Ontario’s election saw the Liberals returned to power, but reduced in stature to minority status. They won 53 seats, and a majority required 54. I wrote a blog entry, prior to the official start of the campaign, that noted; “Events of the past 2 weeks have made it much more likely that the new government could be the same as the old one.” I didn’t have the courage to predict that – in fact I said a PC minority was the most likely scenario. But I did, in hindsight, provide the roadmap for a train-wreck; a map that the Hudak campaign followed.
Early reporting provides a record low voter turnout of 49.2%. Of those votes, the Liberals won 37.6%, the PC’s 35.6%, the NDP 22.7%, and the Greens, 2.9%. I’ve used the registered voter count, for Ontario, from May’s federal election – an election where the Conservative Party acquired about 2.45 million votes, and a large majority of Ontario seats (73). I noted in the earlier blog entry that; “for the PC’s to win a majority they need over half a million, and perhaps closer to a million, Ontarians to chose to vote for them instead of choosing not to vote at all. Apathy is as great, or greater, an opponent as the Liberals or the NDP.“
I was right. While Tim Hudak may draw solace from the historical fact first time leaders don’t do well, I don’t think the PC's should expect to win a 3rd term in the elections of 2027, with a lower share of eligible voters than he got yesterday – but that would be exactly the precedent from the Liberal loss in 1995, to their 3-peat win yesterday.
Compared to the previous election, in 2007, both Hudak’s PC, and Andrea Horwath’s NDP, parties could take some encouragement that their parties were more popular, amongst all eligible voters, than in 2007.
Both, however, did much poorer than their federal counterparts did, in Ontario, during May’s federal election. Early indicators are that 37% of the people who voted for the NDP in May did not do so in yesterday’s provincial election. For Hudak’s Progressive Conservative party, the drop was actually lower, at 32% fewer votes than Prime Minister Harper’s Conservative party - but that 32% represents over 800,000 votes.
Premier McGuinty’s Liberals did better than Michael Ignatieff’s federal Liberals, who won only 11 seats, did. But only 12% better. I’d have to look at individual seat data, but my suspicion is that 12% is probably a fair figure for the number of votes that are bought with the benefits of incumbency. The Liberal vote was rather compact, and the outlying Liberal victories (those not in the Greater Toronto Area) came largely in the secondary urban areas with incumbent cabinet ministers.
Mr. Hudak remained on a script based on warring with Mr. McGuinty. I don’t think he’s permanently damaged by the loss. All new Ontario leaders are expected to lead their parties to a loss in their first campaign. But he should take a cue on 24X7 campaigning from the federal Conservatives. Hour 1 of day 1 should be replacing his party’s strategists.
That might make for a difficult home life, but a good adviser might let him know potential voters really don’t want to hear about the either.