ONDP will increase their share of the vote in this election.
That does not, however, mean that they're going to surpass the Liberals. Unlike their federal cousins, the Ontario Liberals don't have the quagmire of Quebec to deal with. Indeed, there is not a large area for the ONDP to spurt out of like they did in Quebec; as their federal cousins did, they can ramp up their vote in Northern Ontario and Toronto, but outside of these regions they have little growth potential, and this includes in the seat-laden 905 area (excluding Hamilton).
I would say that for Horwath, the key is to win votes in the 905 where the Libs and PCs tussle. This would be their breakthrough area, where the federal NDP didn't manage very well outside of one riding with a star candidate. This means doing something different, and it means pumping up your vote more than 3%.
But there is hope for Horwath, and for McGuinty. The biggest loser will end up being Hudak if the other two play their cards right; it's up to the Liberals to hold defense in the 905 and Toronto suburbs, while the NDP have to go on the offensive in peripheral areas like Hamilton and Northern Ontario to hem in PC support. With any luck, such a combination could keep McGuinty in. But this is just idle speculation; I remain fully supportive of the idea that Hudak is most likely going to be Premier by October, massively disagreable as it is.