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BC New Democrats Take Government in Historic Transition

July 18, 2017

John Horgan was officially sworn in as Premier, with the intention of leading a socially progressive BC government for the next four years focused on families, improved access to social services and job growth. Today marks the next step, and not necessarily the last step in this unfolding political drama. Read out full analysis here.


Brad Lavigne Joins Counsel Public Affairs

July 17, 2017

Counsel Public Affairs is pleased to announce it is acquiring Forward Public Affairs, and that founder Brad Lavigne is joining Counsel as Principal and Vice President, Western Canada. “There are few Canadian political strategists who are as respected, connected and accomplished as Brad Lavigne,” said Counsel President Phil Dewan. Click here for the press release.


Job Posting: Senior Consultant, Federal Advocacy

May 30, 2017

Based in Ottawa, the Senior Consultant, Federal Advocacy, will be a critical member of Counsel Public Affairs’ growing federal government relations practice. At Counsel, our team of government and public relations strategists offer a tailored approach to each client’s unique public affairs needs. As a senior consultant, you will be expected to work closely with our leadership team to solve problems and deliver results for clients, with a focus on the federal government. We’re looking for a strategic thinker and relationship builder with a passion for public affairs. Applicants should have 7-10 years of experience in government relations, policy and strategic communications, working in government, politics, agency, corporate or association settings. Click here for the full job posting in English and French.


Balanced and Bold: Balanced Budget and Strong Economic Growth Allow Wynne Government to Pivot to Activist Pre-Election Agenda

April 27, 2017

This afternoon, Finance Minister Charles Sousa tabled his fifth Ontario Government Budget, A Stronger, Healthier Ontario. This budget, the first to achieve balance in Ontario since the global financial crisis in 2008, fulfills the Government’s 2014 election commitment to balance the budget by 2017-18 after several years of constrained spending. The Ontario Government is leveraging the return to fiscal balance and a growing economy to make bold investments that many would have thought unrealistic only a few months ago. Read our full analysis here.


Budget 2017 targets investment in Canada's long-term prosperity; stays the course amid global uncertainty

March 22, 2017

Budget 2017 details the fiscal framework set out in Budget 2016 by reshaping federal government programs to make them more accessible to the middle class – and those working to join it – led by key reforms in education and training as well as caregiver and parental leave. In detailing the government’s Innovation Agenda as a way to sustain prosperity and boost long-term economic growth, the Liberal government’s second federal budget focuses on three main sectors: clean technology, digital technology and agri-food. At the core of Budget 2017 are details regarding the government’s massive $186 billion infrastructure spending plan, focused on affordable housing, green infrastructure and transit, as well as their commitment to create the Canada Infrastructure Bank on an accelerated basis this fiscal year. Read our full analysis here.


In Memoriam: Donald Cousens

March 1, 2017

Counsel lost a great friend and partner with the death of Don Cousens on Thursday, February 23, 2017 at the age of 78. Don had been a Principal with Counsel Public Affairs since January 2005, following a distinguished career in politics and business. Our clients benefitted enormously from the political insights he developed during his long public service. They, and all of us who worked with him at Counsel, also delighted in his unflagging enthusiasm, integrity, energy, and broad ranging interests and knowledge. Read full memoriam here.


Premier Wynne Announces a Small-Scale Cabinet Shuffle, Promoting Two Ministers to Key Portfolios

January 12, 2017

This morning, Premier Kathleen Wynne made a number of changes to her cabinet team, with two notable promotions – Marie-France Lalonde as Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services and Tracy MacCharles as Minister of Government and Consumer Services. Today’s shuffle comes seven months after Wynne’s significant shuffle last summer, bringing in many new faces to the cabinet table. Read our analysis here.


Strengthening the Team at Home and Abroad: PM Trudeau’s First Major Cabinet Shuffle

January 10, 2017

Just over a week into the new year, the Trudeau government has sent a strong signal to the Canadian public and our international partners. The upcoming inauguration of U.S. president-elect Donald Trump has presented Prime Minister Trudeau with a unique opportunity to move strong ministers into roles that will be critical for building an effective working relationship with our closest neighbor. It also allows Trudeau and his team to address some of the challenges his team has faced, despite the Cabinet being sworn in just 14 months ago. Read our analysis here.


Finance Minister Charles Sousa Delivers Ontario’s 2016 Fall Economic Statement

November 14, 2016

Today’s release of Ontario’s Fall Economic Statement attempts to tack into the political headwinds facing Premier Kathleen Wynne and her Liberal government. With the next provincial election less than two years away, a steady stream of polls are indicating both the Premier’s unpopularity with frustrated voters, as well as a sharp decline in support for the Liberals, who now find themselves behind Patrick Brown’s Tories and running neck-in-neck with Andrea Horwath’s NDP. In response, Finance Minister Charles Sousa delivered a Fall Economic Statement that attempts to shore up the government’s support through a focus on consumer and voter-friendly pocketbook issues, as well as a subtle reprioritization toward bedrock Liberal issues: health care and education. Read our analysis here.


2016 Federal Fall Economic Statement

November 1, 2016

Despite the Fall Economic Statement coming the day after Halloween, the Liberal government is keen to assure the Canadian public (and its international partners) that Canada’s economic growth, while slow, isn’t as ‘scary’ as it seems. The government is betting that the worst of the oil price decline is behind it, but in so doing used all of the $6 billion in annual budget contingency. This was originally set up to cushion a deficit that has grown by a further $31.8 billion over five years. This fiscal magic trick allows the government to keep the deficit targets set in the 2016 budget largely intact – but with no additional room to maneuver. Read our analysis here.


2016 Speech from the Throne

September 12, 2016

Ontario Government to Provide Electricity Price Relief, 100,000 Daycare Spaces While Staying the Course on Balancing the Budget and Major Commitments. Read our analysis here.


Premier Kathleen Wynne Announces Major Mid-Term Cabinet Shuffle

June 13, 2016

Today’s cabinet shuffle marks the first major cabinet changes made by Premier Kathleen Wynne since her Liberal majority win in 2014. In short, the shuffle serves to give the government a new look and feel through seven new ministers, while staying the course on the government’s priority policy and reform initiatives, with more than 10 ministers keeping their posts. Read our analysis here.


Doubling Down: Justin Trudeau’s first budget responds to slow economic growth with big spending – and more to come

March 23, 2016

Six months into their mandate, the new Justin Trudeau-led Liberal government is delivering on their campaign commitments as expected – but going even further in response to slower than expected economic growth. With immediate spending led by First Nations and “shovel ready” infrastructure priorities, they have set the stage for even greater future investments – especially in infrastructure – further into their mandate. Read our analysis here.


Counsel’s Sheamus Murphy makes Hill Times Top 100 Lobbyists

March 8, 2016

Sheamus Murphy, Vice President Federal Advocacy for Counsel Public Affairs (Counsel), has been named to the Hill Times’ prestigious list of Parliament Hill’s Top 100 Lobbyists for 2016. Read the news release here.


Going All In: Ontario Government Doubles Down on Balanced Budget, Legacy Commitments in 2016 Budget

February 25, 2016

Ontario’s 2016 Budget, Jobs for Today and Tomorrow, was tabled today by Finance Minister Charles Sousa. This mid-term budget both re-emphasizes the Liberal government’s commitment to its major policy commitments and adds a new one: a transformative change in financial support for Ontario’s post-secondary students. This budget also focuses on several additional priorities for next fiscal year: eliminating the province’s deficit, creating jobs in an uncertain economy, implementation of a cap and trade carbon system, important new commitments for health care, and continuing investments in provincial infrastructure. Read our analysis here.


Counsel Public Affairs Opens Ottawa Office

December 16, 2015

Counsel is expanding its federal government public affairs offering with the opening of an Ottawa office and the addition of Sheamus Murphy to the firm as Vice President, Federal Advocacy. Read the news release here.


2015 Federal Election Analysis

October 20, 2015

In the Internet age where election results and commentary are available with a click, we won’t waste time with the riding-by-riding overview. Here at Counsel, we want to focus on what these results mean for pursuing your issues with government, both at the national level and here in Ontario. Make no mistake: the new government in Ottawa will have implications for Ontario issues – many, though not all of them, positive. Read our analysis here.


Malcolm Heins appointed Chair of the Expert Committee to Review Regulation of Financial Advisors and Planners

May 22, 2015

Congratulations to our friend and colleague Malcolm Heins, on his recent appointment by the Government of Ontario as Chair of the Expert Committee to Review Regulation of Financial Advisors and Planners. They could not have found any one more capable or better suited for this important role.

Unfortunately, the public’s gain is our loss; as a result of his new position, Malcolm had to resign immediately from his association with Counsel Public Affairs. We wish him well on this important new assignment. Please click here for more information.


The Big Build: Ontario’s Budget Lays Out Plans for Infrastructure, Asset Sales

April 23, 2015

Ontario’s 2015 Budget, Building Ontario Up, was tabled today by Finance Minister Charles Sousa. Characterized by few significant surprises, the budget focused on major government investments in four priority areas: infrastructure and transportation, job creation, skills training, and the next phase of the implementation of the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan. Read our analysis here.


Fall Economic Statement: Despite Lower Revenue, Government on Track to Meet Fiscal Targets

November 17, 2014

This afternoon, Finance Minister Charles Sousa delivered the Ontario Government’s Fall Economic Statement. The speech warned that economic growth will likely be slower than previously expected, and that government revenue is projected to fall $509 million short of the amount forecast in the 2014 Budget. Read our analysis here.


Ministers' Mandate Letters Publicly Released

September 26, 2014

On Thursday, Premier Kathleen Wynne publicly released the mandate letters given to all Cabinet Ministers. The mandate letters clearly build upon the direction and commitments set out in the 2014 Ontario Budget and the 2014 Ontario Liberal Plan, and reflect a clear focus on better coordination across ministries by requiring Ministers to work with specified Cabinet colleagues on complex issues. Read our analysis, including a chart of notable highlights, here.


Counsel Public Affairs Expands its Public Relations and Strategic Communications Team

July 29, 2014

Counsel is pleased to announce that Lindsay Broadhead has joined the firm as Vice President, adding to its growing public relations and strategic communications team. Read the full announcement here.


Major Changes for Wynne's Majority Cabinet

June 24, 2014

Premier Kathleen Wynne named her new Cabinet today, with significant structural changes for Finance and Health, and a few new faces around the table. Read our analysis here, along with a full list of Cabinet Ministers and Parliamentary Assistants.


2014 Ontario Election Results Analysis: A Liberal Majority

June 13, 2014

Kathleen Wynne and her Ontario Liberals have won a remarkable majority victory last night – a feat many observers would have written off as impossible several months, weeks or even days ago. Tim Hudak announced he would resign as PC Leader following the party's defeat. Read our analysis here.


2014 Ontario Election: Final Countdown

June 10, 2014

With the vote only two days away, the campaign trail has been busy with a final flurry of polls, endorsements, and Leaders visiting key ridings. Read our campaign update here.


2014 Ontario Election: Week Five Friday Wrap-Up

June 6, 2014

Leaders' commitments on their first days in office, the gas plant investigation surfaces yet again, and newspaper endorsements start popping up. Read our campaign update here.


2014 Ontario Election: Week Five Mid-Week Update

June 4, 2014

The three leaders squared off for the only televised debate of the campaign - but will it change voter intent? Read our analysis of the debate and recap of polls here.


2014 Ontario Election: Week Four Friday Wrap-Up

May 30, 2014

The PCs came under fire from a number of economists, the Liberals faced criticism for a deal with MaRS, and the NDP pushed its messages on transit and student nutrition. Read the latest on the campaign.


2014 Ontario Election: Week Four Tuesday Update

May 27, 2014

The Liberals released their platform, Andrea Horwath and Kathleen Wynne squared off in Thunder Bay, and some traditional NDP supporters are not pleased. Read about the past few days on the campaign trail here.


2014 Ontario Election: Week Three Friday Update

May 23, 2014
This week’s big news was Andrea Horwath’s release of the NDP platform on Thursday morning. Please see below for a full summary of the platform.   

On Wednesday, there was some back-and-forth between the Liberals and PCs about the automotive industry. Kathleen Wynne touted the Liberal government's stimulus spending while Tim Hudak argued that lower taxes and hydro rates would be more effective.

On Thursday, Hudak reiterated his call for a judicial inquiry into the gas plant scandal to an audience in Ottawa. Meanwhile, former Prime Minister Paul Martin and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau briefly joined Wynne on the campaign trail. Martin voiced his support for Wynne’s Budget plan and pension reform proposal.

Hudak spoke to the London Chamber of Commerce on Friday and called corporate grants "morally wrong."

The Liberals and PCs did not make any new commitments during their mid-week campaign events. However, the Liberals will be releasing their full platform on Sunday afternoon in Thunder Bay, expected to incorporate the same spending commitments contained in Budget 2014.  

Party Promises

NDP
On Thursday, Horwath released her “Plan that Makes Sense.” The platform document includes previously-announced tax credits for job creators and manufacturing investment, reductions in small business taxes, and an Open Schools Fund. It also includes new initiatives on post-secondary education, healthcare and transportation.

Although not explicitly stated in the document, NDP staff told media that the plan is based on the 2014 Budget and an NDP government would implement items from the budget including PSW wage increases and funding for in vitro fertilization.

Other items in the document include: 

  • Taxes and Revenue: In addition to the tax increases included in the Liberal Budget, the NDP would raise the corporate income tax rate from 11.5% to 12.5%. Their other new revenue would come from limiting the use of consultants, preventing the phase-out of Input Tax Credit Restrictions (which would require the federal government to agree), revenue integrity measures, and $300-600 million annually to be found by the Minister of Savings and Accountability through reviewing spending and reducing duplication of services.
  • Health Care: Cut emergency room wait times in half through hiring more nurse practitioners, opening 24-hour family health clinics, and add 1,400 long-term care beds. The plan also proposes a Caregiver Tax Credit of $1,275 per year. There is a promise to expand dental benefits for children from low-income families, but it is unclear whether this differs from the same commitment in the Budget.
  • Education: In addition to $60 million per year to help keep school buildings open, the platform promises up to 1,000 new physical education teachers, 1,000 Educational Assistants and $3 million more than the Budget included for student nutrition programs. Child care would also see a one-time $100 million infusion and funding linked to inflation.
  • Post-Secondary Education: A promise to freeze tuition rates for four years and make provincial student loans interest-free.
  • Pocketbook: A promise to remove the provincial portion of HST from home hydro and reduce auto insurance by 15%.
  • Transportation: The NDP are borrowing the Liberals’ $29 billion 10-year infrastructure plan and adding $250 million annually for each of transit projects and widening 60 km of highways each year, at least half in the north.
  • Environment: A promise to conduct Environmental Assessments of pipeline projects that impact communities in Ontario.

The Polls

Two new polls released by Forum Research and Ipsos Reid offer conflicting information about party support. This continues the trend of inconsistency between polling firms.

The Forum Research poll for The Toronto Star shows the Liberals with 41%, a seven point lead over the PCs, which stands at 34%. The NDP are far behind in third place at 20%. This is similar to last week’s Forum poll, although this week’s poll shows the Liberals breaking the 40% mark. Last weekend’s EKOS poll for iPolitics also showed the Liberals in the lead with 37%, followed by the PCs at 30% and the NDP at 21%.

Ipsos Reid paints a different picture – a race that is tightening up between all three parties. The poll released for CTV News shows the PCs in the lead with 35%, but this represents a drop of 4 points from the last Ipsos poll. The Liberals’ support remained stable at 31% (+1), while the NDP made a significant leap to 28% (+4). This Tuesday’s Abacus Data poll also shows a close three-way race, with the Liberals and PCs tied at 33% and the NDP in third at 26%.

With three weeks of the campaign left, the question remains whether a consistent pattern will emerge.

On the Leaders’ Tour

On Wednesday, Wynne worked her way back to the GTA after spending Tuesday in Southwestern Ontario. The remainder of Wynne’s week was spent in Toronto and the GTA. Horwath held mid-week campaign events in Toronto and the GTA, notably releasing her platform on Thursday at the University of Toronto, and travelled to Ottawa on Friday. Horwath continues to hold most of her campaign events with individual local candidates. Unlike Wynne and Horwath, Hudak did not campaign in Toronto or the GTA, instead spending his time in Eastern and Southwestern Ontario.

This week, The Agenda with Steve Paikin released an interesting analysis about the leaders' tour and what the travel patterns might say about their strategies.

Date

Kathleen Wynne

Tim Hudak

Andrea Horwath

Wed May 21

Tecumseh
Cambridge
Thornhill

Cobourg
Peterborough

Brampton
Toronto

Thurs May 22

Toronto

Ottawa

Toronto

Fri May 23

Toronto
Mississauga

London
Waterloo

Ottawa


2014 Ontario Election: Week Three Tuesday Update

May 20, 2014

The provincial party leaders kept a light schedule during the long weekend, but began the week with a busy campaign itinerary.  

On Saturday, Kathleen Wynne took a day off from the campaign trail. Over the remainder of the weekend, Wynne participated in several runs and announced that the construction of condominiums would not be part of the redevelopment plan at Ontario Place. Tim Hudak started off the weekend with a barbeque with Doug Holyday and made several announcements, including one calling for a judicial inquiry into the cancellation of gas plants. Andrea Howarth continued to hold campaign events with individual candidates, spending time in Eastern Ontario and Toronto and announcing funds to keep school buildings open. 

The party leaders began the week with an active campaign schedule with travel throughout Southwestern Ontario. Horwath announced that an NDP government would cut emergency room wait times. Hudak held two town halls about his party’s Million Jobs Plan. Wynne is spending Tuesday in rural Ontario, where she announced a fund from the 2014 Budget to support farmers.

Party Promises

PC Party
While the Ontario PC Party released its full platform last week, Tim Hudak made several announcements that provided additional details about his plan:

  • Gas plants: Call a judicial inquiry into the cancellation of gas plants.
  • Reducing Regulations: Reduce the regulatory burden on small businesses by a third over three years (e.g. WSIB fees, rules that prohibit competitive bids on government construction projects).
  • Skilled Immigrants: Ensure new immigrants have their credentials and jobs skills recognized by employers.

NDP
Andrea Horwath continues to makes individual pledges on a range of policy issues. On Tuesday morning, she stated that a costed platform will be released “very shortly”: 

  • Education: The creation of a $60 million Open Schools Fund, which would renovate aging schools and increase community access to the buildings.
  • Health Care: Cut emergency room wait times in half.

Liberal Party
Announcements over the past four days included:

  • Toronto's Waterfront: No condominiums at Ontario Place.
  • Farm Fund: $400 million over 10 years to support farmers and the food-processing industry.

 

TV Advertisements

With the political television and radio advertising blackout ending at midnight tonight, prepare for a media blitz starting on Wednesday. In anticipation, the parties have been posting previews of ads online (though some are social media feints that will never run on purchased air time). We expect each party will air a mixture of positive and negative “attack” ads during the remainder of the campaign, and some third-party groups (including Working Families) will likely get in on the action as well.

PC Party
Over the weekend, the PCs released two positive and one negative television ad (although one is 39 seconds, and therefore unlikely to air on TV). The PCs will also release a radio ad that attacks Wynne on job creation and the gas plant scandal.

  • “Hope is on the Way” - This positive ad encourages voters to not “vote against the other leaders, but to vote for a plan for a better Ontario.
  • Male, Pale and Stale” - This negative ad attacks Working Families, a group that purchases their own ads that encourages voters to not vote for the Ontario PC Party.

NDP
The NDP unveiled a negative ad attacking the Liberals’ record in government over the past 10 years.

Liberal Party
On Tuesday, the Liberals launched a new ad where Kathleen Wynne states that “government should be a force of good in people’s lives.” This ad follows three others that were released in April and during the early days of the campaign. The Liberals also created a mock “corrected” version of the PC “I want to Work” ad focused on the 100,000 job cut promise, which was pulled down after a copyright claim by the PC Party. 

 

The Polls

The polls continue to disagree about which party holds the lead.

On Tuesday, Abacus Data released a poll that showed the Liberals and PCs tied at 33%, with the NDP in third at 26%. This is the first poll during the campaign period that shows the Liberals and PCs in a dead heat and the NDP above 25%.

This weekend, EKOS released a poll for iPolitics showing the Liberals with “a clear and possibly growing lead” at 37%, with the PCs trailing at 30% and the NDP at 21%. While the poll shows similar levels of support with last week’s Forum poll, which found the Liberals with 38% of support versus 33% for the PCs and 21% for the NDP, the EKOS poll provides the opposite information from the Ipsos Reid poll released last Wednesday, which found that the PCs led with 39%, followed by the Liberals with 30%.

Despite the inconsistency about which party stands in first and second place, all polls have pegged the NDP in third place.  

On the Leaders’ Tour

All party leaders kept most of their long weekend travel within Toronto and the GTA. However, Andrea Horwath started her weekend tour in Eastern Ontario. The leaders begin week three of the campaign with events throughout Southwestern Ontario.

Date

Kathleen Wynne

Tim Hudak

Andrea Horwath

Sat May 17

Day off

Whitby
Toronto

Kingston
Peterborough

Sun May 18

Mississauga
Orangeville

Mississauga

Toronto

Mon May 19

Toronto

Mississauga

Toronto

Tues May 20

Paris
London
Windsor

Toronto
Woodstock
Sebringville

Toronto
London


2014 Ontario Election: Week Two Friday Update

May 16, 2014

While all of the provincial parties are engaged in a flurry of campaign activities, it is fair to say that the parties are still holding a bit back as they head into the long weekend. Expect the campaigns to pick up in earnest after the long weekend, particularly when the ban on political television and radio advertising is lifted on Wednesday.

PC Leader Tim Hudak unveiled his party’s full platform at a town hall in Toronto, although there were no big surprises in the document as Hudak introduced his most significant planks ahead of the full release. The PCs are the only party that have released a platform to date.

The Liberal campaign held its own this week, with an endorsement from long-time Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion and several campaign events with Kathleen Wynne hitting back against Hudak’s agenda. Andrea Horwath continues to campaign with individual candidates and made three policy announcements. New Democrats are facing questions about if and when the party will release a platform.  

Party Promises

PC Party
At a town hall in Toronto on Wednesday, Tim Hudak unveiled the Ontario PC Party's full platform entitled Million Jobs Plan. With Hudak revealing his party’s major policy planks ahead of the full platform release, there were no big surprises contained in the document. The platform focuses on several themes:

  • Economy and Jobs:
    - Reduce corporate taxes by 30 per cent
    - Reduce income taxes after the budget is balanced
    - Eliminate unnecessary regulations that adversely affect small businesses
    - Allow Ontario and Canadian pension plans to invest in government-owned businesses
    - Construct an East-West Express Subway in Toronto and expand GO Transit service
    - Amended labour laws to increase accountability within organized labour
  • Reducing the Size of Government:
    - Balance the budget by 2016
    - Eliminate 100,000 public service jobs 
    - Limit government spending from growing beyond annual GDP growth
    - Review all government programs and cancel ones that do not bring value for money
    - Two-year public service wage freeze
  • Health Care and Education:
    - Focus on local health care decision making through “Health Hubs” instead of LHINs
    - Create chronic care centres of excellence and increase home-based care
    - Develop a comprehensive approach to providing mental health services
    - Raise targets for reading, writing and math
    - Introduce a strong financial literacy curriculum
    - Attract more university graduate with math and science backgrounds into teaching
    - Reduce non-core areas of education spending
  • Post-Secondary Education:
    - Encourage students to attend community colleges
    - Simpler process to transfer between college to university
    - Recruit more students into the STEM and business fields
    - Expanded PSE opportunities for people with disabilities
    - Ensure access to PSE regardless of finances

NDP
While Andrea Horwath remains coy about when the NDP's platform will be released, she did announce several new commitments:

  • Government Spending: The appointment of a "savings and accountability" minister who would be responsible for finding $600 million in cuts to the budget.
  • Minimum Wage and Small Business: Increase the minimum wage to $12 an hour and reduce small business taxes from 4.5% to 3% to mitigate impact of the increase.
  • Energy: Merge the province’s four electricity agencies (Ontario Power Generation, Hydro One, Independent Electricity System Operator, Ontario Power Authority) and cap CEO salaries 

Liberal Party
With the Liberals running on their May budget, there are limited opportunities to make new spending commitments. However, with events like Mayor McCallion's endorsement of the Liberals, and Wynne's announcement on Friday to broaden scopes of practice for nurses and nurse practitioners, the Liberal continue to generate regular media attention.

The Liberal response to the PC platform has been to highlight that the proposed cuts are deeper than anything Ontarians saw even under Mike Harris. The visit to Walkerton was a strategic reminder to voters that, as the Premier said, “cuts have consequences” – a line that undoubtedly will be heard a great deal over the coming weeks.

The Polls

As the second week of the campaign comes to an end, the polls are pointing to a two-party race between the Liberals and PCs, with the NDP in decline. A new poll on Wednesday released by Ipsos Reid shows the PCs  widening their lead among eligible voters at 39% (+2), while Liberal support remains unchanged at 30%. Among likely voters, the Liberals have shown improvement, expanding their support to 31% (+3), while the PCs hold steady at 43% (+1%). The NDP faced a significant decline, with support dropping among eligible voters to 24% (-4) and likely voters to 22% (-5).

Yet at the same time, a Forum poll found the Liberals “headed for majority government” with 38% of the vote versus 33% for the PCs and 21% for the NDP. Forum also found a large plurality of voters (62%) opposed to the key Tory plank of cutting 100,000 public sector jobs.

In other words, the polls continue to provide conflicting results.

Both polls were released on the same day Hudak unveiled the PCs’ full platform. With additional information about where the parties stand and with campaign activity expected to pick up after the May long weekend, news polls will show whether the PCs or Liberals can gain a consistent lead and whether the New Democrats can break out of a distant third place. 

On the Leaders’ Tour

All party leaders kept most of their travel within Toronto, the GTA and Southwestern Ontario. Notably, Kathleen Wynne visited Walkerton to illustrate her message that cuts "have consequences." Tim Hudak spent Wednesday introducing the full Ontario PC Party platform in Toronto, while Andrea Horwath continues to hold campaign events with individual candidates in their ridings. 

Date

Kathleen Wynne

Tim Hudak

Andrea Horwath

Wed May 14

Mississauga
Guelph
London

Toronto

Toronto
St. Catherines
Brantford

Thurs May 15

Walkerton
Waterloo

London

Toronto
Guelph

Fri May 16

Toronto

Toronto
Orillia
Mississauga

Sarnia
London
Cambridge
Kitchener


2014 Ontario Election: Week Two Update

May 14, 2014

PC Leader Tim Hudak has held the spotlight during the last few days of the election campaign, unrolling many elements of his party’s “Million Jobs Plan” that he says are essential to attracting more private sector jobs. In addition to announcements last week on reforming apprenticeship ratios and cutting 100,000 public sector jobs, Hudak announced cuts to corporate and personal income taxes and policies on transit and energy.

Kathleen Wynne and the Liberals were quick off the start with a campaign ad targeting Andrea Horwath for the NDP’s refusal to support the budget. Wynne voices the ad and ends by asking “Is Andrea Horwath for real?”, leading some media to ask whether she is breaking her pledge not to use personal attacks. The ad is online-only for now, but the party says it will air on TV once the advertising blackout ends on May 21.

Andrea Horwath, meanwhile, became the first party leader to visit northern Ontario. She took a small crew of reporters to Thunder Bay and Sudbury to make announcements on reducing hydro costs.

Party Promises

PC Party
Announcements this week have included:

  • Jobs: The PC promise to cut 100,000 jobs from the public sector over four years is still in the headlines, with outlets like the Globe and Mail suggesting the PCs are understating the depth of the impact. The cut would exclude doctors, nurses, and police, but cover the broader public sector including, according to the Tories, reductions in funding to municipalities and other organizations.
  • Taxes: A promise to reduce the corporate income tax rate by 30% (from 11.5% to 8%), and cut personal income taxes by 10% after the budget is balanced.
  • Transit: After the budget is balanced, build an east-west “express” subway line between Etobicoke and Scarborough through Toronto’s downtown, upload rail-based transit and major highways in the GTA, expand major highways and provide more frequent GO Transit service.
  • Green Energy: End subsidies for wind and solar power – including a suggestion the party could terminate contracts in the queue through declaring force majeure and save $20 billion (while not addressing potential legal consequences).
  • Energy: Consolidate government agencies, reduce the number of staff, and expand use of nuclear, hydroelectricity, and natural gas.
  • Business Environment: cut regulations on business (they have previously said by 1/3), develop the Ring of Fire, and join the free trade agreement between BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan.
  • Full Day Kindergarten: Hudak committed to keeping FDK (a reversal from earlier positions), but change the staffing model and increase class sizes to save money.
  • Other programs: Announced the party would end a number of Liberal initiatives including the 30% Off Tuition grant and Healthy Home Renovation Tax Credit, and shut down Local Health Integration Networks and Drive Clean.

NDP
Andrea Horwath also announced a number of new policies:

  • Child care: An immediate investment of $100 million to help sustain licensed child care centres, with funding increases tied to inflation. This would be in addition to the Liberals’ Budget commitment of $269 million over three years for wage increases for child care workers.
  • Energy: Revived from their 2011 platform, a promise to remove the provincial portion of the HST off hydro bills. This is on top of a pledge to provide $100 annual hydro rebates through savings from reviewing contracts and consolidating agencies.
  • Auto Insurance: The party pledged to “put an end to insurance company delays and implement tight timelines to reduce rates”, but have not yet provided details on how they will do so.

Liberal Party
Without any new policy to announce, Kathleen Wynne focused on contrasting her plan with the PC plan (they’re referring to it as a “Pink Slip Pledge”), using the tagline “Jobs. Not Cuts.” Her campaign has focused on companies that have expanded thanks to regional economic development grants, and argued that cancelling infrastructure projects will reduce job opportunities for tradespeople. In the last couple of days, Wynne has also been forced to discuss the negative legacies of the McGuinty government, including the gas plant scandal, and remarks made by candidates on social media.

 

Gaffes

Hudak’s campaign ran into some trouble on Sunday, when they tried to ride the Toronto subway with media in tow for a policy announcement. TTC officials kicked them off when it became clear they did not have the required permits for filming on the train. The PC campaign accused the transit workers’ union of politicking by allowing an earlier media opportunity with Wynne (although that was before the election campaign was called and the Liberals had arranged for the necessary permit).

Wynne was put on the defensive for the first time in the campaign over alleged sexist remarks made by three male Liberal candidates on social media. Wynne rejected PC and NDP calls to force the candidates to resign, and said she received apologies from all of them and the offending content was deleted. The other parties also raised questions about the Liberals’ vetting process, suggesting they were having a difficult time finding candidates willing to run.

The Polls

While the first polls of the campaign had the Liberals and PCs neck-and-neck, a poll released by Ipsos Reid on Friday night gave the PCs an advantage. Their poll had the PCs at 37% to 31% for the Liberals and 28% for the NDP – but when they factored in likeliness to vote, the PCs jumped to 42% compared to 28% for the Liberals.

The Ipsos Reid results are very similar to their last poll on April 17th.  The fact that polls from many other companies throughout April and May have had very different results leaves election observers scratching their heads as to who has the real pulse.

A poll by Forum Research, released this morning, put the Liberals at 38%, PCs at 35% and NDP at 21%. The poll also asked about the PC plan to cut 100,000 public sector jobs and found two-thirds opposed to the move.

As the party platforms become clearer, new polls will help show which party is shaping public debate and convincing the most voters of their economic vision.

On the Leader’s Tour

Andrea Horwath was the best-travelled leader in the past few days, visiting Hamilton, Thunder Bay, Sudbury and Scarborough. Kathleen Wynne has spent most of her time in Toronto and the GTA, while Tim Hudak has been in Toronto, Durham Region, his home riding of Niagara West—Glanbrook, and Ottawa.

Date

Kathleen Wynne

Tim Hudak

Andrea Horwath

Sat May 10

Day off

Durham
Whitby-Oshawa

Brampton

Sun May 11

Mississauga
Toronto

Toronto

Hamilton
Thunder Bay

Mon May 12

Vaughan
Stoney Creek
Etobicoke

Smithville
Grimsby
Toronto

Thunder Bay
Sudbury

Tues May 13

Toronto
Mississauga

Ottawa

Scarborough


2014 Ontario Election: Week One Wrap-Up.

May 9, 2014

While the election date was set and the Legislature dissolved last Friday, the 2014 Ontario Election campaign only officially began on Wednesday. There are now 34 days until voting day on June 12, 2014.

While the Liberals were first off the mark on Monday with branded campaign buses, all parties now have their wheels and slogans on the road:

  • The Liberals two buses have different designs. The leader’s bus features a large photo of Kathleen Wynne, with the slogan “What Leadership Is” appearing prominently.
  • The PC bus focuses exclusively on their Million Jobs Plan and the slogan “Ontario. Working. Better.” Tim Hudak is nowhere to be seen, and is leading the tour from a car instead of a bus.
  • The NDP bus puts leader Andrea Horwath front and centre, alongside the slogan “Andrea Horwath Makes Sense”.

The first days of the campaign have seen a battle with Ottawa, messaging missteps, and a clarifying focus on jobs.

Themes of the Week

The Federal Angle
Starting from her kick-off speech last Friday, Wynne came out swinging at Prime Minister Stephen Harper for the federal government’s opposition to expanding the Canada Pension Plan. Harper and other Cabinet Ministers struck back through the media, leading to several days where Wynne could position herself as standing up for Ontario. The tactic did, however, cause several reporters to wonder if Wynne knew who she was running against in the election, though others called it a successful ploy to divert attention from Hudak and portray Wynne as strong to the progressive voters she is targeting.

Gaffes
Hudak got off to a bad start in his campaign events Monday and Tuesday, making appearances at two businesses that benefited from government grant programs. He was caught off-guard on Monday and fumbled questions on whether he would eliminate the Ontario Music Fund, but was better prepared on Tuesday.
Horwath similarly caused a stir on Monday when she claimed the Liberals were privatizing the TTC. She was challenged on air by Metro Morning host Matt Galloway, and later clarified that she was referring to maintenance contracts for the Eglinton Crosstown line.

While a few gas plant-related news items came out this week – the PCs responding to the Liberal libel lawsuit, and the former Chief of Staff’s Executive Assistant refusing to speak to the OPP – the stories did not seem to break through to the front page.

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs
In the last couple of days, the focus has turned squarely to job creation. New numbers released today by Statistics Canada showed that Ontario gained 25,800 full-time jobs in April. However, recent announcements by Unilever that it was closing a plant in Brampton with 280 employees, and by Magna that it would not build new plants in Ontario because of electricity rates, transportation, and business costs put a damper on the Liberal mood.

Andrea Horwath rolled out two $500-million campaign promises in the past two days: a Job Creation Tax Credit (included in their 2011 platform) and an Investment Tax Credit for manufacturers. She also reiterated the party’s proposal to raise the minimum wage to $12 an hour over two years while reducing the small business tax rate from 4.5% to 3%.

Tim Hudak took centre stage with two job-related announcements. First, he claimed that changing apprenticeship ratios to 1:1 would add 200,000 jobs in the trades. He also announced the PCs would balance the budget a year early (in 2016-17), partially through eliminating 100,000 jobs in the public sector.

Kathleen Wynne continued to talk about the elements included in the budget last week, including the $2.5 billion Jobs and Prosperity Fund to encourage businesses to locate and grow in the province (some may know this better as “corporate welfare”).

Horse Race Coverage Begins 

Three polls have been released since the election campaign began, completed by Forum, Oracle Research, and Innovative Research Group. While the polls differ in whether they show the PCs or Liberals with the lead at this point, all three place the NDP in the low-20s, far below their numbers even a few weeks ago. In his latest poll aggregation on ThreeHundredEight.com, Eric Grenier places the PCs at 35.6%, the Liberals at 35.5%, and the NDP at 22.6% - which he projects would lead to a Liberal minority government.

Don’t hold your breath too long – campaigns matter and things can change drastically. Recent experience with polling in Alberta, British Columbia and Quebec has taught us that much. With the campaign still in its early days, expect lot’s more polling with variable predictions!

On the Leader’s Tour

The party leaders have been focusing their attention on regions that could determine the fate of the elections. Kathleen Wynne spent most of her week in the GTA, Toronto and Ottawa-Kingston area. Tim Hudak also kept his tour in the GTA and in nearby surrounding ridings. Andrea Horwath toured GTA and southwestern Ontario ridings this week, spending much time in Kichener-Waterloo, Niagara Falls, and London where the party picked up seats in recent by-elections.



The election is on. Ontario to vote on June 12, 2014.

On Friday, May 2, 2014, one day after the 2014 Budget was tabled, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath held a news conference where she confirmed that the NDP would defeat the government over the Budget.

Premier Kathleen Wynne visited Lieutenant Governor David Onley in the afternoon, when he granted her request to dissolve the Legislature.

Campaigning began immediately for all parties, although the offical writs were not drawn up until Wednesday, May 7. Although election day would normally fall on June 5, the vote will be held a week later because of a Jewish Holiday.

Throughout the campaign, we will continue posting our latest coverage and overview of the election and party platforms here.


2014 Ontario Budget...or election platform?

Pensions, transportation, and government investments in everything from key industries to front-line health and education workers – these are the main planks in the Budget tabled today by Finance Minister Charles Sousa. Read our full analysis


Liberals shut out of by-elections in Thornhill and Niagara Falls.

This will be a very sweet Valentine’s Day for Andrea Horwath’s NDP and Tim Hudak's PCs. Read our full analysis


Deficit-reduction takes back seat to job creation initiatives in 2013 Fall Economic Statement.

Read the full analysis


Summer 2013 By-elections spread victories around, but the NDP the big winners of the night.

Read the full analysis


Ontario's 2013 Budget contains few surprises, but will it be enough for NDP support?

Read the full analysis


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