Ontario’s NDP, Liberals agree on a lot. But not on how to beat Doug Ford

The Ontario New Democrat and Liberal leaders are jockeying over who is best placed to stop Doug Ford from winning a second term as premier, and whether anti-Ford voters should even take that into account when they go to the polls.

The provincial election campaign is due to begin in just three weeks, with election day slated for June 2.

Polls published in the past few months have consistently suggested the Progressive Conservatives are the choice of nearly 40 per cent of voters, giving Ford’s party a shot at another majority. 

The polls have been less consistent about which party is in second place, but the theme that emerges from that inconsistency is that neither the NDP nor the Liberal Party has emerged as the sole alternative capable of defeating the PCs. 

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath is now trying to change that with what she calls a “straight up” appeal to Liberal voters to cast a strategic ballot for her party. 

“Voting NDP is the way to prevent Ford from being re-elected as the premier,” Horwath said Tuesday. 

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath makes an announcement during a rally in Toronto earlier this month. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

“I’m asking folks who may have decided in the past to vote Liberal to keep Conservatives out to recognize that this time, that’s not the strategy,” Horwath said. “This time, that strategy will split the vote and cause Doug Ford to come up the middle.” 

Horwath argues that the NDP, building from the 40 seats it won in the last election, is better positioned to take down the PCs than the Liberals, who suffered the worst electoral result in their history in 2018 with just seven seats. 

“With all due respect to the other opposition parties, the New Democratic team is the strongest team,” she said during a news conference over Zoom on Tuesday.

Speaking a few hours after Horwath, Del Duca rejected her pitch and said he won’t be making such a call.    

“You’re not going to hear me talk about strategic voting,” Del Duca said during a news conference in Brampton. “You’re not going to hear me talk about anything other than our team and our ideas.” 

Ontario Liberal Party Leader Steven Del Duca high-fives candidates after speaking in Toronto in March. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

Del Duca said voters who live busy lives and aren’t focused on politics don’t discuss strategic voting at the kitchen table.

“I don’t think they … slice and dice what numbers look like from this poll or that poll,” Del Duca said 

Encouraging strategic voting in PC-held ridings in Toronto is central to the mission of a newly launched volunteer group called Not One Seat. It aims to to persuade voters to pick the candidate best positioned to defeat the PCs in each riding, regardless of party stripe.

The group is focusing its efforts on the 11 seats the Progressive Conservatives won in Toronto in 2018, on the basis that defeat in those ridings could deny Ford’s party a majority.

“We like to describe it as voting smart,” the group’s founder Tim Ellis said in an interview Tuesday. 

Tim Ellis is the founder of Not One Seat, an activist group run by volunteers aiming to persuade voters to cast their ballots strategically for the party best positioned to defeat Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives in each seat in Toronto. (Tim Ellis)

While he understands that some partisans may not want to shift their vote, Ellis says he believes that for a lot of people in Toronto, their motivation to see a change in government outweighs party allegiances.   

“As much as there are certainly valid policy differences between the non-Ford parties, there’s also a lot more that unites us than divides us, and so we want to appeal to that unity,” Ellis said.  

While Horwath and Del Duca have different takes on strategic voting, the two of them demonstrated clearly Tuesday how they’re fishing in the same pool of voters. Each leader held a news conference to mark Equal Pay Day by revealing related campaign promises. 

Horwath announced a plan to shore up the child-care system by promising a minimum wage of $25 an hour for early childhood educators and $20 an hour for other daycare workers. 

Del Duca announced a range of platform items aimed at working women, including $10-a-day before- and after-school care (Ontario’s recent agreement with the federal government for $10 per day child care applies only to kids aged five and under).

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