Picking out election results is a bit of a mugs game. Even pollsters I know won’t make seat projections because there are too many variables.
Well they won’t make projections because they rely on their science, their math. To do otherwise would damage their professional reputations. I make projections based on their scientific work, knowing how to read beyond top line poll numbers, how demographics impact voting results, conversations with people on the ground……and gut instinct.
So below are my predictions, but first, my track record.
I don’t have a perfect record but when I put my own preferences aside and look at the facts on the ground, I have a pretty good track record.
In 2011 I called the Conservative majority within a seat. I had the CPC winning more seats than their campaign chair had in the office pool I’m told. When few thought the Brexit vote would tilt leave, I called it. In the 2016 American Presidential race I called Trump the winner on air days before it happened and picked most of the states that would get him there.
I don’t recall doing a seat projection for the 2015 federal election. Obviously I called it for the Liberals but could not have predicted the Atlantic sweep, nor did I see the strength in Quebec. But in that campaign, I didn’t really focus. It was over.
So today, I have three scenarios. My high mark for the PCs, which is what I am leaning toward happening. The mid-mark, where things could land. And my nightmare.
The PC High Mark
If all goes well for the PCs then I see them winning 81 seats, the NDP 39 and the Liberals 4. This is the nightmare scenario for the Liberals and the dream scenario for the PCs. Despite more than doubling their seats if this scenario comes true, the NDP would not be happy.
So how can this happen if the PCs and NDP are so close in overall polls?
Vote efficiency and infrastructure.
I’m not going to claim that the NDP are only popular in downtown cores. The party has done a great job at expanding their base and convincing progressive voters that they are the alternative on the left to Kathleen Wynne’s left leaning Liberals. But the NDP support is not widespread enough where it counts and their infrastructure in many areas is not strong enough to deliver the votes.
That means we will see three way splits won by the PC candidate or the PCs simply out muscle the NDP on the ground.
Getting people to the polls, reminding people to vote, having the infrastructure to call, text, drive people to vote matters. If you don’t believe me, go ask Mitt Romney why he lost to Barack Obama in 2012.
In addition to all of this, PC voters are more motivated. We all know that older voters are more likely to vote than younger voters. The PCs have the 40+ crowd, the NDP has the under 40 crowd. We also know from several polls that PC voters are more determined to vote.
If this were a “youthquake” election I wouldn’t be making this prediction.
The PC Mid Mark
In this scenario, which is very plausible but less likely to me, the PCs would take 70 seats, the NDP 45 and the Liberals would retain official party status at 9.
My main problem with this scenario is where the Liberals get 9 seats.
I think the Liberal voters that will switch to the NDP have already done so and many more Liberal voters will simply feel rejected and stay home. We saw this happen at the federal level between the times Jean Chretien led the Liberal Party and Justin Trudeau took over. Millions of Liberals just didn’t vote. If hardcore Liberals show up, they keep official party status, if not, see above….or perhaps below.
For the NDP this scenario still means opposition but almost tripling their seat count. Expect pickups in Toronto, Ottawa, Hamilton, Windsor, London and Northern Ontario among others. In this scenario the NDP isn’t able to steal all the Liberal vote but are able to convince enough Liberal voters to switch sides to have a very strong opposition.
For the PCs this means a still strong majority – 63 seats needed to get a majority – but not a dominant majority. If the party wins this they will be very happy and be able to govern. Strength wise it would be similar to the majority that Trudeau won in 2015.
What? Haven’t I been clear? I don’t want the NDP to win, I think it would be bad for Ontario and Canada. Yet there is still a path, albeit a narrow path, for a major NDP upset.
For this to happen the Liberal vote would have to collapse behind the NDP to stop a Doug Ford led PC majority.
I’ve seen this sort of thing happen at the riding level, in federal and provincial elections before but never across the board at the provincial or federal level.
For the NDP to win this election they really needed to win the youth vote, which they have. But they also needed to motivate them to get out and vote and I don’t sense that happening here.
Of course I could be proven wrong and it wouldn’t be the first time.
This election is about change but this time the sense I get is that the change is coming from middle aged and older voters who are fed up with the government in charge and don’t want more of the same. Andrea Horwath is for the most part, more of the same. She held up the Liberal minority, voted with the Liberals on a regular basis and mainly complained they didn’t spend fast enough.
When one of the main complaints of voters is too much spending, vowing to spend more and faster isn’t a winning pitch.
I stand to be proven wrong 12 hours from now and will take my laurels or my brickbats at that time.