Poll Projection: Up for Grabs Ontario Election Tilts Toward Doug Ford Win in Ontario, Canada

After a dazzling run in which social democrat Andrea Horwath’s New Democratic Party (NDP) quickly erased a sixteen percent deficit to multi-millionaire populist Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives (PC), NDP momentum stalled and then receded over the course of the final week of the campaign. CounterPunch projects a race too close to call, but where Conservative strength across all regions of Ontario means that the most likely of several realistically possible scenarios is a PC majority with Ford becoming the new Premier of Canada’s largest province by population.

My model emphasizes undecided voters, toss-up seats, and the inherent probability of error in polling. It suggests that 50 seats are Safe, Likely, or Lean PC with 38 seats Safe, Likely, or Leaning NDP. Just one seat leans to the governing Liberal party, and the additional 35 seats out of 124 total are considered toss-ups with 5% or less separating the projected first and second place parties or, in the case of a three-way toss-up, the third place party is also within ten points of the projected leading candidate.

As the number of ridings and corresponding provincial seats has expanded for the 2018 election, sixty-three seats are now required to win a majority and guarantee the Premiership to Ford or Horwath. Were I to eliminate the toss-up category and nail all 124 winning candidate projections, something I very much do not expect, Conservative vote efficiency would put them into the majority with 66 seats, followed by the NDP at 53 seats, the Liberals at 4 seats, and Green Party leader Mike Schreiner eking out victory in his contest in Guelph. The “no toss-ups”  or undecideds projection expects a slight popular vote win for the NDP at 37.7% to 37.3% for Conservatives with Liberals at 19.4%.

The full, final projection with rankings of every seat for each of the major parties can be found here.

Heading into Thursday’s election, the strict average of polls in the field over the last ten days indicates a dead heat between the two leading parties, with just two tenths of a percentage point separating the two (33.4% NDP to 33.2% PC when undecided respondents, where available, are included). The governing Liberals, lead by Premier Kathleen Wynne, have dropped sixteen points (at 17.4%) behind the leaders and are threatened with a parliamentary wipe out which could see their majority–won when they seated fifty-eight members of provincial parliament after the previous election in 2014–reduced to four or fewer seats. The Green Party is polling at the same strength as their 2014 showing at 4.9%, while undecided voters make up 9.5% of the total. According to Frank Graves, lead pollster at EKOS Politics, typically half to two-thirds of voters in Canada who indicate they are undecided in final polling do wind up showing up to vote while making their decision on voting day.

There is nothing particularly remarkable about this projection. Where I have successfully projected out of step with other poll aggregators and forecasters in the US and UK in recent elections (as described in a previous article on the Ontario election), aggregators and forecasters in Canada appear to strongly agree that NDP momentum has fallen short and that a Conservative majority for Doug Ford is highly likely. As in the previous article, I do remain in serious disagreement with the percentage of likelihood assigned to various possible scenarios for the election outcome by Éric Grenier, forecaster for CBC, the national broadcaster. The realistic scenarios are, in ranked order:

1. Narrow PC/Doug Ford Majority with 63-69 seats

2. NDP minority government of 58-62 seats, combining with smaller parties

3. Robust PC/Doug Ford Majority with 70 seats or more

4. Narrow NDP majority

While the chances of each possibility diminishes significantly moving down the list, Grenier’s percentages, pegging an NDP minority or majority at a combined 7.8% are laughably too low and are not transparently arrived at statistically.

Where social democrats have figured out how to do far better electorally in the UK, US, and Canada, as in the most recent US and UK national elections, New Democrats in Ontario also do not yet appear to have discovered the formula for defeating the continuing rise of contrived forms of populism that primarily benefit the wealthiest corporations and individuals.

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