After less than a week on the campaign trail, the race for the Ontario premiership is as tight as it gets. With polls showing leads for both the Progressive Conservatives and the Liberals, the election is, at this early stage, a toss-up. But were an election held today, Queen’s Park would be more divided than it’s been in more than 25 years.
Based on a weighted aggregation of the latest polls, ThreeHundredEight.com’s seat projection model puts the Progressive Conservatives and Liberals on track to win 44 seats apiece, with the New Democrats taking the remaining 19 seats in the 107-seat Legislature. With even numbers in the caucuses of both Dalton McGuinty and Tim Hudak, the NDP would be in a position to decide which man becomes Ontario’s next premier.
Though this is a remarkable shift since the early summer, when the Tories were on pace to win a massive majority, the Liberals still stand to lose 26 of the 70 ridings they held at dissolution. The PCs would likely pick up 19 seats, while Andrea Horwath’s NDP stand to almost double its caucus from 10 to 19 MPPs.
Nevertheless, the Progressive Conservatives still lead in provincial voting intentions. They are projected to take 38.1 per cent of the vote, compared to 33 per cent for the Liberals and 22.1 per cent for the New Democrats. The Greens stand at 5.5 per cent.
This represents a gain of almost five points for the NDP and seven points for the Tories since the 2007 election. It is a drop of more than nine points for the Liberals.
But the Tories’ vote inefficiency means they’re likely to win many races with large majorities, particularly in the rural parts of the province, while losing closer races to the Liberals in and around Toronto. Even a gap of five points is not enough for the PCs to win a majority of Ontario’s ridings.
At 21 seats, the Liberals are projected to win almost half of their ridings in and around the provincial capital. Ottawa and the eastern part of the province are projected to send six Liberal MPPs to Toronto, while Southwestern Ontario is expected to elect 11.
The Tories are likely to win 10 seats in the GTA and 18 in central and Southwestern Ontario, while also taking half the seats in the eastern part of the province. But with only three seats projected to elect Tory MPPs in Toronto, Mr. Hudak is far from majority territory.
For the New Democrats, 10 of their projected seat wins come between Toronto and Niagara Falls, and the party is on pace to win seven of Northern Ontario’s 11 seats.
A lot of the province’s ridings are on the bubble, however, with a little less than one-third projected to be decided by 5 per cent or less.
If the Progressive Conservatives manage to win all of these close races, they could take as many as 60 seats and form a majority government. But if they lose all of these close races, they could win as few as 33 seats, and find themselves back on the opposition benches.
For the Liberals, their upper limit is 55 seats, only one more than is needed for a majority. But their lower limit is 28 seats, which would be their worst result since 1971.
This means that, though the Tories and Liberals are tied in their projected seat hauls, Mr. Hudak stands a better chance at this stage of the election of winning the most seats in the province as his upper and lower ranges are higher than that of the Liberals.
The New Democrats are a factor in only a few close races, putting their range at between 18 and 21 seats, which would be their best result since they formed government in 1990.
With almost four weeks of the campaign left, the race is bound to take many twists and turns. The 2011 federal campaign demonstrated how unpredictable an election can be. But only days out of the starting gate, the election that seemed to be Tim Hudak’s to win is now anybody’s game.
ThreeHundredEight.com’s projection model aggregates all publicly released polls, weighing them by sample size, date, and record of polling firm accuracy. The seat projection model makes individual projections for all 107 ridings in the province, based on shifts in support from the 2007 election and including the application of factors unique to each riding, such as the effects of incumbency.
These projections are a reflection of the likely result of an election if an election were held today. They are subject to the margins of error of the opinion polls included in the model, as well as the unpredictable nature of politics at the riding level.