ONTARIO ELECTION WATCH VI: Ford Conservatives win majority government .. with record low voter turnout

Jun 3rd, 2022 | By | Category: In Brief
“Seniors’ Day at Value Village” by Michael Seward, May 2022.

ONTARIO ELECTION WATCH 2022, CW EDITORS, GANATSEKWYAGON, ON. JUNE 3, 2022, 2:15 AM EDT. The results as of this moment in a 124-seat Legislative Assembly with a bare majority of 63 seats are : Conservatives 83 seats with 40.8% of the province-wide popular vote ; New Democrats 31 seats with 23.7% of the vote ; Liberals 8 seats with 23.8% of the vote ; Greens 1 seat with 6.0 %, and 1 Independent with 0.5%.

The election was altogether a disaster for the Ontario Liberals (even if they do end with very slightly more of the popular vote than the New Democrats). Leader Steven Del Duca lost his own seat in Vaughan-Woodbridge. And at the end of a rather classy speech to his campaign workers and supporters (and the wider TV audience), he announced his resignation as party leader.

Andrea Horwath’s New Democrats managed to retain a somewhat chimerical status as “Official Opposition” (with 52 seats less than the governing Conservatives). The NDP has done better in Toronto than it apparently feared it might. But it has (by the counting at this point) nine fewer seats than it won in 2018. And in a rather showy speech to her supporters, Ms Horwath also announced her resignation as party leader.

Mike Schreiner’s Green Party increased its share of the province-wide popular vote — from 4.6% in 2018 to 6.0% in 2022. It came close enough but did not win in Parry Sound-Muskoka (18,102 votes to 20,216 for the winning Conservative). It finished fourth in University-Rosedale in Toronto. And in the end it still has only Mike Schreiner’s seat in Guelph (which he did win convincingly with 54.5% of the riding/electoral district vote). At the end of Mr. Schreiner’s characteristically genial speech to supporters, he urged the second Ford “Progressive Conservative” majority government to steal Green Party policies!

It must be reported that in his speech to supporters (and TV) at the end of the evening Conservative leader and still Premier Doug Ford said almost all the right things. And he thanked the other party leaders for their role in Ontario democracy, stressing that he knew they wanted the province to succeed just as he did.

“10th St., New York City, 1956; Galadriel Bal.” by Michael Seward, May 2022.

(All other party leaders thanked all other party leaders in their speeches as well. And all this has to be an encouraging sign of at least ultimate democratic civility, despite what so often happens in the Legislative Assembly nowadays.)

Even if you are pleased that Doug Ford’s Not-Exactly-Ford-Nation-Party-Anymore has won such an unassailable second majority government (as we confess we are not!), there are also a few downsides for Ontario democracy in what has transpired.

Robert Benzie at the Toronto Star and Evan Solomon on CTV have both expressed concern about early reports of unusually low voter turnout. According to City News, last updated at 12:20 this morning, “Voter turnout was … expected to be around 45 per cent, which would be the lowest ever for an Ontario election.” And this just confirms the “disengaged electorate” syndrome we (like others) alluded to on May 14 and then again on May 24. [UPDATE 2PM, JUNE 3 :While the Progressive Conservatives may have won a sweeping victory Thursday night, a large majority of Ontarians decided not to bother heading to the polls … The province recorded the lowest voter turnout in history during the 2022 election, with just about 43.5 per cent of eligible voters casting a ballot according to preliminary Elections Ontario results … Of the just over 10.7 million registered voters in the province, this equals just over 4.6 million votes cast.“]

As some wise commentator alluded to on TV, calculations based on this kind of low turnout can also dramatize the real-world thinness of support for even the kind of Ford Conservative party that won a second majority government yesterday. Ie, the just under 41% of the 45% of the electorate that turned out to vote means that not much more than 18% of the electorate has actually voted for Doug Ford’s party.

And yet our present system of government will give this party (chosen by only 18% or so of the “Ontario people” Doug Ford also alluded to in his election night speech) the keys to drive the province almost anywhere it likes for four more years.

Another way of putting this is to underline that even on the 2022 Ontario election results a 53.5% majority of those Canadian citizens resident in Canada’s most populous province who did choose to vote chose New Democrats, Liberals, or Greens.

Which is to say that even on a good day for conservatives, 21st century Ontario is more of a progressive than a conservative province. And slowly but surely coming to understand this over the past four years is what finally gave Premier Ford’s everything-old-is-new-again Progressive Conservative party its second majority government, compliments of a disengaged electorate, the majority of which stayed home

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