What Went Wrong for Wynne and OLP?
This election, a disaster for Premier Katelyn Wynne, is a catastrophe for the provincial Liberals. With Doug Ford coming in strong, a reinvigorated NDP has been playing a catch up strategy. Wynne’s “concession” of defeat, as it was reported in most media, was a last attempt to recover some ground. However, her Hail Mary did more damage and was not received by voters the way the OLP had hoped for. Wynne appeared to try and distance herself to encourage Ontarians to spare the OLP but it simply went to show that madam Premier should have removed herself from the race long ago.
Throughout late-2017 and early-2018, most polls showed that it was possible for the OLP to win another majority if Wynne herself was not leading the party. Ontarians still trusted the OLP but desired fresh leadership. The OLP could have won another term. However, the Liberal caucus appeared to have been under the false pretence that they could successfully pull it off given the notion that most voters do not pay heed to provincial elections until the final two weeks.
The OLP was proven wrong then and now. With Wynne’s fatalistic announcement, she inadvertently nailed shut any hope for the OLP to rally an impact resistance. In political framing, to convince your listeners of with respect to the opponent, present the dilemma first and show that you transcend it and have a way out.
The OLP brass failed to appreciate the true dilemma faced by voters especially given the meteoric re-emergence of the Ford brand. Moreover, the OLP consistently stepped into their opponents’ political frame.
Ontarians face a dilemma where they must choose between a scandal-prone Ford regime, a collapsedWynne, and a flawed New Democrat platform. Progressive voters face a further challenge in trying to stop Ford. Whatever that may mean at this point, it gives them no choice but to resort to accept the NDP.
While Wynne tried to address the dilemma facing voters and the sociopolitical undercurrent by removing herself from returning to the premier’s office on Saturday, she failed to offer voters a way out. She walked into the frame of another opponent, the NDP, by offering the voters two choices – NDP and PC, both of which does her no good. This was a blessing for the NDP as they have been trying to convince progressive voters that they are the change Ontarians desire and only they can stop Ford conservatives. In this way, the NDP offered a way out for Ontarians while offering a their brand of change.
Wynne addressed a part of the dilemma by removing herself from the equation but she could have addressed the more important part by offering a way out. Wynne could have clarified explicitly that there will be a new OLP leadership and that the OLP would offer to work with the NDP in blocking Ford.
Furthermore, offering to work with the NDP would have forced Andrea Horwath to take a position on whether or not she is willing to work with the OLP to stop Ford. If the NDP agreed, it would have easily allowed voters sympathetic to the OLP to elect more Liberal MPPs to encourage the progressive voters to strategize their voting in ridings where they have a lead. If the NDP refused, it could have flipped the table for the OLP making Horwath’s roster of rookie NDP candidates look like over-ambitious yet novice partisans and not working in the interest of preventing a Ford win but to advance the NDP’s own political ambitions.
The PC’s divide and rule strategy – strategic voting is the only way:
Reimagine this election under Patrick Brown’s PC , Wynne’s OLP, and Horwath’s NDP – what do you see?
I see a typical Ontario provincial election in which PC wins the majority or a responsible minority. The OLP would then sit across as the official opposition and the NDP would remain the third child at Queen’s Park. This was the most common prediction by all observers and analysts until Brown was ejected and Doug Ford came to the fore.
While this election has become a Stop Ford campaign for both the NDP and the Liberals, for the Tories it is all about dividing progressive voters to win the election. The PC would also relish seeing the OLP, their strongest opponent, decimated to the point of losing official status to propel the NDP into the official opposition. This was only possible with Doug Ford because it was clear that Ontarians wanted an end to the Wynne government era and only a divisive candidate like Ford can polarize and split voters like he has.
The Ford campaign has been full of scandals and controversies from its beginning. It would be naïve to assume that the PC establishment did not foresee any of this. This was their strategy. Push progressive voters into a defensive position to split the votes. The risk to this strategy, however, was that it might cost them a majority government in the short term. I suspect that the PC establishment was comfortable with this, possibly inspired by Harper’s 2006 minority government, which later established itself as the majority government through 2008 and 2011 elections. For PC, if Ford can win a minority despite all the scandals and controversies, it can certainly win a re-election majority as Ford will be anointed and freed of all previous sins. This would leave opponents out of political ammunition.
Progressive voters should be alarmed of the possibility of Ford winning even a minority by splitting the progressive vote as it will only strengthen the PC for future rounds. If the OLP loses its official status, it will become difficult to secure the media attention needed to wage a come-back. In the absence of a strong opponent like the OLP, a Ford cabinet will hammer the NDP due to its total inexperience. The result could be the rise of a new Ford era.
To prevent Ford’s PC to divide and rule, progressive voters must be strategic. The only way is to make sure that the votes are getting used to defeat PC candidates. In ridings where OLP historically led and has experienced candidates, voters should consider going against the province-wide trend and vote for OLP. Likewise, the ridings where NDP historically led, NDP candidates should prevail. If it comes to that point, both NDP and OLP can form a coalition to prevent Ford if they have enough seats together to defeat Ford. However, Ontarians will regret if they try to ride an orange wave hoping to defeat Ford. It will only split the progressive vote and give away a slew of seats to Ford.