Ontarians will most likely elect a new premier on June 7 and according to a poll released yesterday by the Toronto Star, NDP leader Andrea Horwath is firmly in majority government territory with a whopping 47 per cent support.
If the polling stands, this could be a replay of 2015 in Alberta, with Premier Kathleen Wynne playing the role of former PC premier Jim Prentice, falling from first to third place.
Ontario PC leader Doug Ford in this scenario is then-Wildrose leader Brian Jean, whose party scared away more moderate voters who hungered for change, but not the kind on offer from the right.
This leaves the two NDP leaders, Rachel Notley and Horwath, as kindred spirits — both charismatic female leaders who lean left politically.
Of course, the Ontario Liberals have been in power for 15 years, whereas the Alberta PCs were in charge for 44, but in both cases voters grew tired of the party brand and wanted something different.
Another difference is that the Ontario NDP, unlike their Albertan cousins, have been in power before.
The tenure of former premier Bob Rae — now a Liberal — is generally agreed to have been disastrous on both the right and left.
Rae tried to please all and ended up alienating just about everyone.
This culminated with the now-notorious “Rae Days.”
In order to save the province money, as credit agencies were concerned with Ontario’s mounting debt, Rae required all public sector workers to take an unpaid day off each month.
This saved the province money, but it was still highly indebted and unions, a traditional base of NDP support, weren’t pleased with having workers’ signed collective agreements unilaterally revoked.
But as it currently stands, Ontarians seem willing to forgive the NDP for Rae’s sins.
A lot of this has to do with the allegations of electoral dirty tricks engulfing Ford, whose family name is already synonymous with misbehaviour and scandal.
Ford took over the party in a snap leadership race after former leader Patrick Brown was forced to resign due to allegations of sexual impropriety, which Brown strongly denies.
But the scandals didn’t end with Brown’s resignation.
First the Ford campaign used stolen data from the private 407 Express Toll Route highway north of Toronto to target 60,000 potential voters.
Now Ford stands accused of offering free party memberships two years ago for people to vote for candidate Kinga Surma, a former member of his brother’s mayoral team.
The Wynne campaign released a recording of Ford doing this. He didn’t deny its authenticity.
To make matters worse, Surma’s opponent for the nomination, Pina Martino, says Ford tried to intimidate her out of dropping her candidacy by following her home.
So how does this relate to Alberta’s election next year?
If the NDP can win in Ontario more than two decades after Rae’s disastrous tenure, the party would gain momentum in provincial elections across the country.
The NDP seem to have the most success when they’re the underdog. This was the case in Alberta in 2015, B.C. in 2017 and federally in 2011.
No doubt, Notley’s government will be the underdog in 2019, with all polls indicating a UCP sweep outside of Edmonton and parts of Calgary.
Notley’s success will also depend on how many former PC supporters will go with former Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel’s Alberta Party, siphoning off soft-right voters from the UCP and splitting the conservative vote, as was the case in 2015.
Although the Ontario election currently appears to be a repeat of Alberta in 2015, it remains to be seen if Notley can pull off the same.
But it would be unwise to write her off in this era of political uncertainty.
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