TORONTO -- Ontario Premier Doug Ford is rejecting suggestions that his party will call an early election to take advantage of his soaring poll numbers thanks to his government's ongoing pandemic response.

Ford insisted several times on Friday that the next election will be held on the scheduled date of June 2, 2022 and that he has no desire to call an early vote because the Progressive Conservatives has a four-year mandate. 

“We aren’t going to be calling it in the spring, we’ll be calling it the regular time,” Ford said during a news conference at Queen’s Park where his party holds a comfortable majority of seats. 

Ontario’s PC party, along with the provincial Liberals and NDP have been racing to nominate candidates in Ontario’s 124 ridings – nearly two years before the writs are issued. 

Sources with Ontario’s Liberals say the party feels it needs to be ready because “all signs appear to be showing an early election.”

Liberals point to the premier’s campaign-style tour of Ontario during the summer, a stepped up fundraising campaign, and fast-tracked nominations as reasons behind the speculation. 

Next election about leadership

Despite ruling out an early vote, Ford says the ballot box question during next election will be about leadership and which party got the province through the pandemic.

“People will have a very clear decision. They’ll have a decision about leadership,” Ford said. “Who do they have confidence in getting the economy back up and running like we did.”  

Ford boasted about the 300,000 jobs created during the first two years of him time in office – employment gains that were wiped out during the COVID-19 restrictions that saw Ontario’s unemployment rate spike to 12.3 per cent in June. 

Recent polls, however, suggest that despite the economic hardship, the premier’s overall pandemic response could deliver an electoral windfall. 

A recent survey by The Angus Reid Institute found 45 per cent of decided voters said they would cast a ballot for the Progressive Conservative party, up from 36 per cent in February. 

The NDP were a distant second with 25 per cent, followed by the Liberals at 22 per cent and the Greens at four per cent. 

The Premier’s personal approval rating now sits at 66 per cent, according to Angus Reid, up from 31 per cent in February. 

Ford rose to power in 2018 with 40 per cent of the popular vote and 76 seats in the provincial legislature. The party currently has 72 seats in the legislature, after the departure of two MPPs and the eviction of two others.