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Ontario election rattling federal Grits’ confidence, cockiness, say some Liberals

By Abbas Rana      

The outcome of the June 7 Ontario provincial election has ‘no bearing’ on next year’s federal election, says Liberal MP Raj Grewal.

The prospect of the provincial Liberals losing the Ontario election is making some federal Liberal MPs nervous. Polls last week showed that both NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, left, and the PC Leader Doug Ford have been doing well with the voters, and either of the two could become the premier. According to political insiders and polling numbers, Kathleen Wynne's Liberals are expected to lose this election. The Hill Times photographs by Andrew Meade and Sam Garcia
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The federal Liberals are watching the Ontario provincial election with “great interest” and the possibility of a Conservative or an NDP win is making them nervous because the same scenario could be repeated federally in 2019, say some Liberals, while others say every election is different and the June 7 outcome would have “no bearing” on next year’s federal election.

“All of a sudden that confidence and cockiness is gone, fear starts to creep in,” one former senior Liberal said in a not-for-attribution interview with The Hill Times last week.

In interviews last week, some former senior Liberals and some Liberal MPs told The Hill Times that they were feeling “nervous,” not only because the Liberal support was hitting rock bottom provincially, but also because the federal polling numbers were heading in the wrong direction for them too.

According to a Forum Research poll last week, the Conservatives, headed by Andrew Scheer (Regina-Qu’Appelle, Sask.), had the support of 46 per cent of the voters, while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s (Papineau, Que.) Liberals had 30 per cent and the New Democrats, headed by Jagmeet Singh, had the support of 18 per cent of Canadians. The interactive voice response telephone poll of 1,484 Canadians was conducted on May 15-16 and had the margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

A rolling poll released by Nanos Research last week showed the federal Liberal support at 35.1 per cent, the Conservatives at 33.9 per cent and the NDP support was at 20.1 per cent.

An Innovative Research Group online poll of 1,500 Canadians, conducted between May 7 to May 14, indicated that 32 per cent of Canadians were supporting the Conservatives, 30 per cent Liberals, and 13 per cent the NDP.

And a telephone poll of 1,000 Canadians between April 12 to May 2 by Innovative Research showed 29 per cent support for the Conservatives, 27 for the Liberals and 13 per cent for the NDP. The telephone poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 per cent points.

“You are going to have a bunch of nervous nellies in the [federal] caucus all of a sudden,” said the former senior Liberal about the result of the Ontario election, if the provincial Liberals lost.

“That tells people things can change very quickly, there’s that possibility of losing seats in an election. All of a sudden, a whole bunch of people in the rural ridings and the 905 region may become a little bit uncertain in terms of what’s happening for them.”

In the 338-seat House, the Liberals have a majority of only 14 seats. In 2015, they won a majority government with 184 seats, the Conservatives won 99 seats, the NDP 44, Bloc Québécois 10 and the Green Party only one seat.

Of the 338 ridings, a whopping 70 were won or lost by a margin of only five per cent of the votes. The Liberals won 34 of these 70 seats, the New Democrats 16, the Conservatives 15 and the Bloc won five. Of these 70 seats, 28 were in Ontario, 22 in Quebec, four in Alberta, nine in British Columbia, three in Manitoba, two in Saskatchewan, and one each in Newfoundland and Labrador and New Brunswick.

Rookie Liberal MP Raj Grewal says the result of the Ontario election will have no affect on the 2019 federal election. The Hill Times file photograph.

Rookie Liberal MP Raj Grewal (Brampton East, Ont.) told The Hill Times that being an elected politician, he watches elections at all levels of government with interest and the ongoing Ontario election is no exception. He said he was helping out the provincial Liberal candidate Parminder Singh who has a tough fight on his hands against the NDP candidate Gurratan Singh, brother of the federal NDP leader. Up until his election as the federal leader, Jagmeet Singh represented this riding provincially.The

In the next year’s federal election, the NDP leader is expected to run in Brampton East. But Mr. Grewal said he was not worried even if the NDP wins this riding provincially on June 7.

“I don’t think it has any bearing on what’s going to happen federally,” said Mr. Grewal adding that the constituents understand the difference between the provincial and federal Liberals.

Mr. Grewal said that although several polls last week showed the Liberals are unlikely to win the provincial election, he was still optimistic as “the only poll that matters is election day.”

“At the end of the day, the federal election is in October 2019 and Canadians will decide who they want to lead the nation,” said Mr. Grewal who won his riding by a margin of 28.8 percent of the votes.

Last week, according to a media report, some Ontario Liberal candidates were openly expressing their reservations about Ms. Wynne’s leadership and were unwilling to invite her to their ridings to campaign.

Ontario Liberal candidate in Windsor West Rino Bortolin told The Windsor Star last week that he asked Ms. Wynne not to come to and stump for him in the riding, because it would not help his chances of winning. He sent out a tweet after the story came out saying Ms. Wynne was welcome in Windsor “anytime.”

The Ontario Liberal candidate in Markham-Unionville, Amanda Yeung Collucci, left the word “Liberal” off her campaign signs, The Windsor Star reported.

Meanwhile, Mr. Grewal said there no longer was any relevance to the argument that Ontarians alternate between parties provincially and federally. He pointed out that in the recent past, there were a few overlaps that make that line of reasoning outdated. For example, he said in the last election, Ontarians elected Ms. Wynne as the Ontario premier and Mr. Trudeau as the prime minister. Also, the former Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty also overlapped with former prime minister Paul Martin’s government federally.

Mr. McGuinty served as the Ontario premier for 10 years between 2003 and 2013, and Ms. Wynne has been serving as the premier since his departure. Before that, former PC leader Mike Harris served as the premier for about seven years between 1995 and 2002, and Ernie Eves for one year. During Mr. Harris and Mr. Eves’s time as premier, then-Liberal leader Jean Chrétien was the prime minister.

Between 1990 and 1995, the New Democrats ran the province under Bob Rae as the premier. Mr. Rae’s tenure as premier overlapped with then-PC prime minister Brian Mulroney and Mr. Chrétien.

Liberal pundit and political insider Warren Kinsella writes in his column in The Hill Times, this week, that in less than 10 per cent of the time in the last 100 years, Ontarians elected the same party to govern them provincially and federally.

Four-term NDP MP Irene Mathyssen (London-Fanshawe, Ont.) said in an interview that if her party formed government provincially, it would provide a huge boost to the federal New Democrats, something that is making the federal Liberals nervous.

“It will help us immensely because people of Ontario will see what it means to have good government,” said Ms. Mathyssen who added that she was canvassing for a provincial NDP candidate Terence Kernaghan.

NDP MP Irene Mathyssen says if the Ontario New Democrats formed government on June 7, it will provide a huge boost to the federal NDP. The Hill Times photograph by Andrew Meade.

With 121 federal ridings, the province of Ontario holds more than one third of the 338 ridings nationally.

Four-term Conservative MP Tony Clement (Parry Sound-Muskoka, Ont.) told The Hill Times that he’s been campaigning for several provincial candidates in different parts of the province and was confident that the Doug Ford Progressive Conservatives will win this election and form government. He said that while door knocking with different candidates, voters told him that they want provincial and federal Liberals out of office.

“We want the Liberals out, and then we also want to see a change in Ottawa, too, I did not expect [people] to have that reaction, I’ll be very frank with you,” Mr. Clement, a former Ontario MPP and cabinet minister told The Hill Times.

“They should be nervous everywhere. We’re getting reports all across the country even in Atlantic Canada, which is their bastion, where people are getting really fed up with Liberal arrogance, their self righteous behaviour, their disregard for the taxpayer, not focussing on the issues that matter.”

Pollster Greg Lyle of Innovative Research told The Hill Times that he doesn’t believe the outcome of the provincial election in Ontario will mean anything to the federal Liberals in the Oct. 2019 election.

“The federal government is not the issue in this election, the federal issues are not the issue in this election,” said Mr. Lyle.

However, he said that all parties can learn different lessons by watching which tactics or strategies are working and which ones are not. For example, Mr. Lyle said that in the 2014 provincial election, and the 2015 federal election, Ontario provincial and federal Liberals stole the progressive vote from the NDP. But, as of last week, he said, it appears, the provincial Liberals have been failing to attract the same voters again, and the message from progressive voters seems to be that you can’t “take them for granted.”

He said the federal Liberals won the last election by successfully convincing Canadians that they care for the middle class. But, since then, the federal Liberals have not been talking about what they are doing to help the middle class. Mr. Lyle said that is the reason polls are showing the federal Liberals are losing steam. He said the struggling middle class care more about concrete actions on job creation and the economy than about whether Mr. Trudeau has an equal number of male and female cabinet ministers in his cabinet, or how he dresses up in his official international travel.

“They [federal Liberals] should be nervous, but they shouldn’t be nervous because of Doug Ford [or provincial NDP Leader] Andrea Horwath,” said Mr. Lyle. “They should be nervous because they stopped talking about what got them elected, which is how they’re going to help the middle class.”

The Hill Times 

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