With last night's by-election results in Thornhill and, seemingly more importantly, Niagara Falls, it seems Ontario's New Democrats are indeed on a roll, having won four of the eight by-elections since the October 2011 provincial election. They're the only party to have increased their caucus (not counting Doug Holyday's win, since the PCs also lost Kitchener-Waterloo), and have put to shame the Liberals on many occasions, despite their leader Andrea Horwath practically kowtowing to Kathleen Wynne every time a confidence vote came up. I suppose it all evens out?
So what are we to make of these wins, and the momentum the NDP have? Kinsella thinks they could end up winning a general election - and I'm actually inclined to agree, though with the caveat that at this point, all three parties could end up winning a general election. The polls don't speak of an NDP wave quite yet, Hudak's PCs still have steam despite their unpopular leader, and the Liberals are managing to hold on thanks to "Fortress Toronto." We could theoretically end up with a Queen's Park that looks very reminiscent of a pizza, with the Liberals holding on to the majority of the GTA, the PCs keeping their rural ridings, and the NDP gobbling up the North, some rust belt ridings in the Southwest, and a bits here and there in Toronto. That would be fun. And horribly dysfunctional.
Though I dread Premier Horwath's reign of terror, I am curious as to what an NDP win would look like. In order to do so, I decided to do something interesting and map the 1990 Rae Surprise election to Ontario's current electoral boundaries, just to get a sense of how that majority was built, and of course how things have changed in two decades.
Here's what I mapped (you can compare it to the original 1990 boundaries here):
Now, not that I don't wish to doubt the virility of Horwath's NDP, but I would never, ever expect to see a map like this one for the NDP in this decade. Winning seats in rural eastern Ontario is a pipe dream for the party, especially when there are much more low-hanging fruit these days in ridings that, in 1990, the Liberals won. Even some of the seats in rural southwestern Ontario, such as Oxford and Huron-Bruce, seem like they'd go to the Family Coalition Party before they send a Dipper to Queen's Park. That being said, when I put in the 1990 numbers into my modern projection, the NDP did in fact win many of those seats, so who knows.
Whatever happens, the next Ontario election promises to be a wild one, even more wild than 2011, with so many possibilities available for us to choose from. A momentum-building NDP win, a hold-your-nose PC vote, or a major comeback for the Liberals - or all three. These by-elections are just a preview of the fun to come.