There are ten things that I will be looking for over the coming weeks.
The first thing I’ll say is that while the media and political junkies may be excited about the June 7th election, most people would rather have root canal. I expect that this may be the lowest voter turnout election in many years. Voters are not excited about this election and may say a pox on all your houses and sit this one out.
The vitriol already displayed so far is turning off a lot of people. With this being the opening days and many more to go I think most will be numbed by the attacks and counterattacks before Election Day.
The second is that campaigns matter and will be won on the ground game. With social media being discredited by fake news, foreign interference and Cambridge Analytica, I think that campaigns will have to go back to old fashion door knocking to reach voters. That lends itself to both the Liberals and New Democrats who have a better-developed ground games.
Third, it is said that money is the oxygen of politics, without it you’re dead. The clear winner here is the Ford Conservatives who under their previous leader paid off their party’s debt and put money in the bank. The Liberals and NDP are significantly behind and with the new rules that put a straight jacket on fundraising it has put them at a disadvantage.
Fourth, is organization. The Liberals have run four consecutive winning campaigns and can draw on a roster of experienced veterans from both provincial and federal efforts.
The Conservatives have basically co-opted most of the Harper election team. While they lost the last federal election they will no doubt be anxious to reclaim Ontario while the federal Liberals are in Ottawa.
The NDP will draw on their traditional allies to put a more focused and disciplined campaign together. The team that runs an error free campaign will have an advantage.
Fifth, women will decide who the next Premier will be. Women now outrank men as the largest voting block.
In the past few elections women decided who was going to form the government. I expect that the same will hold true this time too.
If women see Ford as too dangerous that may be good news for Wynne and Horwath, if however women vote as they did in the states like Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania that delivered for Trump, then Ford could look at a very robust majority.
Sixth, will millennials turn out for this election? This voting block now is the largest age demographic surpassing boomers. These voters were key to Justin Trudeau’s successful election.
Right now they are drifting to the NDP and to some extent to the Liberals. If one of these parties can corral enough of these highly prized voters then they could block Ford from winning.
Seventh, how will splits affect the election? If Liberals and New Democrats are fighting over the same voters will that allow the Conservatives to come up the middle and win seats they have been historically been shut out of? Seats in Scarborough and Etobicoke that have been traditionally safe for the Liberals could be in play.
Eighth, how will third parties impact this election? In the past third parties were credited with keeping Conservatives out of power. Full disclosure, I have ran the Working Families campaign since 2003.
Now with new restrictions and new players on the right such as Ontario Proud, the changing dynamic could make for an interesting campaign.
Ninth, the late May surprise. In US Presidential politics there is something called the October surprise. It got its name for a political bombshell that got dropped days before the election that left the candidate with little time to respond.
The example in the last US election was the FBI’s announcement that it was reopening the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s e-mails just weeks before Election Day. Is it possible that there is a similar revelation hurled at one of the party leaders just before the vote is cast and what impact, if any, will it have?
Tenth, what impact will the media have on the campaign? The decision by the Ford campaign not to have the media follow them has raised a hue and cry from many who see this as an effort to stifle coverage.
None of this however has affected Ford in the polls. Voters may not be paying active attention at this point, but when they do, will reporting influence their choice on Election Day? That’s anyone’s guess.
So these are the factors that will be in play in the coming days and weeks as we strap ourselves in and get onboard Ontario campaign 2018.
Marcel Wieder is an award-winning political consultant. He is President and Chief Advocate of Aurora Strategy Group based in Toronto.