Ontario Post-Mortem (A Day Early)
Thoughts On My Model, My Punditry, And How We Got Here
I guess I should congratulate the Premier before I get into this, so, congrats to Premier Ford and the PCs. You’re a day away from being back in office – hopefully you’ll do a decent job.
This post-mortem before the election will be in three parts – thoughts on my modelling, my punditry, and then how we got here, so let’s just get into it.
The model is now firmly in line with everyone else’s in projecting a solid PC majority, and there’s going to be little final disagreement between everybody.
Why was it more Liberal heavy in earlier iterations than the final version? Basically, everyone agreed that there was a vote share and margin where the Liberals would catch exit velocity, and where their seat count would just spike, and for my model, it was ~29% of the vote and being down 7%, which is where they spent the first couple weeks of the campaign. Remember, we had polls then with the Liberals at or above 30% with some regularity, and then they fell back. When they fell back to a 9% deficit and vote shares in the 27% range, they ended up on the wrong side of that fragile line, per my model.
Was my model correct that that was the range where their seat projection spiked? I’ll investigate that once we get full results in and I take a few days of vacation, but we’ll see. Maybe it was closer to 5% down, which is what 2CloseToCall’s work showed. I’ll make whatever adjustments I need to off of this for my 2025 Federal model, but it’s hard to really say this will be a bad performance for the polls. Either everyone is systemically wrong because the polls or wrong, or the polls are right and everybody is right. Maybe the model was too sensitive to slight movements, especially in the way I handled the suburban trends stuff, but all in all, the model isn’t the thing I’m gonna get slandered for (if I get any, which, I’m unsure if I will).
Yes, I was way too optimistic about the Liberal chances going back to the January launch of this site’s 2022 coverage, and I deserve to take some shit for it.
The basis of my Liberal optimism was based in three things – that the NDP were a dead cat that couldn’t command a majority of left wing support again and would lose a ton of their vote, that the Liberals would outperform their province wide swing in the suburbs, and that the Liberals would be the beneficiary of left wing consolidation of voters running to avoid a government led by Doug Ford.
The first part of that was completely and utterly true, and all of my bromides against the Ontario NDP have been proven correct. Andrea Horwath has to go, the NDP were an irrelevant player in the battle for government, and they are a fundamentally useless political party and need to suffer for their sins. All of that is true and I stand by every word.
The suburban swing stuff was at the least well founded, as Australia two weeks ago proved, and it appears to be decently true here, although I’ll have to check that in a more formal and official sense after we get full results – and, again, trusting suburban voters to trend left compared to province wide swing saw me do very well in Ontario in 2021, so it’s not like this was some untested theory. I feel fine about it and would do it again, thinking about this in terms of process and not results.
Part of the reason the suburbs are going to stay blue is that the Global Realignment posits that for a given vote share, the PCs will do better in the regional cities and worse in the suburbs and the left will do the inverse - but that is for a given vote share. The Tories are likely going to win seats they haven’t anytime recently, like Essex, Niagara Centre, and Oshawa, and they’re likely to lose suburban seats they usually win when they win government. I don’t think the theory is wrong, it’s just not going to overcome a 13% popular vote lead or whatever.
My big mistake was not giving enough notion to the idea that the left would just remain uselessly split. I made the mistake, after 2011, 2015, 2019, and 2021 – and 2018 Ontario - that the NDP and Greens would fade as it became apparent the only chance of beating a PC government was to elect Liberals. The recent history of the left in this country is that the risk of right wing government compels it to get their shit together, and even in 2018, while it didn’t work, the Liberal vote did tank to the NDP’s benefit. I thought it would happen here, and I didn’t give the idea that the left would just sit on their collective asses and let Ford through with this level of split the time of day. That was my error, and I was wrong.
For those whose main criticism of me is that I don’t embrace uncertainty enough, this is 1000% a fair criticism on this one. I just plainly didn’t see the possibility of such a vote split lasting through to election day, and so I botched that part of the predictive punditry. The … funny isn’t the right word, but I can’t think of a better one, so the funny thing is, the PCs basically tracked to my expectations. I wrote in April that I expected Ford to enter the writ around 40% and decline from there as the pressures of the campaign opened him up to criticism. With a week left, he was polling around the mid 36% range, even as his vote share has surged back up in the final days. This government was easily beatable because it was never that popular – but the left fucked around, didn’t consolidate, and they fucking found out.
If you want to think I’m an idiot and a moron for this, go right ahead, but I’m not going to feel bad about believing that something that hadn’t happened since 1971 – both the NDP and the Liberals with a vote share in the 20s – wouldn’t happen here.
Holy fucking shit.
I mean, holy motherfucking shit.
I’m gonna (kind of) except the Greens from this, because they actually did the thing and won Parry Sound-Muskoka, so good for them, but holy fucking shit you three, how the fuck did you let this happen?
Like, I wasn’t really on the whole “mutual candidates list” idea back in January, in part because the Liberals need some left wing opposition to make them seem more centrist to their middle flank, but holy fucking shit this was an abomination.
I’ve made my contempt clear for the NDP many many times, but the Liberal campaign felt lifeless at times – a technocratic leader trying to sell a fairly progressive platform was clearly not the right fit, because the platform was framed both as a pragmatic and obvious solution to the problems but also a radical reinvention of the province, a message that left progressives uneasy (and skeptical of the Liberals, despite Wynne basically governing like a Dipper Premier) and was a bit too risky for the centre. It wasn’t a great performance from them, even though they’ll come close to tripling their seat count.
I’m not really here to assess what specifically went wrong – it might just have been the failure of the Ontario Liberals to have a better option than Del Duca in the 2020 leadership election – but even now, I can’t think of a better name. Whatever the cause, the left’s failure to coalesce behind any option – and let’s be honest, the Liberals, when the NDP were stuck in the mud the entire time – was disgraceful.
That said, the left’s bigger failure was clearly to assuage the concerns of the centre, because Doug Ford is going to win a decent chunk of Federal Liberals. That is not why he won, because in a blowout nothing is entirely why he won, but it certainly helps. The Liberals have to figure out why their message didn’t land – and as someone who thought it would land, I’m deeply unqualified to opine on why we’re here.
At the end of the day, I expected a better campaign from the Liberals and the left to consolidate to save their lives. The left stayed split, Ford coasted through the last two weeks of the campaign, and now we’re here.