In an utterly predictable and unsurprising turn of events, the Doug Ford led Progressive Conservatives have garnered another majority in Ontario. While pollsters in Ontario can all basically pat themselves on the back for their accuracy, this result is a resounding and utter failure for both the Liberals and the NDP.
Losing the battle for second place to the NDP under Horwath, not regaining party status, and losing his own seat meant that the only viable outcome for Liberal leader Steven Del Duca – who will be best remembered for having all the charm of an inanimate carbon rod – was to step down. The NDP, for its part, should have rid itself of Andrea Horwath after the 2018 election. If you can’t form an NDP government with the literal implosion of the only other mainstream centre-left party, then you need to change course. Both parties now have the opportunity to build themselves from the ground up.
To be fair to both Del Duca and Horwath, however, Ford was always going to be hard to beat. Aside from the lead going into the election, Ford has the benefit of incredible name recognition and has carved out a unique political brand for himself that makes it tough for most other politicians to contend with. Though being hard to beat is not the same as allowing Ford to sheepishly walk into another majority, with a greater seat count than the last election.
Ultimately, both Del Duca and Horwath failed to make the case to Ontarians that the government needed replacing. The sense of urgency from both opposition parties in this election was completely absent. You can’t exactly go out and convince the electorate the government needs replacing if you won’t fervently make the case as to why that is, and it’s not as though the NDP and the Liberals didn’t have an incredibly long list of reasons to choose from.
Ontario kids were kept out of school longer than any other jurisdiction in the country. The Ford government somehow lost track of over $4 billion in COVID relief money and cannot account for where it went. The last four years have also been a perfect test case on how to go to court and continually lose, both in terms of the actual court cases (Ford has lost more than a dozen times), as well as tens of millions of dollars in the process. Ford effectively cut pay for nurses in the middle of a pandemic with Bill 124, and under his watch has allowed the surgical backlog in this province to balloon to well over a million procedures.
Opinion: Doug Ford's resounding victory cost the #Ontario NDP and Liberals their leaders. What comes next? @supriyadwivedi writes for @natobserver
The Liberal and NDP campaigns share the vast majority of the blame here, though it’s also worth noting the Protecting Ontario Elections Act (the Act) was incredibly effective at silencing the various groups of critics who were going to be the most vocal in this election. Teachers, parents of kids who need to access autism services, nurses and other health care workers, concerned parents of school-aged children, environmental groups, and literally anyone else who would’ve had an issue with the Ford government over the last four years effectively saw their freedom of expression curtailed with this piece of legislation.
The Act significantly reduced the ability of third-party groups to advertise in the year-long lead up to an election, as well as during the writ period. The legislation was challenged by the advocacy group Working Families Ontario, alongside three teachers unions. An Ontario Superior Court judge found four sections of the legislation to be in violation of section 2(b) of the Charter – freedom of expression – and that it was not reasonably justified as per section 1 of the Charter.
The Ford government was quick to apply the notwithstanding clause to the sections the judge deemed unconstitutional in order to subsequently push it through the legislature. At the time, the story garnered quite a bit of media attention, so it’s rather odd there has been virtually no talk of the Act’s impact on this election, especially since it was the first time Ontario had ever used the notwithstanding clause to pass legislation that was ruled to be in violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That is certainly an indictment on the political reporting in this province, but here too, the bulk of the blame rests with the Liberal and NDP campaigns.
You’d think Ford invoking the notwithstanding clause to pass otherwise unconstitutional legislation that infringed upon freedom of expression, with the specific purpose to shut out critics completely from the campaign discourse would be an issue worth raising by the NDP and Liberals. But then you’d be terribly wrong.
You can’t blame an electorate that is facing very real affordability issues like a housing crisis and ongoing inflationary pressures amidst a backdrop of pandemic burnout and exhaustion for not paying closer attention to what was at stake in this election. But you can blame the opposition parties for an utterly lacklustre campaign performance.
Thankfully, they’ve got four years to plan how they’ll do better next time.