Thursday, February 14, 2013

PCs narrowly ahead in three-way Ontario race

Earlier this week, Abacus Data released the first major poll of Ontario voting intentions following the selection of Kathleen Wynne as the new leader of the Ontario Liberal Party. The result was a close race - about as close as it can get between three parties. The electoral outcome of such a distribution of votes would be just as tight.
Abacus was last in the field provincially in Ontario on Dec. 7-8, and since then the Progressive Conservatives slipped two points to 33%, while the Liberals gained two points to reach 30% support. The New Democrats were unchanged at 31%, as were the Greens at 5%.

These shifts in support for the Tories and Liberals are within the margin of error (or would be if this was a standard probability sample). In fact, the lead the Tories hold over the NDP as well as the Liberals is also within the margin of error. Though the PCs would have the greatest chances of emerging ahead of the others if a vote was held on Feb. 5-6 (when this poll was in the field), the NDP and Liberals could have also won without this poll being "wrong". It is that close.

Among men, the PCs are doing quite well with 39% support to 29% for the NDP and 27% for the OLP. But among women, the Liberals are ahead 34% to 32% for the NDP and 27% for the Tories. While that is not an unusual gender gap compared to the federal scene or in other provinces, it is nevertheless striking.

Unfortunately, Abacus's last poll did not have detailed regional breakdowns (only GTA and the rest of Ontario), so a look at regional trends since December is not possible.

But in this poll, the Progressive Conservatives had the advantage in eastern Ontario with 41% to 30% for the Liberals and 25% for the NDP, in the GTA with 38% to 30% for the Liberals and 27% for the NDP, and in southwestern Ontario with 37% to 31% for the NDP and 23% for the OLP.

The New Democrats were ahead in northern Ontario with 42% to the Tories' 29% and the Liberals' 20%, while they were also in front in the Hamilton-Niagara region with 39% to 26% for the PCs and 25% for the Liberals.

The Liberals held the lead in Toronto, with 45% to 30% for the NDP and 21% for the Tories. All of these regional results are rather conventional.

The seat projection model for Ontario has been updated to be capable of incorporating regional polling data. After comparing the regional definitions of each of the pollsters active in Ontario, I have adopted a regional breakdown that will be the easiest to use despite every firm's definitions being slightly different.
With this poll's regional data, the model returns 41 seats to the Progressive Conservatives and 33 apiece to the NDP and Liberals.

The PCs win 30 of their seats in eastern, southwestern, and northern Ontario, while being shutout of Toronto. The NDP wins seats in each region of the province, but primarily in the north, in southwestern Ontario, in Toronto, and in the Hamilton-Niagara region. For the Liberals, 27 of their 33 seats come in and around Toronto.

Note that for northern Ontario, Barrie and the two Simcoes are included. This may not seem intuitive, as northern Ontario is generally considered to start at Parry Sound-Muskoka. But this region of Ontario is one of the more confusing ones to map out, as different pollsters put the ridings here in different regions. Barrie, Simcoe-Grey, and Simcoe North are in central Ontario for Ipsos-Reid, eastern and central Ontario for Environics, southwestern Ontario for Angus-Reid, and northern Ontario for Abacus and Forum. As I expect Abacus and Forum to be two of the more active firms on the provincial scene, and since they are the only two who seem to agree on where to place these ridings, they were located in northern Ontario in my model. Tweaks will need to be made to the regional data of other firms to get them to fit right.

This seat breakdown makes for an interesting hypothetical. Would Tim Hudak be able to form a government with 41 seats? He could turn to the Liberals or the NDP for support. Or, the Liberals and New Democrats could work together to form a government with a majority of seats. But who would be the Premier? Kathleen Wynne, who already holds the title, or Andrea Horwath, who narrowly had more of the popular vote?

Ontarians would seem to prefer Horwath, though Wynne is by no means disliked by the population. Abacus found that Horwath has the best favourability ratings of the three leaders, with 34% expressing a positive impression of her. Another 32% said they had a neutral impression, while only 21% had a negative impression. But that is not much different from Wynne's results: 30% positive, 31% neutral, and 21% negative.

Hudak's numbers are much worse, as 44% have a negative impression of him while only 23% have a positive impression (another 23% have a neutral impression). More problematic is that, while Horwath had only 10% with a very negative impression of her and Wynne just 12%, fully 28% of Ontarians said they had a very negative impression of Hudak, including 41% of people in Toronto. Among PC voters in 2011, 17% have a negative impression of Hudak, compared to 5% for Wynne among Liberal voters and 4% for Horwath among New Democrats. That is a problem in our increasingly personality-driven politics.

On who is the best person to be premier, 23% selected Horwath, another 23% selected Wynne, and 20% selected Hudak. Again, a very close result but this would seem to suggest that Hudak is polling worse than his own party (otherwise, he would be the choice for best premier by a whisker).

It is an interesting situation. The Progressive Conservatives have the strongest and seemingly most immovable base, and a good regional distribution of votes that wins them a lot of seats. But Hudak is not on the verge of breaking through among the population, limiting his party's potential gains. The Liberals have the larger base of people who have supported them in the past, and Wynne has good numbers so far, but they have been in government for a very long time and they are struggling to move the dial outside of Toronto and its environs. And the New Democrats have perhaps the most fragile assembly of supporters (as many of them are moving towards the NDP from other parties), though Horwath gives them a lot of upside and the party is doing relatively well in every region of the province. It wouldn't take much to give any one of these leaders the advantage in an election campaign.

48 comments:

  1. So basically those numbers say a Lib-NDP coalition Govt. Libs & NDP will much prefer to cooperate together than let Hudak anywhere near the reins of power !!

    I think the PC's will probably continue to slide if Wynne is in the least "creative" !!

    Meanwhile if Hudak opens his mouth again with another piece of insane stuff like that last one the PC's really are toast !

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    1. With these number both Liberals and NDP may want to wait for a new election rather than form a coalition. The NDP may have a lot to gain by entering government but, the Liberals have equally as much to lose by entering a coalition.

      If Hudak really is as incompetent as you continually say Peter, then both Dippers and Grits may think Conservative self-implosion likely and a majority government around the corner. .

      J.S. MacDonald

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    2. "If Hudak really is as incompetent as you continually say Peter,"

      No JS I don't say that. The majority of the media do. Even here in the PC heartland of Eastern Ontario people simply can't believe the stupid things Hudak comes out with !!

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    3. There was another moment of far-right foot-in-mouth yesterday. When the were rolling out their higher education white paper, Hudak's education critic declared that loans should be tied to marks in order to avoid "rewarding" poor academic performance. Apparently the PCs are so of touch with the reality of expensive education and crushing post-graduation debt that they think loans are a "reward".

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    4. That's also just an expression of a conservative mind... that we aren't entitled to the programmes we've paid for - that somehow that money isn't ours. You know, the way conservatives describe such things as empoyment insurance as programmes we feel [unjustly] "entitled" to...

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    5. To be honest, I find the Tories and the right have a tendency to think that everything the people get from the government are unfair "entitlements".

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    6. TS, as a student, I find the right wing position on education to be incredibly offensive. They apparently think post-secondary education is something you have to earn by working at a job first with no government assistance. Even if you manage to earn enough money to get into post-secondary (which will take years), the more financially privileged students will graduate before you, and you can pretty much forget about finding a job as employers will tend to choose the younger graduates over the older ones. And tell that to the exchange students who aren't allowed to work part time in Canada. Besides, it's a "loan", so whoever receives it will have to return the money sometime in the future anyway. And what about the people who do better in university than in high school? Are they going to have to make do with less because of their past performance? This is just so alienating and incredibly out of touch, same old Tories.

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  2. FWIW in 1975 Ontario had a provincial election and the results were PCs 51 seats, NDP 38 seats and Libs 36 seats - not unlike this projection. Bill David formed a minority government - but he was the incumbent and he was a very different kind of Tory from Tim Hudak.

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    1. In that era the Ontario PCs under Bill Davis were a centrist brokrage party that had strong support in urban areas, while the Ontario Liberals were slightly more rural based and usually were in the right of the political spectrum compared to the PCs.

      It would be hard for the modern day PCs to govern Ontario with a minority. With Ernie Eves or John Tory it could have been possible, but with the way Tim Hudak is going these days, it would be virtually impossible. I don't think the Liberals nor NDP would give Hudak a chance.

      - Maple

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    2. The key is how far off into right field the PCs have gotten compared to the Davis Tories. If you had proposed any of the things in Hudak's series of white papers to Davis, he would have looked at you like you had two heads.

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  3. I live here in Niagara and I really think both Kim Craitor and Jim Bradley are in deep trouble for reelection, they barely hung on last time only due to their own profiles and likability. Would not surpise me at all to see one or both of them lose with the Liberals polling at 30%. Looks like we could see a Liberal Party that no longer exists outside of Toronto and Ottawa, by the way the numbers are coming in.

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  4. As well as a PC Party that does exist in Ottawa, Toronto and only in the fringes of the 905.

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    1. Did you mean to say dosen't? Which is hardly any different than it's been for the last three elections. The PC's have a couple of winnable seats in the outer fringe of both as you state, the core is obviously a write off for a right leaning party.

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  5. Impressive numbers for the Liberals in Toronto. Under Wynne, even if the Liberals lose the next election, they would not implode like their federal counterparts when they got a mere 11 seats in Ontario. On top of the 905 and Ottawa area, the Liberals also have small pockets of support across the province that should guarantee them a minimum of 20-25 seats.

    NDP is consistently strong in Southwestern Ontario and Northern Ontario. Sure the NDP can win ridings from the Liberals in areas like Windsor, Kitchener and London, but can they win rural ridings from the PCs in this region?

    The PCs are losing the popular vote and but are gaining seats in most projections. Vote splitting will work in their favour in some traditional Liberal-PC ridings. But what is Hudak going to do to win over the GTA? Will he become the first premier to not win a single seat in Toronto?

    - Maple

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    1. In 2011, the ONDP won Essex as well as Bramalea--Gore--Malton, so yes, I think they can win in areas you might presume would to to the PCs or Liberals.

      On the other hand they didn't win the Windsor seats and some in Toronto that they hold federally, so obviously they have room for improvement.

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  6. We would be very well served if the Liberal Party went into a sharp decline. The one third of their party that gives the PCs the nod as their second choice would vote PC but also exercise a moderating influence dragging the PCs back to a Bill Davis red Tory position.

    The two thirds of Liberal voters that are left of centre would gravitate to the NDP, as they have in Manitoba.

    The result would be 55%NDP, 40%PC and perhaps 5%Green.

    At that point the NDP could offer Green leaders safe seats and a merger. 60% NDP 40%PC which reflects the real feeling of Ontario.

    This would be the perfect political result and reflect the true feelings of Ontarians.

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    1. Polarization is not healthy for politics. Most voters are not extreme and would prefer a party that can represent the voters who are in the middle of the political spectrum.

      The two-party system in the west is not working because voters are often left with no good alternative if their first choice fumbles. People will be turned away from voting if their "first-choice" party has done a poor job in government and the opposition party has policies that they oppose.

      Take the 1988 election in Manitoba. The incumbent NDP entered the election after fumbling up on auto insurance. Had Manitoba politics featured only the NDP and PCs, I'm pretty sure most NDP voters would be turned off at both options and would stay home. The fact that there was a third party (at the time, the Liberals) allowed disenchanted NDP voters to vote for the Liberals, who had views that were close to the NDP.

      If the Liberal Party were to fold, there is no guarantee that either the NDP or the PCs would move into the centre to accommodate these centrist voters. Just look at the toxic climate in Ottawa right now. Everyday there is just more bickering because the two largest parties are at opposite ends of the spectrum.

      As a side note, the NDP is really the party of protest, so if politics were to return to a two-party system, it would be better to just have the PCs and the Liberals (centre-right and centre-left) since the NDP has not formed government in many provinces that currently feature the three-party (Lib-PC-NDP) system.

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    2. I do agree with Anonymous 14 February, 2013 14:41.

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    3. Since when are the PCs and NDP extreme anymore? There is the same level of bickering and partisanism that there was before May 2011.

      If it were down to two parties, they would both actually be forced become more moderate, if only because they would have to win over centrists and moderates in order to break the deadlock and claim victory.

      And since when are the Liberals left of centre? If Liberal supporters would actually look critically at the behaviour of their party in Parliament they would see that the reality doesn't line up with their wishful thinking. Without the NDP and Greens our elections would just be centre-right vs. right-wing.

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    4. A PC and NDP only political climate would be incredibly dangerous for Canada. I can pretty much see the PCs dismantling everything the NDP have done in government if the PCs take over from the NDP. And likewise with the NDP. I would rather have NDP and Liberal as the two main parties, that way each is less likely to dismantle the work of the other when they are the government.

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    5. By NDP standards, the Liberals are centre-right. Look at the many progressive institution that we have in the country today, they were mostly implemented by Liberal governments. And the Liberals in parliament votes on countless occasions with the NDP, as compared with the very few times they vote with the CPC. This only further suggests the Liberals are not right-wing. And lets not forget why Harper is in power today, it's because the NDP voted with the CPC against the Liberals in 2005, just like many other times they voted with the Conservatives/Reform in Chretien and Martin governments. Truthfully, by the behavior of the NDP in parliament, I see them as only left-wing when Conservatives are in power and not when Liberals are governing. The Liberals, in contrast, are always progressive and centre-left, by national standards.

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    6. The Liberals also voted for the first 5 Tory budgets federally as well as numerous other confidence motion they either abstained from or voted with the Tories.

      C. Sifton

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    7. The last time the Liberals voted against a Tory budget, Harper got a majority in the subsequent election. And that was the budget when Harper refused any Liberal demands whatsoever. Prior to the 2011 budget, the Liberals have tried to worked with Harper on the previous budgets, and the Liberals only voted for the budget after Harper agreed to their demands. The NDP, on the other hand, have did little in working or having any discussion with the government. Their tactics were completely negative. This is why I can't trust the NDP because they don't put the country's interests before their political interests. Even if you are in opposition, you can still work with the government, the NDP have completely failed at that.

      It's also interesting to note that the NDP want a two-party system. Rather than giving Canadians more choices, they want to take away a lot of choices. Yes, they say the NDP and CPC will move towards the centre to get votes if they are the only two parties, but what about the things they will do in government? The CPC moved towards the centre before 2011, and look what they did after they got their majority, they moved to the right again. They can move to the centre in election years, but in government, they will revert to their extreme selves again. This just shows the NDP and CPC does not want to stand up for democracy, and must be kept in check by a minority government in a multi-party system.

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    8. Anon: 1414:

      It is a fallacy to think 66% of Grits would "defect" to the NDP without a Liberal party. Both federally and provincially voters fluctuate between Liberal and Conservative-this is where the median voter is located in Canada.

      Indeed, assuming the majority of Ontario Liberal voters have the NDP as a second preference is dangerous. Rob Ford's election should be a demonstration and reminder. The Liberals and NDP assumed George Smitherman would win and took Toronto and voters for granted.

      What does it say about Ontario when the largest "progressive" jurisdiction votes for a conservative mayor? The average voter leans more centre-right than centre-left.

      J.S. MacDonald

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    9. It's interesting to see these days, all of a sudden the NDP is attacking the Liberals instead of the CPC. They are even suggesting a two party system composed of them and the Tories. This simply shows the NDP does not want to oppose the Tories and would rather have them stick around, as it will benefit them politically by having a monopoly on left wing policy. I suppose the rationale is because the Liberals are gaining in the polls, and the NDP is panicking because the Liberals are the only party that is likely to gain votes from the NDP. If the NDP really want to stand up for progressives, then they should not attack a centrist party and welcome a right wing one as their political roommates. This simply shows the NDP is not the true opposition to the CPC, merely political opportunists.

      C. Mackenzie

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  7. Keep a watch on SWO, especially the bellwether of the London area. With Bentley resigning under a big cloud of controversy, the riding of London-West is a big toss-up unless the Liberals can lean on a star candidate to parachute into that riding. Even in London North Centre there are no solid assurances of a Matthews win given some possible shift in "soft" support. I think what we will see, however, is a quick by-election in London-West and Windsor-Tecumseh to capitalize on a perceived Wynne bump. A full election would probably not be in the offing until Fall at the earliest.

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    1. Don't discount the corruption scandal surrounding Mayor Joe Fontana, a high profile Liberal. He will likely have a negative affect on the Liberal vote. If voters have a bit of memory, they'll also punish the Liberals for their failures to intervene in the Electro-Motive Diesel fiasco.

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  8. By elections coming in August.

    NDP wins Windsor Techumsa and Sudbury, Tories take Londan West what about Ottawa South.

    It could go badly for Wynne. Forum says Windsor goes NDP withoutPupatello.

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    1. Sudbury isn't going to have a by-election, Bartolucci has said he will stay on as an MPP until the next general election.

      London West also looks like much more a toss-up/three-way race. Forum has all three parties pretty close together there.

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  9. There is no byelection happening in Sudbury - Bartolucci is staying through to the next election.

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  10. Today's Ottawa Citizen Page B4

    Ont PC's Big Proposals

    Right-To-Work legislation thus ensuring the complete loss of all union votes

    Removing all-day kindergarten thus losing the vote of every parent with young kids

    Fire thousands of public servants

    Cut business taxes below the current, lowest in North America, ones !!

    Doesn't take a genius to see grasping defeat from victory here !!

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    1. Im beginning to think Hudak is the Manchurian candidate. He has done more to revive Liberal poll numbers than any Liberal leadership candidate.

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    2. Gotta think you've got it right ? Hard to believe such mis-reading of reality !!

      Sort of Teapublican ??

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  11. New Ekos poll: Liberals leading

    http://www.ipolitics.ca/2013/02/15/wynnes-win-breaths-new-life-into-ontario-grits-poll/

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    1. I have to cast some extreme doubt on that poll given the obscenely high Green Party numbers. Does anyone believe for even one second that the Ontario Greens have somehow more than tripled their popular support to over 10% since the last provincial election? I'd bet most Ontarians are hard-pressed to even name their leader.

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    2. That poll even admits right under their own headline "PC support almost certainly understated". My guess is with that high number for the Greens as well that they aren't measuring likely voters. Look's like a bit of a junk poll that being said it seems the polls that have come out so far are showing a tiny bump for Wynne not exactly amazing stuff though and mostly focused in the 416 and GTA where the Liberals were already strong.

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  12. On the Federal level in seems many NDP and some Liberals argue for electoral reform and that the FPTP system is unfair. Why do you not hear this in regards to provincial elections like Ontario. Is it because Conservatives won Federal while they lose Ontario. Is electoral reform only necessary when Conservatives win?

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    1. Nope, electoral reform is always necessary regardless of who benefits from FPTP. I always see tons of left-leaning people (myself included) complaining about FPTP even when our side comes out ahead due to it. In fact, we often use it as an example of how the right can also benefit from a more proportional system. I saw it after the Ontario election, the Manitoba election, the PEI election, and I'm sure it'll happen after the next provincial election the Conservatives lose too.

      Meanwhile the only time I have ever seen a right winger complain about FPTP is when the left benefited. When the right gets a majority with under 50%, all I ever hear is "that's how the system works, quit whining you lefty sore loser" or something very similar. Then people like you show up and call us hypocrites because you weren't paying attention when we came out and said "yeah, McGuinty nearly getting a majority with 37.6% is a bad thing, let's change the system to be more fair".

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    2. Have you already forgotten the 2007 referendum in Ontario? The NDP endorsed electoral reform. The Liberals had gotten the ball rolling, and while they as a party were neutral some of their members openly supported it. It was the Conservatives who were advocating for keeping FPTP.

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    3. Ironically, the PCs would benefit far more from electoral reform in Ontario than the Liberals, yet were far more vociferous in their opposition to it.

      There were certainly a lot of Liberals who support PR, but I wouldn't ignore the number of Liberals on the No-MMP campaign either. I think the 60% threshold for a change from a government that was elected with 46.4% of the vote is pretty ridiculous too. It was typical of such initiatives at the time, but I don't think it's something that's fair or right going forward. New Zealand implemented MMP after a 54% yes vote, and after 18 years of use the support increased to 58%. Hardly a buyers remorse when support for the system has increased as people became more familiar with it.

      I've heard that Ontario's citizen assembly had intended to recommend a system with open lists, but hadn't been able to fully study the (inherently more complex) specifics of a regional open list system. If that's true, I feel that's pretty inexcusable.

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    4. As a New Democrat, I favour PR at both the federal and provincial levels. Sometimes it will benefit my party, and sometimes it won't, but it will be way more fair all around, and surely that's what we should be looking for.

      Opposition to PR almost always flows from the political right wing, and from the party in power. I do wish that the NDP in 1990 had seen its win as the fluke it was, and taken the opportunity to enact PR. Even assuming voting patterns had stayed the same, the province would have been spared a hard lurch to the right under Mike Harris. If we had federal PR, we would have had a much more accountable government during the 13 years of the Chretien/Martin administration.

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    5. IF the NDP in 1990 had acted like social democrats and not like the Liberals and the Conservatives, that too might have avoided the Mike Harris legacy...

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    6. I am getting sick and tired of "self-proclaimed progressives" slag the political right regarding electoral reform. History is clear: electoral reform initiatives have occurred in BC, Ontario, PEI, NB and Quebec under governments that were either right or centre-right on the political spectrum. In provinces that have or had NDP governments the NDP has not initiated talks on the subject much less a referendum. The NDP/ CCF has been the dominant party of Saskatchewan for the last 60 years yet, not once over the course of 5 CCF/NDP premiers has electoral reform been initiated. A similar story exists in Manitoba. Even Darrell Dexter, who has no problem discussing constitutional issues such as Senate abolition, is reluctant to entertain the idea of PR in Nova Scotia.

      The question needs to be asked; why when the NDP is in power do they not initiate electoral reform, even though supposedly it is party policy to do so?

      Opposition to electoral reform flows from "left-wing" political types or NDP grandees as often if not more so than Liberals or Conservatives. Certainly in BC during our electoral reform referenda many within the NDP were leery about reform. Although BCNDP policy was officially neutral talk of the implications of electoral reform were rampant. Most NDPers in BC recognised that electoral reform would diminish NDP chances of ever forming government or at least a government that could implement NDP policy a la Dave Barrett.

      PR what ever the type, is not inherently "more fair" than FPTP. As we often see with PR systems the result is smaller parties exert "undue" influence far beyond their votes or seats in Parliament. How is it fair for 5% or less of voters to effectively veto legislation or policy? I admit 37.6% support is not an overwhelming mandate to govern but, 5% or 15% is no mandate at all- save to be an opposition party.

      As for accountability we saw how Jack Layton acted when Paul Martin had a minority government. Layton asked for and received spending concessions on a number of important programs but, Layton was not responsible for how the money he requested was spent. Nor could he be if responsible government and ministerial responsibility works properly. If anything accountability declined during those years of minority government since, people not in government were calling the shots.

      Finally, I believe the 60% threshold for change fair since reform would effectively alter or change our constitutional system and many citizens would find their influence and or representation diminish. A lower threshold would probably gain more widespread acceptance if like New Zealand a second referendum was held at a later date to either ratify or rescind the change. However, it should be noted that in the case of New Zealand electoral reform was part of a much larger discussion involving constitutional convention regarding the prime minister, a possible renewed second chamber, Maori rights etc...

      Simon Fraser Tolmie

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  13. My guess: If Wynne reaches deal with the OSSTF, Libs will go up some more in the polls.

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    1. My guess is that if the OLP reaches a deal they'll go to an election soon afterwards.

      J.S. MacDonald

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  14. EKOS new poll

    Federal Tories 29% NDP 26 Lib 24

    Ontario Lib 33% PC 29 NDP 26

    Convention bounce?


    http://www.ekospolitics.com/wp-content/uploads/full_report_on_february_16_2013.pdf

    George O.

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  15. A.S., only the NDP thinks the result of hard work is "wishful thinking". To the Liberals, hard work means fixing Ottawa, rolling up our sleeves and getting the job done.

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