Ontario Votes 2014·Analysis

Ontario election 2014: Parties target key ridings in final campaign push

With just three days to go, party insiders say the race to be Ontario's next premier remains tight, the CBC's Robert Fisher writes. But the final days of the campaign will still see a final, frantic push to bolster support and ensure that they get the vote out.
Who will be smiling on election day? Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, Ontario Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne, centre, and Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak speak after taking part in the Ontario provincial leaders debate in Toronto on Tuesday. (Mark Blinch/Pool/Canadian Press)

It's the final push that begins this morning. The three days left to “E” day. Based on a series of private conversations with party insiders, the race to be Ontario's next premier remains tight.

The three main parties have a pretty good idea how they'll finish on Thursday night, though there are always some surprises that are often based on getting out the vote.

That, as it always is, will be crucial.

In these final hours of the campaign, whatever has been done and said, has been done and said. It’s now basically up to the people on the ground in all 107 ridings.

As their leaders move from riding to riding where slippage has been detected, these workers — the backbone of any good and winning campaign — will begin their work.

They’ll be checking and rechecking to make sure that if a voter has a lawn sign or indicated at the door that he or she plans to vote on Thursday, that they actually vote and that their vote will mirror their lawn sign.

And if during this process, a canvasser senses a change or some doubt, that will be communicated back to the campaign office and that voter may just get a call directly from the candidate hoping that that may just be enough to ensure the vote.

In fact, I have been told that a lot of that is already under way for candidates in all of the main parties.  

The final focus

So while that is going on at the riding level, the party headquarters are mapping out their leaders’ itineraries, deciding where best they should spent their time between now and late Wednesday.

Usually, they’ll cluster ridings into, say, a bus ride through the Greater Toronto-Hamilton Area, or up and down Highway 401, to hit as many ridings as possible in a day.

As a campaign reporter in the 1981 provincial election, how well I remember the PCs' final push to get Premier Bill Davis his majority after minority wins in 1975 and 1977.

We started early – very early – on that March 18th day. And before we returned to Toronto late that night, we had stopped in ridings right across southern Ontario.

At stop after stop, the gentle Davis humour – the local name references to this mayor or that reeve – was on display.

But at each stop, Davis would end his banter with a serious message by telling the party faithful that while the polls all looked good, they should make sure they voted and make sure their neighbours did too.

And then it was back on the bus or plane and off to the next stop.

The next day – what Davis always called the realities of March 19th – he got his majority. Maybe that last gruelling day was a part of the reason.

Priority ridings ID'd

In this election and while all parties refuse to admit that they have already written off some ridings, the fact is they have or will in the next 24 hours or so.

The goal is to get to 54 seats and that means that with only three days left, the party leaders can only be in so many places at one time. So the parties prioritize their stops.

The Greater Toronto-Hamilton area is obviously a battleground and vote-rich, so a lot of time will be spent in those ridings.

The Liberals think, for example, some east- and west-end NDP ridings are up for grabs this time and so a stop by Kathleen Wynne might just help the local candidate.

And as the Liberal bus pulls out of a riding, the NDP bus will likely be right behind it as Andrea Horwath works to, if not add seats, at least hold on to what she has now.

The PCs believe they are in very good shape outside Toronto proper so their target will be suburban ridings, where their message seems to be resonating well. But stops in the Kitchener-Waterloo area will likely be a part of Tim Hudak’s final three days.

The NDP have said from the start of the campaign that the ongoing “scandals” could play into their hands. So unhappy and discouraged Liberal voters will be a target for Horwath in the next few days, as will “Red Tory" voters who have not exactly been taken with Hudak and his, in the view of some, “Tea Party” agenda — his "Million Jobs Plan" with its 100,000 public-sector job cuts.

So that means there could be ridings in southwestern Ontario that will be on Horwath's tour and likely everyone else’s.

The closeness of this election and how important it is to get every vote out on Thursday was brought home to me and probably a lot of other people a week ago in a publicly-released letter from onetime Liberal cabinet minister John Wilkinson.

He lost the riding of Perth-Wellington in the 2011 election by just 201 votes. One vote per polling station.

About the Author

Robert Fisher

Provincial Affairs Specialist

A commentator with decades of experience covering Queen's Park, Robert Fisher writes about politics for CBC.ca. He is an award-winning broadcast journalist with more than 30 years of experience in public and private radio and television.


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