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Will Doug Ford be Andrew Scheer’s Kathleen Wynne?

Something similar happened to Justin Trudeau’s likability because of Kathleen Wynne’s policy decisions. For Ford it is likely his handling of student loans and grants; for Wynne it was her highly controversial carbon tax crusade.

Dylan Gibbons Montreal QC

Doug Ford’s provincial policies and public image may negatively impact Andrew Scheer’s campaign in the 2019 elections, pushing Ontario voters away from Scheer due to their contempt for Ford.

A recent poll, released July 13 by Corbett Communications, shows that Liberals currently lead by 5 points in Ontario, with 38% favourability for Liberals compared to the Conservative’s 33%.

While such a margin is easily surmountable with strong rhetoric and popular appeal during the primaries, the most important point to keep in mind is what the poll showed regarding Doug Ford’s effect on potential voter turnout in the Federal Elections.

The poll goes on to show that “Six-in-ten voters now say they are less likely to vote for Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives because of Ford’s policies, an increase of 6 points since last month”.

This figure represents roughly one fifth of the Conservative’s federal base, quite a significant proportion.

Another poll, released June 16 by Corbett Communications, found similar problems with Ford’s effect on federal voting plans.  According to the poll, “More than one half of Ontario voters agree Ford’s policies in Ontario make them less likely to vote for Andrew Scheer’s federal Conservatives in the next federal election (54%).” They added, “This includes one fifth of Ontarians who voted Conservative in the last federal election (21%).”

If the poll is accurate, this means that Ford is potentially causing the federal Conservative Party of Canada to lose voters.

Of course, the reliability of polling is always a matter of debate. Was the sample pre-selected and not random; is it truly representative of the whole or just representative of a small subgroup within; were the questions used loaded? These are all important questions to keep in mind when looking at any polling results.

With that said, it isn’t hard to imagine what policy decisions may have had a long-lasting negative effect on Ontario voters’ overall view of the Conservative Party. Namely, Ford’s decision to lower or eliminate many post-secondary grants as a means of lowering overall tuition costs by 10% likely had a dampening effect on younger voters’ opinions, and possibly their parents who may feel obliged to flip the bill.

It may be good for students in the long run, certainly they’ll have less debt, but immediate negative financial factors are rarely swallowed readily, regardless of your political loyalties.

Something similar happened to Justin Trudeau’s likability because of Kathleen Wynne’s policy decisions. For Ford it is likely his handling of student loans and grants; for Wynne it was her highly controversial carbon tax crusade.

As of June 2019, Canadians are twice as likely to believe that a carbon tax will make businesses less competitive, according to a Nanos report. While this figure is higher than when Wynne was in office, it’s indicative of the trend which began under her watch and contributed to her loss to Ford.

As the CBC wrote in 2017, “Polls by three different firms in recent months suggest that just 13 to 16 per cent of voters approve of the job Wynne’s doing,” one of the lowest premier approval ratings in history. They go on to cite apathy resulting from her inflammatory hydro policies that led to sky high electricity costs resulting from her environmental concerns around oil and gas use. The carbon tax was, at the time, at the fore of this controversial stance and policy.

As the most visible premier of the Liberal Party at the time, this, of course, negatively impacts Trudeau’s image. They are affiliated, not only by party but because their sharing of policy stances are generally assumed, and often confirmed.

This is still significant as environmental issues and climate change are more pressing than ever in Canada.

Currently, Canadians are split down the middle on the issue of a carbon tax. As a Nanos poll shows, “48 per cent of Canadians say the government should use carbon taxes to help fight climate change, while 44 per cent say there are better ways to fight climate change than a carbon tax. With such a divide it’s sure to be a major talking point and hydro bills under Wynne will inevitably be brought up.

However, the important difference between the instances I’ve just shown is that Wynne is out, and Ford is still in. Wynne is no longer a major constituent of the Liberal Party, but Ford is still seen as very representative of the Conservative agenda.

Furthermore, the coming Federal Election does not look like it will be based on positive support of one candidate’s policies but on negative prevention tactics.

As the Angus Reid Institute reported in May, “Currently, one-in-three voters (35%) say that they are planning to vote for a party because they dislike another party even more and want to prevent that party from winning.” They further added, “This sentiment is equally high among Liberals (40%) and Conservatives (40%).”

They go on to show that while Andrew Scheer sits at a 40% approval versus 46% disapproval and Trudeau sits at 28% approval versus 67% disapproval rating, all candidates of the three major parties have higher negative net approval scores.

This means that, come election time, every negative action or policy a candidate can point to from the other will become more significant than whatever positive policy they are offering, and no example will be off the table.

While Trudeau can point to Ford as an active example, Scheer won’t be able to levy blame at Wynne nearly as easily. She’s already out; he’s still in. For this reason, there’s a strong chance that provincial politics will play a major role in the federal election for both candidates, and it won’t be good for either of them.


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