Doug Ford government confident they'll be re-elected 6 months before vote
Ontario Premier Doug Ford attends an announcement at Mississauga Hospital, in Mississauga, Ont., Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
Ontario's Progressive Conservatives are expressing confidence that voters will send Doug Ford back to Queen's Park for a second term as premier in 2022.
In exactly six months, voters will have their first chance to voice their feelings about the Ford government's four years in office--deciding whether to stay the course or thrust a new party into government.
Government House Leader Paul Calandra acknowledged the June 2 election, like all elections, will be a referendum on the Ford government's first mandate and whether the party lived up to its promises.
"It is always going to be a referendum on how you did ... I don't expect this election to be any different," Calandra told reporters at Queen's Park.
Despite years of highs and lows and mixed reviews of how the government has handled the pandemic so far, Calandra said the government is feeling confident about its chances in the next election.
"I am very confident that even more Progressive Conservatives will be sitting in that legislature after June 2," Calandra said.
The PC party, which was elected with 40 per cent of the vote in 2018, could face more of a challenge in this election as multiple polls have shrunk their lead over their political adversaries -- the NDP, Liberals and Green Party -- to the single digits.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, who was elected as Official Opposition Leader in 2018, laid out her clear expectations for the next election campaign.
"I'm running for premier," she declared at Queen's Park. "I think people know very well that this next expectation is going to be an extremely important one."
Horwath suggested her election strategy is to remind voters of the government's record over the past four years as a signal of what's to come if the PC government were to receive another mandate.
"The last thing we need coming out of the pandemic, hopefully next year, is a government that's just going to go right back to cutting," Horwath said.
The Ontario Liberals, in contrast, are pledging not to "dwell on the past" and instead focus on how to rebuild the economy after the pandemic as they attempt to dramatically increase their seat count in the Legislature.
The party was trounced from office in 2018, after 15 years in charge, and was reduced to seven seats -- one of the worst showings in party history.
Liberal House Leader John Fraser believes, however, the party can repeat the success of Justin Trudeau's federal Liberals, which was catapulted into government from third place during the 2015 national election.
"Yes, 100 per cent," Fraser said when asked whether the provincial Liberals can leapfrog over other parties. "Just working hard to earn people's trust by talking to them about your plans for the things that are important to you."
Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner, whose party made history in 2018 by gaining its first seat in the Ontario Legislature, is more realistic about his party's chances and instead is setting his sights on an increased seat count and provincewide vote totals.
Schreiner expressed some concern about the tone of the next election campaign, given the ramped up rhetoric in the legislature.
"The negative ads that the other parties are already running this far in advance of the election suggests there will be a fair amount of negative campaigning unfortunately."