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Ontario campaign season begins

With the Ontario election fast approaching, Global has launched Beyond the Ballot to provide an in-depth look at the parties, people and issues around the 2018 Ontario provincial campaign. We’ll be releasing weekly updates and sector-specific content to keep your organization up-to-date as Election Day draws closer.

Debates, Debates, Debates: Campaign season begins

The campaign unofficially opened last night with the first of the party leaders debates. The Jamaican Canadian Association hosted the debate, which focused on issues facing the black community. Premier Kathleen Wynne, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner all participated, while PC Leader Doug Ford was noticeably absent due to campaigning in Northern Ontario.

During the debate, Wynne found herself playing defence against a visibly frustrated audience on the issues of police tactics, schools and the intersection of the two. It wasn’t all negative, though: Wynne was applauded by the audience for her government’s minimum wage hike to $14, free childcare plan and government-funded prescription drug coverage for seniors and youth. All three attending leaders agreed with Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner’s expression of disappointment in Ford’s absence, noting “I sincerely wish all four party leaders were here tonight…I believe this conversation is too important for anyone to skip.”

Earlier in the day, Premier Kathleen Wynne released an open letter to Ford, in which she challenged him to attend “at least three televised debates” before the June 7 election. Ford responded in a colourful fashion.

The next scheduled leader’s debate is on May 7, as Wynne, Horwath, and Schreiner will take part in an afternoon youth town hall at the Daniels Spectrum organized by the Laidlaw Foundation, TVO, For Youth Initiative and Twitter Canada. Ford has yet to confirm his attendance.


Dropping the writ: how the electoral process starts

For an election to occur, the Premier must meet with the head of state (in Ontario’s case, the Lieutenant-Governor) and advise them that she would like to call an election. Parliamentary convention dictates that the Lieutenant-Governor takes the advice of the Premier, and grants the request.

Once permission has been granted, the Chief Electoral Officer is given notice to draft the writs of election – legal documents prepared for each riding that provide official notice that the electoral process is now underway. Once the writs of election are issued the campaign begins and lasts 28 days..

Similar to the federal process, Ontario has fixed election dates. In 2005, Dalton McGuinty passed the Election Statute Law Amendment Act which requires elections to be held on the first

Thursday in October every 4 years. With the overlap of the municipal election this fall, the Premier passed an amendment to the legislation to move Ontario’s election day to June 7.

In the case of the upcoming election, the Premier is expected to meet with Lieutenant-Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell in early May, with the writ dropped on Tuesday, May 9.


Lost in Translation: the challenge of transposing polling to election results

Global Insights: by Hershell Ezrin

Politicians are fond of saying that the only poll that counts is on election day. For those ahead, they do not want to lull their supporters into a premature sense of security, while those behind in the polls want to blunt any sense of partisan discouragement and let down.

Why the continued focus on horse-race polling by media, the political junkies and the public alike? Its rooted in the human desire for certainty in disruptive times. For the media, polling is a simple and highly cost-effective way to report on the lead up to elections. It draws few resources from straitened budgets to compile but is eminently newsworthy and headline friendly. In offering numbers and exclusive instant ‘analysis’ at little or no cost to their media patrons, research firms promote their own reputations while doing business development.

But the polls have been consistently wrong across continents. As pollsters scramble to explain each successive missed polling projection (Brexit, US Presidential 2016, BC election and numerous special elections in the USA), we need only to look at the nature of the various political systems for an explanation. In the Canadian first past the post system, results are complicated by multi-party vote splits, low voter turnouts, the relative strength of campaign organizations and advertising, and local constituency factors including a profile of candidates and incumbencies.  Efforts to project trends on a multi-riding basis are fraught with intangibles and assumptions taken to make various models work.  Today, researchers rarely poll sufficient people in a region or riding frequently enough to present an accurate story about election day results in specific areas.

Prediction is still an art form rather than a science, even with recent innovations like enhanced exit polling, poll of polls and constituency swing meters.

Political parties do care about the polling numbers but they often focus on different questions than the media cover. Since polls represent snapshots in time of what is a fluid campaign period, the campaign strategists concentrate on momentum shifts (which party or candidate are you likely to vote for and which party is likely to win) rather than a simple ballot choice. They look at numerous psychographic criteria to ascertain where and whom their organizers should focus to get out the vote, identified or not. And they glean clear indicators about what issues might become hot buttons to motivate their own or opponent partisans.

In a tight election in a multi-party system like ours, polls can be as much a campaign tactic as a picture of reality. Leaking fake news polls can serve to impact your own partisans; consistent bad news polls in the run-up to elections can lead strategic voters to choose one candidate over another as the best to limit another party’s victory overall.


A refresher: Ontario’s voting system and process

Ontario operates on the first-past-the-post voting system which elects the candidate who wins the majority of votes. As a single-member based constituency system, Ontario’s electoral system elects one person who receives the most votes in the specific riding or constituency.

To form a majority government, one party must win a minimum of 63 seats for the elected Leader of that party to become Premier and then appoint his or her cabinet. Should no party reach the majority threshold, a minority would be made up of one or more parties relying on the support of each other (formal or informal) to continue governing. This dynamic has been seen in Ontario before (October 2011) and is currently in place in British Columbia.

Elections Ontario is responsible for administering elections. To vote, you must be registered with a current address for Elections Ontario to add your name to the Voters List. First step: confirm you are registered to vote here. To register or update your information, you must upload a piece of identification with your full name and address. Once registered, you are ready to cast your vote on June 7th. Polls are open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. EST. In addition to voting on election day, Elections Ontario administers voting in advanced polls or by special ballot at a returning office or by mail.

Remember to bring a piece of identification with you as Elections Ontario officials will need to verify your information before casting your ballot. A list of acceptable forms of identification can be found here.


Global will be providing extensive coverage of the provincial election through our new Beyond the Ballot updates – stay tuned!


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