Push Back Spotlight: TVO Leaders’ Debate

More than 24 hours have lapsed on the second and last debate with the leaders of Ontario’s four major political parties. Did the leaders make an impression? Did they gain or lose ground with voters? Or were voters even aware of the debate? We took a quick look at the social media trends post-debate with today’s Push Back Spotlight.

Social Media Listening

Who’s being talked about?

Unsurprisingly, Doug Ford dominated the conversation online with overall mentions of the PC leader far higher than that of his opponents. Trailing behind was Liberal leader Steven Del Duca, with his quick jabs and live fact-checks generating some sizeable traction. Likely to the chagrin of NDP leader Andrea Horwath, the strong performance of the Green Party’s Mike Schreiner rivaled and even exceeded that of the official opposition’s.

What’s being talked about?

In an election where affordability is king, we were surprised to see that education dominated the online conversation during Monday’s debate. Del Duca hammered Ford on his public education record, citing the difficult experiences felt by kids studying online during the pandemic.

What are people saying?

Sentiment analysis revealed many critics of Ford’s performance Monday, with quips about the PC leader’s binder providing online opponents with much to talk about. Del Duca, on the other hand elicited a more balanced response from viewers, which was likely more lukewarm than he was hoping for. Of note, was online talk about Schreiner’s performance with our sentiment analysis revealing an overwhelmingly positive response.

The Push Back Verdict — Holding the Line

Doug Ford and Steven Del Duca were able to hold their own in the debate and not lose ground to opponents. Ford bore the brunt of many attacks but continued to face opponents with a cool head. Likewise, Del Duca was able to take the high ground with his education agenda, an area where the PCs have been both traditionally and currently weak. However, this is not a change election and it is likely Ford will benefit from the incumbent advantage with his avoidance of missteps during the debate.

If there was a loser, it was Andrea Horwath with her apparent nervousness and failure to own the progressive agenda at the podium. Even on social disability, Horwath acknowledged Schreiner and the Greens had been an influence to change the NDP’s own policy commitment.

We think Mike Schreiner deserves an honourable mention for his crisp messages and radiating confidence. Ford felt Schreiner’s wrath on attacks that were clear, pointed and disarming. Unlike Horwath, Schreiner was able to connect with the audience, steering the conversation away from petty squabbles and towards facts and accountability.

Sound Bites of the Debate

  • FORD to DEL DUCA: “Under yourself and the former Premier Kathleen Wynne, you destroyed this province. The economy was going downhill quicker than the Canadian bobsled team.”
  • DEL DUCA to FORD: “There’s an old saying in life: you’re entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts, Mr. Ford. And the truth of the matter is, you need to stop reading the script that looks like it came out of the fiction section.”
  • SCHREINER to FORD: “He will roll out the red carpets for the Amazons of the world and the big box stores of the world, but when it comes to supporting local farmers, he’ll pave over their farmland.”
  • HORWATH on FORD: “This is the premier that basically had a tantrum and tore out EV charging stations when he first took office. He tore up green energy contracts when he took office. Now he’s seen the light, perhaps? I somehow doubt it.”
  • FORD on the pandemic: “Was everything perfect? No, it wasn’t perfect. But if there was an issue, I’ll get up there, I made the change, I apologized.”
  • FORD to DEL DUCA: “Mr. Del Duca, for two and a half years, literally 24-7, I was working on this pandemic. It’s easy to sit back from the sidelines, when you didn’t have to make the tough decisions that I had to make, and criticize. You have the easiest job. You just sit there and criticize.”
  • DEL DUCA on Ford’s pandemic track record: “I thought it was shameful that tonight Doug Ford was looking for pity from the people of Ontario as he talked about how hard he’s worked and how tough it’s been over the past couple of years. Doug Ford doesn’t seem to understand that’s the job that he ran for four years ago. You don’t just get to be Premier when it’s parades and sunshine. When you sign up for this job…you have this job in good times, but you also have it in tough times.”