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The Push Back: Ford Nation 2.0, An Open Door for Advocacy

Having secured a second majority, Premier Doug Ford must now turn his attention during the summer to a fresh agenda for his government over the next four years.

As we noted previously, despite the PCs’ big electoral success, this was an election in which the opposition parties failed to make the case for change and articulate a clear ballot box question. Coupled with low voter turnout, such ingredients are a recipe for success for the incumbent.

Stay Positive

After the election, Navigator fielded some post-election polling questions to get a sense of what Ontario voters are expecting of their new government.

When asked about whether they are optimistic or pessimistic about the future under a Ford government, Ontarians are surprisingly evenly split on whether a second mandate will be better or worse for them and their families. The low voter turnout means it will be a short honeymoon for Premier Ford’s second term.

To prove his critics wrong, the Ford government must now develop a positive, forward-looking agenda for addressing the campaign’s main issue of affordability as well as driving a strong economic recovery and overall growth post-pandemic. Delivering on the PCs’ promise to cut the gas tax is still high on the list for many Ontarians given recent price hikes at the pump.

Top of mind for Ontario voters is the need for the Ford government to hire more health care workers and clear the surgeries backlog in the wake of the pandemic. There is a perception that they have not taken as much action on these fronts as others where the PCs have clearly communicated progress (e.g. building transit and highways, signing a child care deal with the federal government).

Affordability and Inflation

With inflation reaching a 30-year high of 6.8 per cent in April, affordability is king on the political scene. In our research, we found more than 81 per cent of Canadians are saying that inflation has affected their buying decisions and most expect the problem to only get worse.

Has Inflation Affected Buying Decisions?

Expectations of Inflation

Despite this being a top campaign issue, Ontarians have very low confidence in the government’s ability to do anything about the problem. Just 16 per cent of voters said they were confident that the PCs could effectively deal with the problem.

With inflation expected to continue and the World Bank using the dreaded “r” word, the Ford government will have its work cut out in finding ways to bring more relief to people’s pocketbooks and shield families from the impacts of any potential downturn while trying to advance its fiscal responsibility agenda.

Profiling the New Legislature

New Members, Possible New Cabinet Ministers?

When the Ontario legislature returns, there will be several new faces in the PC caucus. The PCs have expanded its majority by eight seats as of June 2; however, veteran cabinet ministers Christine Elliott and Rod Philipps having opted not to run for re-election. Ford must now consider which of the existing cabinet ministers should be moved into new portfolios and whether any of the new MPPs with notable resumes should be elevated to cabinet to help balance regional diversity.

Here are our picks for who to watch among the new faces at Queen’s Park:

  • Timmins Mayor George Pirie flipped the riding for the PC Party, earning a whopping 65 per cent of the vote and defeating sitting NDP MPP Gilles Bisson. As a former mining executive and mayor of a big town in Ontario’s north, Pirie is also a candidate Ford personally recruited over a multi-year period.
  • City Councillor Chamaine Williams won the riding of Brampton Centre, defeating NDP deputy leader Sara Singh. In 2018, Williams became the first Black woman to be elected to Brampton’s city council and would bring needed diversity to the PC cabinet.
  • Todd McCarthy, a corporate litigator and Deputy Judge, was elected in Durham – maintaining the all-important 905 riding for the PC party. Since his nomination, he has been viewed as a star candidate and an important individual to keep an eye on.
  • Anthony Leardi, a former lawyer and Deputy Mayor of Amherstburg, clinched a PC win from the NDP incumbent in a region Ford has long had his eye on and will be looking to consolidate gains. Leardi served for 13 years as a federal agent for the Public Prosecution Service of Canada and acts as a guest lecturer for the Ontario Law Society.

A Quiet Opposition

In an unprecedented move, both NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca resigned on election night. Since then, the opposition parties have been quiet – making no real attempts to attract media attention or advocate for specific policy priorities. Over the coming weeks and months, expect various candidates and potential candidates to come forward as they contemplate leadership bids.

The NDP and Liberals will also turn their attention to appointing interim leaders, listening to defeated candidates and Ontarians to better understand the outcome of this past election, and ultimately make a call on when to choose to leader. There are also rumblings of a potential merger of the NDP and Liberals to improve their electoral chances, but the idea seems unlikely giving the historical rivalries between the two parties.

Once an interim leader is chosen, the NDP will look to appoint critics to shadow Ford’s new cabinet. Lacking official party status, the Liberals are expected to once again play a minor role in the legislature as they conduct deep soul-searching on the June 2 results.

A Legislature that Looks Like Ontario?

In a step backwards, the returning legislature is actually less diverse than the set of MPPs voters sent to Queen’s Park in 2018. Despite three of the major parties nominating more than 50 per cent women, gender diversity is actually down slightly among elected MPPs. Just 47 of the 124 seats in this legislature will be represented by women, down slightly from 2018 when women filled 49 seats.
With respect to racial diversity, Ontarians who are Black, Indigenous or persons of colour account for just 22.5 per cent of seats. While this lags behind the 29.3 per cent of Ontarians who self-identify as being from a visible minority, it is a significant improvement from governments elected as recently as a decade ago.

Setting the Table

In the notorious words of Former Prime Minister Kim Campbell during the 1993 election, the last few weeks have shown that “an election is no time to discuss serious issues.” The 2022 election was sleepy and lacked meaningful engagement on issues. Now that the election is over, Ontario’s new government will have to face the music on a few critical files requiring heavy lifts.

Clearing the Surgeries Backlog

The immense stress that the pandemic put on the health care system has delayed non-essential health services and created a seemingly insurmountable backlog. As of two weeks ago, the Ontario Medical Association reported that there is currently a backlog of 22 million health services, including one million surgeries.

In his previous mandate, Premier Ford got the ball rolling on dealing with the backlog and called on the federal government to increase its share of health care funding. At one point, the PC government looked at the backlog of surgeries where there was the most urgent need and issued a call for independent health facilities (IHFs) to step up to address the problem, starting with cataract surgeries. We can expect the government to take a further look at what other surgeries would benefit from such calls.

Build, Build, Build

While the Liberals and NDP tried to wedge the PCs on this issue, our research showed 45 per cent of Ontarians supported the contentious Highway 413, with an even higher rate of support in the 905 (57 per cent). Ford and the PCs argued that this highway was necessary to save commuters time. This promise bore fruits on election night when the PCs swept the 905, including three pickups from the NDP in Brampton. Now that the election is behind us, the Ford government will undoubtedly want to “get it done” and start building the highway, along with other important projects, such as its GTA Subway Plan and Highway 417 expansion. The Ford government will also further continue its work to expand broadband, committing $4 billion over the next six years.

Teachers’ Collective Bargaining Agreements

With all the talk this past year was about whether students would be attending classes in-person or virtually, many forgot that there is a chance that there might not be classes at all for some students this fall. The collective agreements with all four of the major teacher unions in Ontario expire on August 31. That gives this government a relatively short runway to ensure that Ontario does not see any class cancellations like it did in late 2019 and early 2020. The government will want to avoid strikes or “work-to-rule” actions, where teachers only perform the tasks that are described in their official work responsibilities. This means that they would no longer perform non-essential work like report card comments, after school academic support or extracurricular activities. At a time when many parents feel that their children are behind because of the difficulties of learning during COVID, anything short of a deal being struck before the end of August would be a serious risk to the government.

Beer Store Contract Renewal

The Master Framework Agreement (MFA), a contract by the provincial government given to the Beer Store in 2015, expires in 2025. The Beer Store is owned by three brewers, Molson Coors (50.9%), Labbatt (44.9%) and Sleeman (4.2%). When the PCs took office in 2018, this agreement was initially threatened by Premier Ford’s commitment to liberalize beer and wine sales, including allowing the sale of these products in corner stores. After tense negotiations, the government passed but did not bring into force the Bringing Choice and Fairness to the People Act in 2019 and threatened to rip up the agreement.

Although there are still a couple of years until the agreement lapses, negotiations of this magnitude take months, if not years, to negotiate, so this is likely to become a pertinent issue to be addressed sooner than later. We can expect the Ford government will continue to liberalize alcohol sales wherever possible over the next few years.

Navigator is also available to ensure your business is well-positioned and engaging with the government and new cabinet. If you have questions, please reach out at




The QP Briefing Podcast: Ontario election 2022 campaign debrief

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.

Doug Ford Got It Done™️ and will head another majority government. The panellists popped champagne to celebrate or commiserate.

Be sure to tune in, folks, and listen to NDP MPP Suze Morrison, McMillan Vantage’s Ashley Csanady, and Navigator’s Brayden Akers.

The Push Back: A Ford Victory

The results are in for the 2022 Ontario provincial election, and the Ford government has won another majority government with more seats.

Here are the results:

One of the more shocking results last night were reports of historically low voter turnout. Early data from Elections Ontario suggests the 2022 provincial election had the worst voter turnout in history, with only 43 per cent of Ontarians casting their ballot. In comparison, the 2018 provincial election saw a 57 per cent voter turnout, the highest in over a decade.

Unlike in 2018, this election lacked strong debate over ideological values and differences. The PCs focused on wedging the opposition on issues of affordability and building large infrastructure projects like highways, while the NDP chose to focus on health care. On the other hand, the Liberals started off with a strong affordability push with their buck-a-ride and tax-free prepared foods policies, but that lead diminished as they pivoted to talking about education and handguns – priorities that were not as top of mind for provincial voters as the cost of living.

In the end, the opposition parties failed to paint Ford as a poor choice for re-election and present a compelling alternative. The voters have spoken: they do not want change. Likely worn out from the years-long pandemic, Ontarians have trusted Doug Ford to continue leading the province through the post-pandemic economic recovery. He campaigned to “Get It Done” and say “yes” instead of “no” to building up Ontario, and it paid off in spades.

What’s Next

With very little shakeup to the roster of MPPs, we anticipate Ford will be slow to return to “business as usual.” They will take their time to get the right talent in place and brainstorm new ideas for the new mandate. Here is what you can expect next as the returning government gets back to work:

Cabinet Picks

In a press conference this morning, Ford confirmed that there was no rush to appoint the new Cabinet or call back the legislature to lay out a Speech from the Throne and to re-introduce the spring budget.

With all cabinet ministers re-elected, we can expect many returning faces. It is expected Peter Bethlenfalvy will continue in his current role of Finance Minister. Notably missing in the new government is former Minister of Health Christine Elliott, who opted not to seek re-election. With health care comprising over 50 per cent of the provincial budget, Ford will look to appoint a veteran minister to the portfolio.

Government Priorities

In his victory speech, Ford laid out clear priorities that are likely to form the basis of his forthcoming Speech from the Throne. Strengthening Ontario’s economy will be the focus of government, with plans to further invest in key infrastructure such as highways, transit, and Ring of Fire development. Ford also committed to invest in Ontario’s auto sector and technology industries to grow jobs.

Before the election, the 2022 Ontario budget was unveiled but was not passed before legislature adjourned. Ultimately the budget served as a campaign platform for the PCs, with commitments to revisit planned funding promises if re-elected. Ford announced the government will be reintroducing the budget almost as-is, with the possibility of a few adjustments. For example, Ford indicated that the government intends to deliver on its ad-hoc commitment on the campaign trail to increase the Ontario Disability Support Program benefits by five per cent and index increases to inflation thereafter. We will stay tuned to see when the government plans to pass the budget.

The Opposition

The results of the Ontario election spurred the unprecedented dual resignation of both Andrea Horwath, the NDP leader, and Steven Del Duca, the Liberal leader. While the NDP earned official opposition status, they lost nine seats and pressures from within the party would not allow Horwath to continue on as leader for the next election if she did not deliver. In the case of the Liberals, they were not able to gain official party status under the current system (12 seats).

As a result, the NDP and Liberals will enter a race for leadership after a disappointing election for the parties. It is expected contenders from within the current NDP caucus will come forward over the coming days to declare their intention to run for the leadership.

Key Races

This election may not be the most notable in recent memory. However, there were some local results that have politicos talking:

  • The PCs dominated the Greater Toronto Area, with Liberal leader Steven Del Duca losing his riding in Vaughan-Woodbridge to the PC incumbent Michael Tibollo.
  • The PCs gained seats in key NDP ridings, including three ridings in Brampton (East, Centre, and North) and two in the Windsor region (Essex and Windsor-Tecumseh).
  • Despite a disappointing overall result, the Liberal party won two former NDP seats in Beaches-East York and Kingston and the Islands.
  • Although the Green Party keep their one seat in Guelph, the party made significant gains in Parry Sound-Muskoka, which went to PC candidate and former AMO president Graydon Smith.
  • Retired Toronto Police Chief and PC candidate Mark Saunders lost the race in Don Valley West to Liberal Stephanie Bowman, maintaining the former riding of Kathleen Wynne for the party.
  • George Pirie, the former mayor of Timmins and PC candidate, won over the 32-year NDP incumbent Gilles Bisson in the Timmins riding and has spurred rumours of a cabinet appointment. The PCs also picked up Thunder Bay—Atikokan for the first time since the creation of the riding in 1999.
  • Former PC executive assistant Bobbi Ann Brady won the riding of Haldimand-Norfolk and has become the province’s only Independent MPP.
  • Candidate Amanda Simard, who crossed the aisle to join the Liberals from the PC party, lost in Glengarry-Prescott-Russell to PC candidate Stephane Sarrazin.
  • Three former Toronto city councillors were successful last night, with Michael Ford (PC, York South-Weston), Kristyn Wong-Tam (NDP, Toronto Centre) and Mary-Margaret McMahon (Liberal, Beaches-East York) elected.
  • Kate Graham, a former Liberal leadership candidate, finished third place in London North Centre, with NDP incumbent Terence Kernaghan winning the riding.

In the coming days, the Navigator team will be conducting comprehensive polling and in-depth analysis of the newly elected government and election results. Navigator is also available to ensure your business is well-positioned and engaging with the government and new cabinet. If you have questions, please reach out at




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

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