Friday, June 13, 2014

Ontario Votes 2014 Results - Don't Call It a Comeback (Long Post)

While I'm pretty sure anyone who reads this blog regularly is quite aware of the last night's results, I think it might take a while to sink in just how awesome it was. Absolutely, 100% awesome. I've never been more excited about an election in my lifetime, and even my current bout with what seems to be strep throat can't get my spirits down.

We won!!!

 Not only did the Ontario Liberals win however, they won a majority government, less than two years after voters handed them a minority. I would call it unprecedented, except that it happened quite more than once to the Ontario PCs during their long stretch of government from 1943 to 1985. However, for the Liberals to do it is another thing entirely - the Liberals have not won four elections in a row since Oliver Mowat in 1886, and no Liberal Premier has succeeded another then gone on to win another term since George William Ross replaced Arthur S. Hardy in 1902, and I think this is the first time a Liberal has replaced a previous leader and managed to do better than their predecessor's last election since, again, Oliver Mowat in 1875.

What I'm trying to say is that aside from being the first woman to be lead her party to victory in an Ontario provincial election, as well as the first LGBT leader to win an election in what seems to be the entire Commonwealth, Kathleen Wynne's historic election has proven to be much more than a footnote in the Ontario Liberal Party's history. This election is groundbreaking for the party, and could be a sign of a strong electoral shift in favour of the provincial Liberals, similar to the PC's stranglehold on the province for forty years - though I may be getting ahead of myself a tad.

This election is also very interesting for the Liberals as it is frankly unlike any other previous election win for the party. Kathleen Wynne's 2014 victory is not like Dalton McGuinty's wins, or David Peterson's or any other previous leader. As we get into the results it will become clearer why, though I'll spoil it for you now - Kathleen's victory came from gains almost exclusively in the urban/suburban GTA, with very few gains outside of there, and just one rural riding gain. Kathleen also managed to do it despite ending up third among the entire Southwestern Ontario region, which used to be one of the strongest electoral areas for the Liberals, keeping us alive during our long spell in opposition versus the PCs. That dependence on this rural ridings also shifted our party to the right during that era, and one can say for sure that Peterson and even McGuinty did not play to the same urbane, urban (bobo?) base Kathleen Wynne does.

In other words, the Liberals have moved ideologically to the left, and so has its electoral base. It is amusing to note that one could say the current Liberals are where the Ontario PCs once were, becoming an urban party with a progressive tilt - and the current PCs are moving to the right, replacing the Liberals as the party of choice for the rural, more conservative base. One could make plenty of comparisons to the switch between Republicans and Democrats ideological and geographic bases in the US over the years, though I'm not sure its as stark as that.

Anyway, let's drill down into some numbers, starting way up north:

Northern Ontario didn't see much change in terms of seats, with the Liberals losing Sudbury by just a small margin, and no other changes. However, in terms of the popular vote, the Liberals, NDP, and Greens managed to increase their shares of the vote, while the PCs dropped just over 7% - a loss of about 20,000 voters, mostly as they fell back in ridings they performed well in back in 2011, such as Kenora or Timmins-James Bay. The PCs also dropped in their two held ridings, though obviously not by enough to lose to a their highly fractured opposition in Nipissing and Parry Sound-Muskoka.

Eastern Ontario did not see too much change either, with two close seats falling to the Liberals (Northumberland-Quinte West with Lou Rinaldi, and Barrie with Ann Hoggarth, the former being the only rural gain for the Liberals) but all other incumbents retaining their seats. All five Ottawa Liberals managed to keep their seats with healthy margins, as did Grant Crack in Glengarry-Prescott-Russell; Sophie Kiwala also kept a healthy margin for the Liberals versus the NDP in Kingston and the Islands, where incumbent John Gerretsen had retired.

If anything spoke to the PC collapse last night early on, it was the poor numbers they were getting in what are supposed to be their strongholds in the east. Ridings such as York-Simcoe or Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock, with multi-term incumbents and strong bases, featured closer-than-normal races with the Liberals. Had this night turned out the way Hudak and the PCs expected, we would have seen much stronger numbers here, and several losses for the Liberals.

The results in Durham Region were among the most exciting last night, with the PCs losing two seats and one incumbent. The Liberals easily held Ajax-Pickering and picked up the incumbent-less Durham, while the NDP knocked out PC incumbent Jerry Ouellette in Oshawa on the back of heavy union campaigning. Only Christine Elliott, the widow of former Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and an easy contender for the next PC leader (she came in second to Hudak in 2009), survived.

York Region, the fast growing area north of Toronto, saw the PCs lose their two ridings and best hopes for continued toeholds in the immediate GTA area (aside from Christine Elliott). Newmarket-Aurora, the riding of former star PC MPP Frank Klees, decided to switch to the Liberals for this election with Chris Ballard earning a convincing victory there; while Sandra Yeung Racco managed to take away Thornhill from incumbent Gina Martow in a rematch of their by-election fight.

The City of Toronto is, ironically, the only area where the PCs actually managed to pick up a small extra share of the popular vote, though definitely not by much. The Liberals managed to have a very good night in the city, picking off three incumbent NDP MPPs in Davenport, Trinity-Spadina, and Beaches-East York, while also taking back Etobicoke-Lakeshore from Ford Nation -er, Doug Holyday. There isn't much to be said here that hasn't already been said - the NDP f'ed up, losing some of their strongest incumbents and turning what could have been a great night into an OK night where they managed to break even. Ford aside, Toronto isn't known for its populist streak, so either the NDP didn't think this strategy of theirs through, or they just didn't care and accepted the losses as inevitable.

Peel Region was one of the more interesting areas to watch, as the PC collapse was fairly dramatic here, an area traditionally known for its Liberal-PC fights. The Liberals retained all of its seven incumbents, while the NDP's Jagmeet Singh kept their toehold in Bramalea-Gore-Malton, increasing his share of the vote against former MPP Kuldip Kular. Also, interestingly, the NDP increased their numbers in the other two Brampton ridings, coming in a very close second in Brampton-Springdale and essentially tied with the PCs for second in Brampton West. It seems the NDP's work in Brampton has been paying dividends, and could spell trouble for the Liberals in the future, federally and provincially. That result was not replicated in the five Mississauga ridings, where the NDP fell back from their 2011 numbers.

No one was more happy than me to see the result in Halton Region last night, as the Liberals not only held Oakville with Kevin Flynn (Labour Minister and the riding of the gas plants fame), but picked up Burlington with Eleanor McMahon (my riding and candidate) and Halton with Indira Naidoo-Harris, unseating two PC incumbents. This result has frankly been a long time coming (71 years for the Liberals in Burlington), as both ridings are demographically trending towards the Liberals or, to put it succinctly, into Mississauga-like ridings.

 The Hamilton-Niagara region didn't actually see any change in incumbents from the end of the legislature, though the above results are the change from the 2011 election. The NDP held on to their by-election win in Niagara Falls, while the Liberals retained their two incumbents in ADFW and, of course, the indomitable Jim Bradley in St. Catherines. The one PC win was Tim Hudak's riding in Niagara West-Glanbrook, while local Liberals must be disappointed with their inability to capture back any of the Hamilton core seats.

Midwestern Ontario - the line of ridings running from BGOS in the north to Haldimand-Norfolk in the south - was a curious thing last night. While the Liberals were trending downward in Southwestern Ontario as a whole, they actually kept up their vote share in this region, even managing to score an extra seat in Cambridge, with a win over the first-term incumbent there, while keeping their incumbency in Kitchener Centre and Dave Levac (the Speaker of the Legislature and a great guy) in Brant. They also posted better-than-I-expected numbers in Perth-Wellington and Kitchener-Conestoga, while they came in second to the NDP's Catherine Fife in Kitchener-Waterloo.

 The Southwest is where the Liberal hurt comes into focus, as the party lost all of its former strongholds in the region over two elections. In 2011, they lost their rural ridings; in 2014, its their urban ridings, the ones hardest hit by the manufacturing decline and most receptive to the NDP's brand of populist schtick. This area featured the only incumbent Liberal loss, as Teresa Piruzza, despite putting up a very strong fight, lost Windsor West, giving the NDP a full sweep of the Essex region. The Liberal's sole representative is Deb Matthews, who hung on - barely - in London North Centre.

Conclusion

A win is a win, of course, and I could not be more excited about this one - but lets not pretend that everything is rosy either.


Turnout edged up a bit, but remains fairly dismal at 51%, showing an electorate that was highly disinterested in what the leaders or parties had to say. None of the party leaders seemed to seriously offer Ontarians a choice palatable, with Hudak and Horwath being incompetent and the Liberals bogged down by scandals. It will take a lot to restore confidence in party government to get turnout back up, and whichever party does manage to do that by 2018, will have a serious edge over everyone else.

Let's also not pretend that this election was necessarily an endorsement of the Liberals, or even of Kathleen Wynne. They certainly earned their win, but the Liberals were lucky in their choice of opponents.

Had the PCs and Hudak held to a strategy similar to that of Stephen McNeil's Liberals in Nova Scotia in their past election, with a low-key, low-promise strategy that didn't ruffle any feathers, this could have been a very different night. Instead Hudak gambled his leadership on a strategy that anyone could see would fail, being an antagonistic mess that didn't strike confidence in the voters, and set up the Tories as an easy boogeyman. I will say right here that I actually don't disagree with the Ontario Tories on a lot of key points - but I sure as hell disagreed with Tim Hudak, and the direction he wanted to take this province. There are a lot more moderate and sensible people within that caucus that can now lead the party, and our democracy, to a better future.

The NDP for their part had a good night, but if I was a Dipper I would have to question Andrea Horwath's judgement in calling this election. Maybe their strategists figured that now was better than never, to capitalize as much as possible on the Liberal scandals before too much time passed and Wynne continued to grow in popularity - though that assumption was clearly wrong, and they paid for it. Now the NDP will have little to no say on the policies of the government, and will have to languish in third-place opposition for four more years. Maybe it was worth it for a few more seats, but that is up to their membership to decide.

Anyways, check out the CBC interactive map if you're interested in the riding-by-riding details. As for my projection and the polls, they didn't end up too bad, except for a slight PC under-performance. My projection got 92% of the riding calls correct, or 99 of 107 ridings (including TCTCs), while the best pollsters ended up being EKOS and Abacus, with a slight preference for the latter, who had 35-32-26-6, technically a little closer than EKOS' 37-31-19-8. Forum overestimated Liberal and PC support at the expense of the NDP, while Ipsos overestimated NDP support at the expense of the Liberals (but got the PC number spot-on), so they'll definitely have to do some tweaking. Not so sure about those Likely Voter weightings anymore either.

That's all from me now. If you were part of a Liberal campaign over the last few weeks, congrats! Whether your candidate won or not, you made our entire party proud with your support. Just wait until next time!

Thanks to CuJoYYC for catching some of my many typos in this post!

5 comments:

  1. Some of my thoughts on this election

    1. The National Post and Sun Media need to tone it down a notch. They tried to portray Wynne as an illegitimate premier, it failed. Even now if you go on their websites it seems as all the columnists at the Post and Sun are spinning the election victory or stating Ontarians will regret their decision.

    2. The PC attitude needs to change. All last night, I hear from PCs that the reason they lost the election because the message wasn't delivered properly or because the unions were strongly against them. And of course, people will be blaming Tim Hudak. But issues with the PC party stem further than that. You cannot blame it on the leader for four election defeats in a row. This attitude reminds me of a certain political party *cough* federal Liberals *cough*. The PCs need to be humble and realize they will be in the wilderness for at least four long years if not longer.

    3. The Liberal gains in Halton, Burlington, Cambridge, Newmarket - Aurora and especially Durham are impressive. These weren't squeaker victories. Some of them such as Halton were decisive 6000 vote victories. The centrist McGuinty was not able to pull it off, but the left-leaning Wynne was able to pull if off. I am curious as to see what caused the shifts in these right-leaning ridings. Changing demographics? Excellent Liberal ground game? Wynne's pro-transit, pro-urban strategy?

    4. People are going to try to spin this election result to see if this is good or bad for Harper, Mulcair and Trudeau in Ontario. I can write a 500 word argument on how it could be good or bad for any of those leaders.

    I think we should avoid US-style political analysis (where a governor winning or losing is somehow tied a president's popularity).

    5. NDP incumbents in non-traditional NDP ridings Bramela Gore Malton, Essex, London West, Niagara Falls and Kitchener Waterloo are now entrenched. Many predicted they will be defeated, but they held their own and in some cases improved their vote.

    6. Horwath has transformed the Ontario NDP. There is an equal amount of "905" MPPs as downtown MPPs now. The NDP base has shifted to southwestern Ontario. They were close in ridings such as Sarnia Lambton, Chatam Kent Essex and London North Centre.

    7. There is no province wide party anymore.

    The Liberals were third place in many southwest ridings. They will be perceived as a GTA party since 2/3 of their seats are from there. The NDP lost seats in Toronto and got shut out of eastern Ontario. The PCs have become a rural rump (Whitby Oshawa is their only non-rural riding?).

    8. I believe Horwath will be the de facto opposition leader to Wynne until the PCs elect a new leader. My prediction is that the next PC leader will be outside the current PC caucus.

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  2. Angus Reid was actually one point closer than Abacus was 36-32-26-5. Interestingly Nanos had a poll from 2 weeks before that nearly mirrors the final election result.

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    1. Yes, I saw Eric Grenier's analysis - AR did pull this one off, though Abacus wasn't far behind. And yeah I thought about Nanos' numbers but wasn't sure if I should include them, given how old they were. Very eerie though.

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  3. The lesson to be learned from this election, the 2013 BC election and the 2008, 2011 federal elections is that negative advertising and campaigning work! Wynne portrayed Hudak as the bogeyman and the people of Ontario bought it! Ironically, Wynne and the Liberals, who are usually fiscal conservatives, will implement many of the cuts Hudak promised starting in 2015. With interests rates set to rise globally this year Ontario's operating deficit will double by the end of 2015 unless savings are made or creditors willing to loan money below market rates found.

    One thing the Tories must do is win back voters in the GTA. The GTA decides elections. In hindsight campaigning against transit was a mistake even if the economics behind transit development are questionable.

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