In essence the plan to win an election is easy, it can be described in four easy steps.
- Brand your leader in a positive light
- Have a platform that is friendly and believable
- Frame the other parties, and their leaders as less than undesirable
- Do not make any errors or missteps
Since the loss to the Liberals in 2003 the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party have tried three times to get back to government. Looking at the four easy step lets revisit the elections of 2007, 2011, 2014 and look ahead to the 2018 election.
2007 Election Result: Liberal Majority
The story of the 2007 election was that the Liberals were able to frame Leader John Tory on the promise to publically fund faith-based schools. Tory was branded as out of touch with Ontarians on this issue and the majority of the voters disagreed with the idea of extending funding past the Public and Catholic school boards. While all parties were able to manage the first two steps, the PC’s lost the war in step three and with a flip flop to hold a free vote on the funding issue – John Tory was the leader with the largest misstep.
2011 Election Result: Liberal Minority
Both the PC’s and NDP had new leaders. The Liberals stuck with Dalton McGuinty who was not experiencing the same popularity as he did four years earlier. The trouble was that Ontario voters did not know who Tim Hudak was. The PC’s failed to capitalize on a new leader facing a tired Premier who really should have lost as the City of Toronto had voted in populist Rob Ford as Mayor and the Liberals federally were taking a pounding. The problem was not branding Hudak as the guy Ontario needs; rather going with a leader Ontario knew was the better option for the voters. As for the four steps, the PC’s lost number 1, and didn’t do well enough in the other three to recover from a lackluster branding of their leader.
2014 Election Result: Liberal Majority
This was an election Tim Hudak had in the bag, and lost it with not bad policy – but bad branding. The Liberals had a new Premier, Kathleen Wynne, who took over after McGuinty rolled up his sleeves for a press conference and threw in the towel. Polls were tight between the Liberals and PC, but Conservatives thought they had a winner of a platform. The double double of creating 1 million jobs in 10 years along with reducing the civil service through attrition by 100,000 was labelled as bad math and Hudak would fire 100,000 government workers. The PC’s were not able to define their message ahead of the Liberals doing it for them. The PC’s lost all four steps of how to win an election.
2018 Election Result: TBD
Up until the end of January this was Patrick Brown’s election to win with a leader that was doing well and the People’s Guarantee platform, then stuff happened and the PC’s held a lickety split leadership and elected Doug Ford to lead the party to the June 7th election. Wynne was sinking in the polls, and the PC’s had high polling results, without a leader. Ford is the new guy, but he’s not inexperienced and so far neither Wynne nor the NDP have been able to put a label on him. The liberals will have to hang all their hopes on their election budget, however Ontarians seem to be seeing through the “buy your vote” spend to win platform. Andrea Horwath is in this for the third time running leader for the NDP.
Looking at our four steps, Doug Ford is a brand in itself, so far it’s a brand that people are not running away from, the polls still indicate a huge loss for Wynne and big win for Ford. With Ford dumping most of the People’s Guarantee, he has to present a platform that voters will see as sensible and achievable and he is clearly making his point that the Liberals are done. All that is left is for Doug Ford is to avoid the misstep history that claimed John Tory and Tim Hudak and finally bring the PC’s back to government.
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