With a Liberal minority government in Ontario, an election can happen anytime. If an election was held today, according to a new poll, the Ontario Liberals would be reduced to third party status while the surging NDP would be an official opposition. There would be a new Premier in Ontario named Tim Hudak.
Barely a year after forming a historic third term in office, the Liberals, have been reduced to 28 per cent of support according to the projection by ThreeHundredEight.com. For Tim Hudak's Conservatives, it would be a return to government from the Mike Harris and Ernie Eves days. According to the same poll, the NDP will not be far behind at 29.9 per cent of support with a healthy number of seats to have sway in the direction of the next government.
Even an outsider like the Ontario Greens are making an impression on Ontarians. On the heels of electing a deputy Leader who is a black Canadian Judith Van Veldhuysen, and offering passionate perspectives on a slew of issues, the Ontario Greens, under the passionate leadership of 43-year-old Mike Schreiner are at all-time high at six per cent.
The same poll also indicated that no party would be in a position to form a majority government. The prospect of another minority government is real. In the recent two minority governments in Ontario, the Liberals have been huge players. Both times, they were tasked with the privilege of being in government.
This time, however, according to the poll, the Liberals might play the role that has traditionally been reserved for a third ranking party the NDP: influence from the outside looking in.
The poll predicts that the New Democrats, who currently hold 17 seats at Queen's Park, would likely win 29 seats and become the Official Opposition under Andrea Horwath. The Liberals, meanwhile, would be reduced to only 26 seats.
The last time a similar scenario happened in Canada was in Nova Scotia in 1999. Premier John Savage had left politics to be replaced by a former backbench Liberal MP in Russell MacLellan. In an election that was held in a year, the Liberals were reduced to minority government status. The provincial NDP was at an all-time high of 19 seats and Dr. John Hamm's Conservatives had 14 seats.
The Liberal Premier had no choice but to work with the Conservatives to survive. In the next provincial election, the Liberals were defeated and the Conservatives were elected to a majority government of 30 seats out of 52. In subsequent elections, the government of Nova Scotia would go back and forth between the Conservatives and the NDP while the Liberals were reduced to very minor status in the governing of the province.
If Premier Dalton McGuinty wants to protect a great legacy he has attained for himself and his party and not repeat the Nova Scotia experience here in Ontario, he can do something about it. He could call an immediate by-election in Kitchener-Waterloo to replace the departing Elizabeth Witmer and do all he can to win the seat for the Liberals. Polls indicate it's the Liberals to lose.
A win for McGuinty in the riding would create the prefect exit from provincial politics for the Premier. That way, he can add three majority governments to his personal historical credit and make way for a new leader for his party. He has to do that fast before the next provincial election.
If he decides to prolong his stay, he might create a vacuum of the great potential leadership that can rejuvenate the Liberal brand and win back government once again. For inspiration, he can look to his federal cousins. They learned it the hard way.
Follow Samuel Getachew on Twitter: www.twitter.com/GetachewS