First poll since Ontario election call has Liberals poised to win minority government

Andy Radia
·Politics Reporter

The campaign doesn't officially start until Wednesday, but we already have our first 'campaign' opinion poll of the Ontario election.

The new Forum survey, released on Sunday and published in the Toronto Star, suggests that the June 12th election will yield no change; that the Liberals will win another minority government.

Premier Kathleen Wynne triggered the election on Friday after the New Democrats vowed to vote against the her party's budget introduced at Queen's Park last week.

At this point in time, Forum pegs Progressive Conservative support at 38 per cent Liberal support at 33 per cent, and NDP support at 22 per cent. But, because of the distribution of voters, the Toronto-based polling company is predicting the status-quo.

[ Related: Feds swipe at Kathleen Wynne as Ontario campaign kicks off ]

The other party leaders — the PC's Tim Hudak and the NDP's Andrea Horwath — will have to hope this election campaign replicates the recent one in Quebec. At the beginning of that campaign, in March, the Parti Quebecois led the polls with the pollsters predicting a PQ majority.

The first two days of the unofficial campaign have given us some hints about how Hudak and Horwath will try to turn the tide.

The PC's seem to be borrowing from the federal Tory playbook: their theme will be jobs and the economy.

"I’m going to get Ontario working again. I have got a laser-like focus on job creation," Hudak said on Friday according to the Star.

"If we don’t get our hydro bills under control and our taxes down, we’re going to lose a lot of small businesses in this province. We’ve already lost far too many jobs.

"My plan is not simply to make a small change. It’s a fundamental change in the way we address energy policy, make it focused on jobs."

In January, Hudak introduced his five-prong strategy to create 1 million jobs within the next eight years. The plan includes lower taxes and debt, affordable energy, training more skilled workers, increasing trade and cutting red tape. Expect to hear a lot about the PC job plan over the next month.

[ Related: Parti Quebecois election post-mortem puts spotlight on sovereignty ]

The New Democrats's strategy, so far, seems to be about railing against the Liberal record.

"In the real world, if you make a mistake you own up to it and face the consequences. In Queen’s Park, you wipe the hard drive and hope you get away with it,” she said — a reference to the province’s gas plant scandal," she said at a weekend event in Hamilton, according to CBC News.

"In the real world, you’re adding up bills, every single bill, at the kitchen table — hoping to squeeze out some savings. At Queen’s Park, public sector CEOs buy themselves speedboats with your money as cabinet ministers are chauffeured to and from work."

Horwath went on to tell reporters that her party will spend the next "little while" establishing their priorities for the campaign.

Expect their 'priorities' to include reducing hydro rates and large investments in transit.

As for the Liberals, their budget document is probably a good indication of what they're campaign themes will be.

Investments in transit, education and healthcare will be hot topics for them, as will the Ontario Pension Plan, a retirement income scheme, modeled after the CPP, which would "enhance benefits for middle-income earners."

Kathleen Wynne's party will also continue their attacks against the Harper Conservatives. It's tradition — anecdotally at least — for Ontarians to want different parties at Queen's Park and Parliament Hill. Expect Wynne to exploit that.

Don't expect, however, Wynne or her fellow Liberals to mention the name "Dalton McGuinty" very much. Thanks to the scandals that plagued the end of his premiership, that's a chapter they want to put behind them.

(Photo courtesy of the Canadian Press)

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