Doug Ford’s fiercest Ontario election opponent may be the pandemic

Doug Ford’s fiercest Ontario election opponent may be the pandemic

By Shachi Kurl, President

The song says it’s always 5 o’clock somewhere … they might as well re-write the lyrics to reflect that it’s always election season somewhere in Canada, too. What felt but a minute ago to be a fixed point far off on the horizon is now the looming vote in Ontario, a mere two months away, with Premier Doug Ford already in obvious campaign mode. Oh goodie.

How are he and his government doing? Not so good, but frankly, not so bad either. In the last weeks, polling shows the premier’s personal popularity has done something it hadn’t in 18 months: it’s gone up. And by a lot: 13 points. The Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario is polling well too: a recent Angus Reid Institute sounding of decided Ontario voters put the party at 37 per cent. Other polls have him in that range as well. The opposition Liberals and NDP by contrast, are evenly split and running a distant second at about 25 per cent of the vote each.

On the other hand, Ford’s government is criticized by at least half of Ontarians for a range of issues, with the severest criticism reserved for management of housing affordability (a whopping 86 per cent say the Ontario Conservatives are doing a “bad job” on this file); poverty and homelessness (78 per cent are unimpressed); care of seniors (75 per cent negative ratings); and health care management overall (70 per cent say the PCs have done a bad job).

To fix these perceptions, Ford is exercising his incumbency advantage, with a series of spending announcements — some new, some repackaged — to soothe Ontario voters with their own money. Over the last four years, by keeping miles away from the federal Conservative drama of the day, he has adroitly shown a centrist electorate he is just enough on side with the Liberal Trudeau government to finalize deals such as the $10-a-day child-care agreement or share the microphone at major joint announcements.

But as has been the case with so many elections over the last two years, the X factor is the pandemic.

For the rest of this piece, please view it on the Ottawa Citizen’s site where it was initially published.

Image – Cole Burston/National Observer