Ontario’s election has become a three-way horse race in a matter of weeks, with frontrunner Tim Hudak’s hope for a majority government slipping away on the eve of the campaign’s official launch
Two recently released polls show that, while the Progressive Conservative leader still holds a lead over the governing Liberals, the race is tightening.
An Angus-Reid survey shows the Tories holding a seven-point edge over the Liberals (38 per cent to 31 per cent), but that is a far cry from the double-digit lead the PCs enjoyed as recently as July. The New Democrats, at 24 per cent, are also gaining ground.
A poll by Forum Research shows an even closer race, with the Tories leading the Liberals by 35 per cent to 30 per cent. That is a three point drop for the PCs since Forum’s last poll conducted in July, and a two point gain for the Liberals. While the shifts are not very statistically significant, this is the second consecutive poll reporting a narrowing gap between the two parties.
Forum Research also shows the NDP gaining support, with 26 per cent of respondents saying they plan to vote for Andrea Horwath’s party.
Perhaps most significant is that in neither poll do the PCs have enough support to win a majority government, according to ThreeHundredEight.com’s seat projection model.
The Angus-Reid numbers would result in a Tory minority with 52 seats, two short of the majority threshold. The Liberals would win 34 and the NDP 21. The only silver lining for Hudak is that this sort of spread would make it very difficult for Dalton McGuinty to hold on to power.
The Forum poll would result in a much more fractured legislature, with the PCs taking 44 seats to the Liberals’ 39. Hudak would be hard pressed to find enough support from either the Liberal or NDP caucuses (the latter numbering 24 MPPs) to govern. This sort of scenario would more likely result in an NDP-supported Liberal minority government.
In order to return to majority territory, the Progressive Conservatives will need to improve their numbers in Toronto. Both Angus-Reid and Forum Research show the Liberals holding a comfortable lead in Ontario’s largest city, though both also show the Tories ahead in the Greater Toronto Area’s suburban “905” area code. The two polls also agree that the PCs are ahead in southwestern and eastern Ontario.
Where the two polls disagree is on the northern part of the province, understandably considering the small sample sizes used to plot support in the region. Both show the north to be the NDP’s strongest region, and Horwath is likely to take a large swathe of seats from the Liberals in this part of the province.
But the worst bit of news in the polls for Hudak must be in the leadership numbers. McGuinty is now polling better than Hudak on the question of who would make the better premier, according to Forum Research, with McGuinty at 35 per cent to Hudak’s 34 per cent. A statistical tie, but this is the second consecutive poll showing McGuinty’s leadership numbers improving and Hudak’s declining. Not a positive trend for the Tory leader.
The poll by Angus-Reid was conducted for the Toronto Star between August 25 and 28, and surveyed 1,002 online panelists in Ontario. The margin of error of a random sample of that size is +/- 3.1%, 19 times out of 20. The poll by Forum Research was conducted for the National Post between August 29 and 30, and surveyed 2,310 Ontarians with an IVR telephone system. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 2.0%, 19 times out of 20.
Éric Grenier taps The Pulse of federal and regional politics for Huffington Post Canada readers on Tuesdays and Fridays. Grenier is the author of ThreeHundredEight.com, covering Canadian politics, polls and electoral projections.