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ONTARIO ELECTION: The early outlook in the 10-riding London region

The race to the June 2 Ontario election should start next week. Here's they early outlook in the 10-riding London region.

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With the race to the June 2 election expected to start next week, Jennifer Bieman examines the early shape of things to come for the major parties locally. The Progressive Conservatives and NDP dominated here in 2018, but there are two wide-open races this time and a Liberal party seeking a return from the political wilderness.

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PROGRESSIVE CONSERVATIVES

Bench strength down with veterans gone

The Progressive Conservative London-West candidate, Paul Paolatto (left), spoke with Rick Smith while he walked his dog Aussie in London on Thursday April 28, 2022. Derek Ruttan/The London Free Press
The Progressive Conservative London-West candidate, Paul Paolatto (left), spoke with Rick Smith while he walked his dog Aussie in London on Thursday April 28, 2022. Derek Ruttan/The London Free Press

Last time

• Held their rural bedrock in the region, winning seven of the area’s 10 seats.

• Wide victory margins in what’s been reliably Tory turf, with voter support all above 50 per cent.

This time

• Losing two veteran MPPs, Jeff Yurek in Elgin-Middlesex-London and Randy Pettapiece in Perth-Wellington. A third, Chatham-Kent–Leamington MPP Rick Nicholls, was ousted from the PC caucus for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine, but is seeking re-election with Derek Sloan’s Ontario Party.

• A key question for the Tories, shut out of London’s three urban ridings when Doug Ford led the party to power in 2018, is whether they can break the NDP’s grip on those seats.

What they need to do to win

Tory wins in some ridings will depend a lot on what happens with the Liberals and NDP, said Rob Jonasson, a Western University political science professor.

“The PC party hopes for a strong enough showing of both parties in many ridings . . . to split the centre-left vote and pave the way for a big PC win, possibly even in London ridings,” he said by email.

As an example, if a riding’s Liberal candidate won 20 per cent of the vote, the NDP 30 per cent, and the Greens 10 per cent, a PC candidate could come up the middle with 40 per cent of the vote to win.

“(Former PC premier) Bill Davis, in the 1970s, also benefited from this,” Jonasson said. “(Doug Ford) could easily win another majority with vote splitting on the centre-left.”

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Like any government seeking re-election, Ford’s PCs will have to defend their record over the last four years, including their pandemic response. However, Jonasson said the Tories may have struck a fine political balance in handling the COVID-19 crisis.

“Ford might be in a decent position in his pandemic record, since he was relatively strict with the responses to the pandemic compared to other governments of the political right in North America . . . ,” he said. “Yet, he was not so strict, the opening up over the last several weeks shows this, as to totally alienate his core supporters.”


NEW DEMOCRATS

Strong 2018 showing sets higher bar

London-Fanshawe MPP Teresa Armstrong (left) speaks with Lynn Johnston while campaigning for re-election in London on Thursday April 28, 2022. Derek Ruttan/The London Free Press
London-Fanshawe MPP Teresa Armstrong (left) speaks with Lynn Johnston while campaigning for re-election in London on Thursday April 28, 2022. Derek Ruttan/The London Free Press

Last time

• In its best regional showing since Bob Rae all but swept the region in 1990, the NDP took all three London urban seats, snatching London North Centre from the Liberals in an open race, and running second to the Tories in the region’s other seven seats.

• Helped by an implosion in Liberal support after 15 years of governments led by Dalton McGuinty and Kathleen Wynne, the NDP became the official Opposition.

This time

• Party will be out to defend and expand on 2018 gains, including in London, where it won by commanding levels last time.

• A key question is whether the NDP will be left fighting with the under-new-management Liberals to woo strategic voters who don’t want the Tories to win.

What they need to do to win

The NDP can’t just count on a repeat of 2018, said Matt Farrell, a Fanshawe College political science instructor.

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“In the last election, I think some of the NDP support might have been temporary. Maybe, some were disenchanted Liberal voters who had parked their vote with the NDP,” he said, noting the NDP hasn’t been able to replicate the Ontario NDP’s 2018 success in two federal elections since.

“Their 2018 provincial performance was maybe just reflective of the leader and the climate at the time. A lot of folks weren’t happy with Kathleen Wynne.”

While the NDP has held London-Fanshawe since 2011 and London West since 2013, said London North Centre, a 15-year Liberal constituency the NDP picked off in 2018, could be in play.

“I think that is going to be a competitive riding. The Liberals probably see that as winnable,” Farrell said. “It could be a riding that gets swept up in the overall political climate in the province at election time. There are a lot of worries about housing and cost of living, and so it will be interesting to see who voters think is going to be the best-equipped leader and team to deal with those.”


LIBERALS

Nowhere to go but up

Kate Graham, London North Centre’s Ontario Liberal candidate, second from left, chats with Shelley Peterson, left, former Ontario premier David Peterson and former MPP and deputy premier Deb Matthews at the opening of Graham’s campaign office on Thursday, April 21, 2022. (Mike Hensen/The London Free Press)
Kate Graham, London North Centre’s Ontario Liberal candidate, second from left, chats with Shelley Peterson, left, former Ontario premier David Peterson and former MPP and deputy premier Deb Matthews at the opening of Graham’s campaign office on Thursday, April 21, 2022. (Mike Hensen/The London Free Press)

Last time

• Swept from power in the worst electoral defeat in Ontario history, reduced to seven seats in the 124-seat legislature and losing official party status.

• Lost London North Centre, their last seat in the region, and took less than 10 per cent of the vote in many Southwestern Ontario ridings.

This time

• Have a long way to come back, but may benefit from traditional supporters returning to the fold, especially in urban areas.

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• Two open ridings in the region with no veteran MPPs running could open doors for the Liberals and the NDP, since open races remove a key advantage.

What they need to do to win

Much of the Liberals’ success hinges on how Steven Del Duca, a veteran MPP and former cabinet minister in his first outing as party leader, shakes out on the campaign trail, said Cristine De Clercy, a Western University political scientist.

“Compared to Mr. Ford and Ms. Horwath, he’s the rookie,” she said. “He’s been in the legislature for a significant period of time, but campaigning is different . . . (He) just doesn’t have the name recognition of the other two party leaders.”

The Liberals have the added challenge of introducing Del Duca to voters and talking up who he is and what his goals are, De Clercy said. In London, the Liberals’ goal is simple: “They want their seats back,” De Clercy said. “They want to restore the party organization, but also their popularity with voters.”

De Clercy said she is seeing plenty of ads on social media for London North Centre Liberal candidate Kate Graham and said the party seems to be “getting ready for the fight in the city of London.”

“However, the New Democrats will want to hold onto as many of the gains they’ve made as possible,” she said.

“I think Terence Kernaghan in London North Centre is a good example of somebody who got into office partly because of the Liberal party’s provincewide implosion, but is not resting on his laurels,” De Clercy added. “He’s been pretty active as an MPP and he seems to be putting 100 per cent effort into being re-elected.”

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jbieman@postmedia.com

RUNNING IN THE LONDON REGION

Major party nominees so far

This map shows how the 10-riding London region has looked for the last four years in the Ontario legislature. Juanita Sims/The London Free Press
This map shows how the 10-riding London region has looked for the last four years in the Ontario legislature. Juanita Sims/The London Free Press

Elgin–Middlesex–London
Liberal:
Heather Jackson
NDP: Andy Kroeker
PC: Rob Flack

London–Fanshawe
Green:
Zack Ramsey
Liberal: Zeba Hashmi
NDP: Teresa Armstrong*
PC: Jane Kovarikova

London North Centre
Green:
Carol Dyck
Liberal: Kate Graham
NDP: Terence Kernaghan*
PC: Jerry Pribil

London West
Green:
Colleen McCauley
Liberal: Vanessa Lalonde
NDP: Peggy Sattler*
PC: Paul Paolatto

Lambton–Kent–Middlesex
Green
: Wanda Dickey
NDP: Vanessa Benoit
PC: Monte McNaughton*

Oxford
Green:
 Cheryle Baker
Liberal: Mary Holmes
NDP: Lindsay Wilson
PC: Ernie Hardeman*

Perth-Wellington
Green:
 Laura Bisutti
Liberal: Ashley Fox
NDP: Jo-Dee Burbach
PC: Matthew Rae

Chatham-Kent–Leamington
NDP: Brock McGregor
Ontario Party: Rick Nicholls*
PC: Trevor Jones

Sarnia–Lambton
PC: Bob Bailey*

Huron–Bruce
Green: 
Matthew Van Ankum
Liberal: Shelley Blackmore
NDP: Laurie Hazzard
PC:  Lisa Thompson*

*MPP in existing legislature
**Candidate listings are incomplete and will change. Elections Ontario closes nominations May 12.

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