Why Hudak and the Tories aren't breaking through

Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak. (Tony Caldwell/QMI Agency)

Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak. (Tony Caldwell/QMI Agency)

David Coletto, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:53 PM ET

Elections are decided on two questions. Does the incumbent government deserve to be re-elected? If the answer to that question is no, the next is whether there is an acceptable alternative to replace them.

The 2014 Ontario election is no exception.

The Ontario Liberal Party has been in power for almost 11 years. Controversies such as the gas plant cancellations, ORNGE, and eHealth have hurt the government's reputation and trust with voters.

The provincial economy remains sluggish with the manufacturing and agricultural sectors in tough shape.

Most of you probably think the Liberals should have little to no chance of winning a fourth mandate. But our polling for the Sun News Network released this week clearly suggests otherwise.

There's no doubt most Ontarians think it is time for a change. But "most" is sometimes not enough to replace governments.

So why are Tim Hudak and the Progressive Conservative Party having such a difficult time breaking through with voters in Ontario? How could the Liberals be so close to winning another election? Our survey results help us make sense of it all.

First, the PC Party has the smallest pool of potential voters — those who would even consider voting PC. While the staunchest group of PC supporters is larger and more motivated than either the Liberal or NDP base, the PC Party has fewer voters outside its core support willing to give the Tories a chance.

Second, Tim Hudak is not as well liked as the other leaders. His personal numbers are weaker and he trails Kathleen Wynne by six points on which leader would make the best premier. Voters want change but they still do not see Hudak as an alternative premier.

Third, and most important to understanding the election so far, by focusing entirely on the economy and jobs, the Tories have taken pressure off the Liberals for the gas plant scandal or even other issues like the deficit or electricity prices.

While the Tories have successfully set the agenda of the election around jobs and the economy, Hudak has not yet convinced enough voters that his plan is superior to the one offered by the Liberals or the NDP.

If the Tories, or the NDP for that matter, are going to push the "change" narrative further, they have to increase the public’s concern about the economic situation in the province. Many Ontarians are not feeling the economic gloom that Tim Hudak is describing.

In other words, if Ontarians are going to be convinced that the province needs the “medicine” the Tories are prescribing, they have to agree on the diagnosis.

Right now, that does not seem to be the case. Unless the ballot question shifts away from the economy or the Tories are able to convince more voters their economic plan is better than that of the Liberals, it will be hard for them to break through and win the election.

- David Coletto is CEO of polling firm Abacus Data and the pollster for the Sun News Network.

 


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