Navigator logo

Push Back Spotlight: A Bloody Battle

With two days until Election Day, more than one million Ontarians have already cast their ballot— about 10 per cent of the voter population. As we discussed last week, a surprising election outcome is unlikely. Despite that, partisan punches are still flying in a bid for second place.

We took a look at one story that has been generating a lot of social media attention over the last couple days regarding blood test rumours.

Medical Misinformation

Amid growing chatter about privatization in Ontario’s health-care system, the cost of blood tests in the province was trending this past weekend. A number of tweets from Ontario residents went viral, warning people that several blood tests—including one for cancer screening—had been taken off the list of OHIP-covered tests. The story was quick to spread online, with claims that Ford was behind the cuts growing on TikTok and other media outlets.

The story prompted several tweets from election candidates, including a now deleted tweet from social media savvy Tyler Watt, a Liberal candidate for Nepean, where he contended that “Doug Ford’s Conservatives have appeared to quietly cancel a number of OHIP covered tests including cancer screenings which now cost $86.” NDP leader Andrea Horwath also chimed in.

However, on Monday, the Ministry of Health poured cold water on the rumours. In a statement, a spokesperson from the Ministry asserted that “there have not been any changes to tests covered under OHIP — Schedule of Benefits-Laboratory Services (SOB-LS) that may have led to a patient being charged.” LifeLabs also issued a statement noting that no medically necessary laboratory tests have been de-listed from OHIP.

Social Media Volume

Despite many deleting their ill-informed attacks against the PCs, we live in an era of digital permanence. Traction over the weekend was high, garnering significant attention after initial claims were made. Overall volume tapered into Monday, when the Ministry of Health squashed the rumours.

Push Back Verdict— Bad News Travels Fast

In a relatively quiet election period, this issue made a lot of noise. For many Canadians, our health-care system is a point of pride and, according to our insights, the second most important issue for voters this election. Despite the Ministry of Health’s attempt to squash the rumours on Monday, the misinformation was able to spread like wildfire over the weekend. This has the potential to reach undecided voters— particularly those that are young and consume much of their election news through social media channels.

While young TikTok users aren’t likely to tip the scales this election period, this weekend’s debacle is as a prime example of how quickly news—real or fake—can spread online.

We will continue to monitor this issue for traction and provide an update in a future edition.

Have any questions about the news out of Queen’s Park this week? Please reach out to our political experts at

Ontario’s troubles are Doug Ford’s election spoils. If he wins, the honeymoon will be short

Even though Ontario’s 43rd general election is now just four days away, the results seem to be a foregone conclusion. For all intents and purposes, every sign indicates that Doug Ford and his incumbent Progressive Conservatives will be returning to Queen’s Park to govern Canada’s most populous province for another four years.

Why? Because Ford’s message has, once again, resonated with voters.

For a series of reasons, the plans Steven Del Duca and Andrea Horwath have put forth to address the issues top-of-mind for voters have simply not been convincing. Rather, a plurality of Ontarians appear to remain convinced that the PCs are best positioned to address the pocketbook issues they care most about.

With the horse race question seemingly answered, others remain. Will Horwath keep her job as leader of the official Opposition — or of the Ontario NDP, for that matter? Will the Liberal leader win his own Vaughan-Woodbridge riding?

On the other hand, Ford faces a different set of questions and challenges. Should he sail to victory as anticipated, PC politicians, pundits and staffers will rightfully celebrate another electoral breakthrough.

That said, their honeymoon will be short as the reality of continuing to govern an intricate and complicated province sets in.

Ontario faces a host of challenging issues, and the new premier does not have the tools to deal with them all. In fact, when you look at the issue set, you might well conclude winning the election means winning a booby prize.

First off, Ontarians are facing a severe affordability crunch. As I’ve previously written in this space, this has been the “affordability crisis” campaign.

The extent and impact of this crisis cannot be overstated. As Canada’s inflation rate skyrocketed to 6.8 per cent in April — a 31-year high — the prices of everyday essentials, like gasoline and food, ate into the finances of every Canadian family. Food prices alone have risen nearly 10 per cent over the past year.

Given the provincial government’s limited control over monetary policy, a PC government faces an uphill battle when combating the price of everyday essentials without resorting to costly subsidies or tax breaks — political levers the provincial treasury can no longer easily stomach.

Meanwhile, housing affordability continues to deteriorate at an alarming rate, pushing first-time home buyers and families further behind. The average price of a home in Ontario, inflation-adjusted, has risen 44 per cent since 2018, reaching a record $871,688.

The core of the issue is that demand for housing across Ontario continues to outpace supply. While the PCs have smartly positioned themselves as the pro-construction and development option, they will need to actually deliver.

The new Ford government simply must fulfil their election promise to build 1.5 million new homes. After all, in the last decade alone, Ontario’s population grew by over 1,600,000 people.

And then there is our dismal financial standing. Fifteen years of Liberal overspending, COVID-19 pandemic subsides delivered at previously unimagined levels, a war in Ukraine, a looming global recession, and worldwide supply chain issues all conspire to make a bad situation even worse.

As Ontario’s debt rises to a projected eye-popping $468.4 billion by 2024-25, delivering a plan for fiscal balance will be no easy task.

Many of the Ford government’s political missteps in the early days of its first mandate were attributed to the pursuit of a balanced budget. Resuming that path this time around will be undoubtedly contentious once again. It will require a careful trade off between the public’s appetite for structural change, and the financial reality on the ground.

To complicate this equation, a renewed PC government will have to contend with a serious backlog of urgent hospital procedures and another round of negotiations with public sector workers, including teachers.

Turns out the fabulist Aesop may well have been right when he said “Be careful what you wish for, lest it come true.”

Clarification — May 30, 2022: Ontario has the largest population of all provinces and territories in Canada. A previous version of this article said it was simply the largest. As well, it was clarified that Ontario’s debt, not its deficit, is projected to rise to $468.4 billion by 2024-25.

The Push Back: Making a Move?

With a week left on the campaign trail, opposition war rooms are scrambling to land a match-winning partisan punch on the leading PCs.

In this edition, we look at whether there are enough swing voters to change the course of this campaign and reflect on why the opposition parties have not been able to gain the traction they need to defeat Doug Ford. To catch up on past editions, visit the Push Back.

What We’re Watching

  • While we still see a strong lead for the PCs, the race for second remains up for grabs. Polling shows 10 ridings are still a toss-up for next week.
  • Ford felt confident enough to hold a rally on Horwath’s home turf in Hamilton Thursday night. Ford has more rallies planned each night over the coming days in Kitchener, London, Ajax and Toronto.
  • Audrey Festeryga, the Liberal candidate for Chatham—Kent—Leamington, withdrew her candidacy on Thursday amid claims from the NDP that she had reused the signatures of constituents who signed in support of ousted Alex Mazurek. That’s now three ridings without a Liberal candidate.
  • Liberal Leader Del Duca came under fire for $50,000 in hospitality charges racked up by his riding association while he was in government.
  • In an attempt to deliver a partisan blow, the Liberal War Room sent a chicken mascot to call out the PCs for their debate-dodging candidates.
  • In a last ditch effort, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath is pushing out a positive 30-second clip from a recent rally depicting herself as the only leader that will fix what matters most.

Research Insights

If you think this election period has been slow, you aren’t alone, and our research insights tell the same story. Three weeks ago, we published our first edition of the Push Back. Since then, our research shows that 63 per cent of undecided Ontarians have not changed their vote intentions in the past three weeks.

Among decided voters, only 13 per cent of people said their intention had changed since the start of election period.

While this is clearly not a change election, let’s not forget the 23 per cent of respondents who remain undecided as well as the 10 per cent of respondents that can be still be classified as swing voters. We believe campaigns matter, but nothing on the campaign trail appears to be moving votes on a drastic scale – a trend that typically favours incumbents.

Social Media Analysis

After two years of COVID-19 and similar to last year’s federal election, most voters have tuned out this election. As the sitting premier who successfully weathered the pandemic, reopened the economy and ended mask mandates, this was Ford’s election to lose. While most Ontarians had some inkling of who Andrea Horwath was after 14 years as NDP Leader, Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca started this election as a relatively unknown quantity. So, was he able to build his profile and win over voters?

The graph below shows social media mentions of the three major party leaders. Throughout the campaign period, Doug Ford has held a commanding lead in name recognition as evidenced by mentions on social media. More surprisingly, Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca appears to have been unable to break through on social and introduce himself to voters – with a steady number of social media mentions throughout the entire campaign period.

Since April 28, there have been 392,000 mentions of Doug Ford, compared to just 135,000 mentions of Steven Del Duca and a statistically similar 131,000 mentions of Andrea Horwath.

Wedge Issues

In a previous edition of the Push Back, we looked at how the Liberal and NDP campaigns attempted to drive several wedge issues in the election. While there are other issues on which the opposition continues to push back on the Conservative’s reputation, our analysis shows that they’ve ultimately been unsuccessful in using these issues to bring voters to their side.

Wedge 1: Affordability

As previous Navigator polling has demonstrated, the top election issue for Ontarians is affordability and the cost of living. Throughout the campaign, we have seen all three parties introduce policies to address this top issue. Andrea Horwath and the NDP promised an ambitious platform of rental control and to boost affordable housing, Steven Del Duca’s Liberal Party promised voters $1 transit rides and PC Leader Doug Ford doubled down on his promise to cut the gas tax. So how did these policies play with Ontario voters?

While the Liberal “buck-a-ride” platform got significant traction on social media in the days immediately after being announced on May 2, coverage stabilized in the following weeks. Since April 28, there have been 13,000 mentions of the NDP housing commitments, 11,000 mentions of the PC gas tax cut, and just 8,600 mentions of the Liberals’ buck-a-ride promise.

Wedge 2: Education

On May 5, the Liberals pledged to cap class sizes at 20 students per class for every grade in the province if elected. In response to the announcement, Premier Ford pushed back on the plan stating that, under the previous Liberal government, it closed 600 schools. Here is how the plan played out on social media throughout the course of the election so far.

The volume on social media peaked with 103 mentions on May 5, the day of the announcement. The plan immediately lost traction across social media in the days following the announcement, with only a few instances of increased mentions later in the month.

Wedge 3: Long-Term Care

The opposition has been critical of the PCs and the current long-term care system, notably of the treatment of seniors during the pandemic. On May 26, both the NDP and Liberals pledged to end for-profit long-term care. Since the start of the election, NDP leader Andrea Horwath promised to overhaul the long-term care system and claimed the PCs would only continue privatizing the health-care system.

The NDP has had several spikes in volume on social media with mentions of the issue of long-term care. However, the total volume of mentions remained low throughout the month. The volume peaked with 155 mentions on May 26 when the NDP announced a plan to end for-profit long-term care.

Push Back Verdict – Deflated Balloon

Overall, the oppositions’ attempt to push back on the PCs and create wedges on traditionally weak areas for the PCs’ track record over the course of the campaign failed to gain any traction. The Liberals had a lot of initial momentum with their buck-a-ride policy at the outset of the campaign, but seemed to lose air over the last few weeks. The opposition has not made a compelling case for change on these important policy files, which means Ontarians may not be ready to accept change and would rather stick to the status quo. Both the Liberals and the NDP will need to pull out all the creative stops to be able to slow the PCs’ momentum heading into next Thursday.

Have any questions about the news out of Queen’s Park this week? Please reach out to our political experts at

The QP Briefing Podcast: Ontario election 2022 week four roundup

This week, Brayden Akers was a panellist on the QP Briefing Podcast. Shownotes are included below, and you can listen to the episode on the QP Briefing website.

The fourth week of the Ontario election is on the books! This week saw the NDP and Liberals go at one another, while Doug Ford’s lead held steady. Be sure to tune in, folks.

The wonderful panel includes outgoing NDP MPP Suze Morrison, McMillan Vantage’s Ashley Csanady, and Navigator’s Brayden Akers.

Push Back Spotlight: Demonstrating Leadership

Welcome back to the Push Back after the long weekend lull. While everyone was away from their inboxes, we took the opportunity to ask Ontarians what their voting intentions are for the upcoming election. We also looked at the main reasons why PC voters are choosing to vote this way. Let’s take a look.

Polling Results: Voter Intentions

In our survey fielded from May 16-19, 30 per cent of voters said they are voting for the PCs, with the NDP falling 14 points behind in second place. The Liberals lands in a close third place, only three points behind the NDP. Most notably 28 per cent of voters remain undecided on who they intend to vote for with only nine days left in this election.

In our decided vote polling, it showed a greater margin of victory for the PCs at 45 per cent, whereas the NDP trailed at only 23 per cent of the vote.

The PCs continue to have their strongest support amongst male individuals, those earning over $100,00 a year, and voters over the age of 55, with 62 per cent having college, technical or university-level education. Ford’s support is strongest in eastern Ontario (36 per cent) and the Greater Toronto Area (905) (32 per cent), and weakest in downtown Toronto (416) (25 per cent).

Why Ontarians like Ford Nation

The PCs are leading by a sizable margin, with most Ontarians voting PC because they think other political parties would just do a worse job in government. While 18 per cent of PC voters say the main reason they will vote for Doug Ford is because PC policies address issues they care about, only 14 per cent say the main reason for their vote is because they like Ford.

As noted in our previous editions, the cost of living continues to be a top issue for voters. Among PC voters, 70 per cent say the main reason they are voting PC is due to Ford’s policies to address the cost of living. Ford has already announced plans to lower the gas tax and has ended the vehicle registration fees, which appears to be resonating with voters.

Other important reasons for voting PCs include Ford’s policies around job creation and the economy (54 per cent) – a traditional area of strength for conservatives – and his support for building more infrastructure, including highways and transit (47 per cent).

Weathering the Storm

Over the weekend, a deadly storm swept through the province resulting in 10 casualties and leaving thousands without power, especially in eastern Ontario. On Sunday, Ontario Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca latched onto the natural disaster. Del Duca announced the suspension of his campaign in order to visit areas of Eastern Ontario which were hard hit by the storm. At a press conference, he openly criticized the Premier’s alleged absence from storm-hit areas.

Meanwhile, during an unannounced visit to Uxbridge to survey the damage, Ford stated that his top priority is to restore power across the region after the storm severely damaged hydro infrastructure and properties.

While some Ottawa and GTA residents criticized the Premier’s absence, others pushed back on Del Duca for politicizing a tragedy saying that he was continuing to campaign in Ottawa using a natural disaster to attack the Premier at a time when leaders should be coming together.

So, how did Del Duca’s attack play with Ontario voters?

Social Media Analysis

While politicizing a natural disaster may have played well in party war rooms, the issue got minimal traction with Ontario voters. Even at the height of coverage on Saturday, Del Duca’s criticism of Doug Ford was the subject of less than 13,000 social media posts, compared to 45,000 posts discussing the cost of living and inflation and more than 118,000 posts about housing affordability. We would preface these observations by noting there were widespread power outages and Ontarians may have also been taking a social media break due to the long weekend.

Negative v. Positive

Among those who were paying attention to the incident, many residents in eastern Ontario sided with Del Duca in asking why Ford was not prioritizing the hardest-hit region of the province. In total, 58 per cent of tweets sided with Del Duca in criticizing Ford, while 10 per cent of tweets sided with Ford and accused Del Duca of politicizing the incident.

The most prolific social media posts came directly from PC and Liberal candidates and their staff. Posts from candidates were excluded from the sentiment chart below.

Push Back Verdict – Swing and Miss

We would characterize this incident as a “swing and miss.” While Liberal staff were anxious to jump on Doug Ford’s absence, voters seemed more concerned with pocketbook issues of inflation and housing affordability. While social media posts largely sided with Del Duca on the incident, those posting were already some of the most highly engaged Liberal supporters and were unlikely to vote for Ford in the first place. The online conversation (or lack thereof) suggests that politicizing a natural disaster does not make for good politics.

Have any questions about the news out of Queen’s Park this week? Please reach out to our political experts at