POLITICS
10/04/2011 05:29 EDT | Updated 12/04/2011 05:12 EST

Ontario Election: Dalton McGuinty's Liberals Seize Momentum Ahead Of Vote

CP

With two days remaining before Ontario votes, the Liberals appear to be gaining momentum in the neck-and-neck race.

The polls point to improving Liberal fortunes. As of yesterday, the Liberals led in four of the last nine polls, though in many cases the lead was statistically insignificant. But in the 23 polls that were released before that, stretching back to 2010, the Liberals only led in three.

For an incumbent government run by a relatively unpopular premier gunning for his third consecutive term, the Liberals should be doing much worse. If the desire for change has not sunk McGuinty after four weeks of campaigning, it is unlikely to spring up in the last few days.

The Liberals have also received high-profile endorsements from the Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail, along with a spate of endorsements from several regional newspapers. The importance of the endorsements by the Star and Globe are compounded by the fact the newspapers endorsed the New Democrats and Conservatives, respectively, in the most recent federal election.

Though the Progressive Conservatives have picked up the endorsement of the National Post, the snub by the reliably conservative Sun Media network is a strong indication of how lacklustre Hudak’s campaign has been.

Whether endorsements have a serious influence on the public's voting intentions or not is arguable, but they do seem to capture the feelings of the electorate.

Election results outside the province might also point toward troubled waters for the Tories. Prince Edward Island elected a strong Liberal majority government last night, while Manitobans may hand the New Democrats a fourth consecutive mandate tonight. Though the Liberals are expected to have a poor showing in Manitoba, the defeat of the Progressive Conservatives may add one more nail in the coffin for provincial Tories.

However, if Progressive Conservative leader Hugh McFadyen somehow does pull off a win in Manitoba, it might just be the bit of good news Tim Hudak needs. On the other hand, the perception that too many provincial and municipal governments are becoming aligned with the federal Conservatives may also affect voters' decisions.

Such a close race leaves a lot of uncertainty. Will each of the parties manage to get out their vote? Will the New Democrats maintain their current high levels of support and, if so, will they split the vote in some of the tight races in suburban Toronto? Who will benefit if an uneventful campaign leads to low voter turnout?

Thursday night might deliver a minority or a majority, a PC government or the re-election of the McGuinty Liberals. The only thing we can know for sure is that it's going to be a long night.

Éric Grenier taps The Pulse of federal and regional politics for Huffington Post Canada readers on most Tuesdays and Fridays. Grenier is the author of ThreeHundredEight.com, covering Canadian politics, polls and electoral projections.