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Will there be an Election in September 2024 or Early Spring 2025?

Is there an election call for Ontario Conservatives this Fall 2024 or Spring of 2025?  If there is, I sure didn’t know about it, and I have always felt I was on the pulse of what was happening inside government, since it often affects my approach and timing on engaging government with my clients.

Yet political strategists in senior positions within Doug Ford’s inner circle are talking about this idea quietly but very seriously.  So much so, that many organizations are getting their government relations strategy ready for a fall or spring election this year or early next year.

First things first, why did the discussions with strategist even come up surrounding early election? To answer that question,  the recent by-elections should provide us with some definite insight.

Ford’s Progressive Conservatives Won Both Ontario By-Elections

In the recent Ontario by-elections, Premier Doug Ford's Progressive Conservative Party secured victories in both contested ridings: Milton and Lambton-Kent-Middlesex. In Milton, PC candidate Zee Hamid, a three-term Milton councillor with previous Liberal affiliations, won by a significant margin of over 2,400 votes against Liberal candidate Galen Naidoo Harris.

This win was seen as an affirmation of the PC Party's policies in the area, despite expectations of a closer race due to the Liberals' efforts to gain ground in the 905 corridor around Toronto. In Lambton-Kent-Middlesex, PC candidate Steve Pinsonneault secured 57% of the vote, continuing the party's stronghold in the region previously held by Monte McNaughton

The victories in these by-elections were crucial for Ford's Progressive Conservatives, ensuring continued dominance in key regions and staving off potential challenges from the Liberals. These by-elections also marked the first significant test for new Ontario Liberal leader Bonnie Crombie, who chose not to run in Milton herself.

Despite the loss, the Liberal Party spun it the following:

“It is clear, we are the primary alternative to the Ford government…”

Having said that, the results underscored the political dynamics in Ontario, with the Progressive Conservatives maintaining their strategic advantage in suburban and rural areas

What Will the Key Messages be for the Conservatives Next Fall 2024 or in the Spring 2025 Election?

Strangely enough, the Ontario Conservatives ran on the same type of messaging as the Federal Pierre Poilivere Government.  Why?  Because it is resonating really well with voters across the Country and here in Ontario. They literally repeated the talking points of Pierre’s federal government:

  • Get cost of living back under control,

  • Infrastructure investments that create economic development opportunities,

  • Lowering Taxes,

  • Housing affordability, through reduced bureaucratic hurdles.

If you want a great sense of what is the messaging of the Conservatives, Conservative MP Melissa Lantsman puts it together for you in the following YouTube video.

So what is the Thinking of the Conservative Political Strategists Insiders for an Early Election in October or Next Year in April instead of 2026?

For the Ontario Conservatives, the discussion around an election in October or next April instead of waiting until 2026 could be driven by several Ontario-specific factors, specifically their recent by-election wins in Milton and Lambton-Kent-Middlesex.

Additionally, leveraging federal issues that are really resonating with voters, such as lowering cost of living, continue lowering taxes (especially carbon tax), key campaign points for federal Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre—can further shape their strategy.

Here’s how these elements integrate into the broader context:

  • Provincial Political Climate/Recent Performance: The Ontario Conservatives, led by Premier Doug Ford, might be assessing the current political climate and public sentiment in the province. Recent by-election victories in Milton and Lambton-Kent-Middlesex suggest growing or sustained support for the party. Combining this momentum with addressing popular federal issues like lowering taxes, growing the economy, and lowering cost of living and affordability (particularly in housing) would strengthen their position for an early election.

  • Opposition Status: The status and strength of opposition parties, such as the Ontario Liberals and NDP, might influence this decision. The Ontario Liberals, under Bonnie Crombie, are perceived as weak and unprepared, still trying to secure candidates and find messaging that resonates with Ontario voters.  This disorganization presents an opportune moment for the Conservatives to capitalize on their own strengths and recent successes, making an earlier election more favourable.

  • Timing with Federal Elections: The Ontario Conservatives also want to avoid holding their election after the federal election in 2025. They aim to incorporate Federal Conservative messaging that is currently resonating with voters very well. Making an earlier election strategically advantageous.   They want to capitalize on the momentum of this time when Conservative messaging which is resonating with voters.  Two years from now, the sentiment can switch to other issues that work for the other parties. This consideration leaves them with two primary options for timing their election: Fall 2024 or Spring 2025. These periods provide the best opportunity to align their campaign with successful federal themes and capitalize on their current momentum.

  • Current Polling: They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I won’t waste another word describing what political strategists are seeing (see picture below).

Also, Why isn’t there Media Coverage Around This?

When my client shared this information with me, I was strangely shocked!  I called my friends who were close to political/election strategists and ran this information by them. They indicated that this has been a discussion point amongst election strategists in Ford’s team since the by-elections.

The lack of widespread discussion around the Ontario Conservatives' potential for an early election, and their strategic considerations, could be due to several reasons:

  • Political Focus: Media and public attention might be more focused on immediate issues or other political events, such as federal elections in Canada, and the US, world conflicts in Ukraine and Israel, etc.

  • Strategic Silence: The Ontario Conservative strategists might be deliberately keeping their plans under wraps to avoid giving the opposition time to prepare. By not openly discussing the potential for an early election, they maintain a strategic advantage.

  • Complexity of Factors: The interplay of federal and provincial issues, recent by-election results, and strategic timing can be complex and nuanced. This complexity might lead to less public and media discussion as these factors are not always immediately obvious or easily communicated. 

Most Likely Reason There is No Media Attention:

This is a high-risk strategy-period! Calling an election so early, is unorthodox to say the least, and can have huge consequences if it goes sideways.   History hasn’t been kind to parties holding majorities that call early elections in Ontario.

Ontario has called an early provincial election only once when the governing party held a majority. This occurred in 1990 under Premier David Peterson. Peterson's Liberal government had a substantial majority following the 1987 election but decided to call an early election in 1990, just three years into their mandate. This decision was perceived by the public as arrogant and opportunistic, leading to a loss of support and ultimately resulting in the Ontario New Democratic Party (NDP) winning a surprise majority under Bob Rae.

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