Ontario election agenda: What you need to know for March 1

The Progressive Conservative leadership candidates face off one last time, and a new poll shows Doug Ford with a slight lead
By Daniel Kitts - Published on March 1, 2018
4 PC leadership hopefuls during a debate
Tanya Granic Allen, Caroline Mulroney, Christine Elliott, and Doug Ford squared off in Ottawa on Wednesday for the final Progressive Conservative leadership debate. (Chris Young/CP)

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​Here’s our daily look at what’s making news in the lead-up to the next provincial election.

Latest news

  • With just over 10 days to go before the Progressive Conservatives pick a new leader, the four candidates — Tanya Granic Allen, Christine Elliott, Doug Ford, and Caroline Mulroney — faced off in Ottawa last night for the second and final debate of the campaign. They spent a lot of time talking about the guy who was running against them until three days ago: Patrick Brown. The candidates sparred over whether the ex-leader should be allowed to run in the election as a PC candidate, with only Allen completely ruling out signing Brown’s nomination papers. They also debated Ontario’s sex-ed curriculum; only Caroline Mulroney unequivocally stated that she’d leave it untouched. All were against both a cap-and-trade program and a carbon tax, but none put forward an alternative means of reducing emissions, and all were vague about how they’d replace the billions in lost revenue.
  • After the debate, Mulroney walked away from a media scrum when the Ottawa Citizen’s David Reevely pressed her on why she sends her kids to private school.
  • A new Mainstreet Research poll of more than 17,000 PC party members shows Ford with a slight lead over his rivals. Among decided voters, Ford has 36.7 per cent support, Elliott 32.7 per cent, Mulroney 20 per cent, and Allen 10.6 per cent. However, when you take into account the riding-by-riding points system the party is using to determine its leader, things get even tighter between Ford and Elliott: he would get 34.8 points on the first ballot, while she would get 33.9. (Mulroney would end up with 19.6 points, Allen with 11.7.) Mainstreet Research also ran 1,000 simulations of the leadership vote through the expected three rounds of voting (the winner must end up with a majority of votes cast). In those simulations, Ford won 52.2 per cent of the time, while Elliott won 47.8 per cent of the time.
  • The three leading contenders for the leadership are upset about the way the vote is being organized. The Ford and Mulroney campaigns have expressed concern that PC memberships are being bought with untraceable prepaid or “burner” credit cards, the use of which, they contend, could be part of a large-scale attempt to commit voter fraud and taint the whole process. Meanwhile, Elliott’s camp is worried that 10,000 voter registration/verification letters were mailed late, meaning some party members might not be able to vote. The party has extended the registration deadline three days, to March 5.
  • Hours before the PC leadership candidates squared off on Wednesday, the leaders of Ontario’s four largest parties met for a very different discussion: how to improve voter turnout, particularly among young people. Premier Kathleen Wynne, interim PC leader Vic Fedeli, NDP leader Andrea Horwath, and Green party leader Mike Schreiner talked about the state of political discourse, how to communicate the importance of voting, whether the way people vote needs to change to reflect modern technology, and whether parties are doing enough to reflect the aspirations of younger generations.
  • The New Democrats have shuffled their critic portfolios following the resignation of Parkdale–High Park MPP Cheri DiNovo in December 2017. Waterloo's Catherine Fife will have huge shoes to fill in the role of critic for LGBT issues, an area where DiNovo pushed forward numerous reforms including Toby's Act (which added gender identity and gender expression to Ontario's human-rights code), and most recently, ending discrimination in provincial birth registries. DiNovo also carried the file for GTA issues; Toronto–Danforth's Peter Tabuns will take over that role. With DiNovo's resignation, Tabuns (already the critic for energy and environment) is the only current MPP for the New Democrats in the city of Toronto.
  • The Ontario government’s first joint auction of greenhouse-gas allowances with Quebec and California raised $471 million dollars for the province. The Liberals are trumpeting this as a sign that their decision to join Quebec and California in a cap-and-trade market to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions is working.
  • The iconic twin smokestacks of the Nanticoke coal-fired generating station were removed via explosives Wednesday. Why is this an election story? Because it gave the governing Liberals a chance to remind everyone that they shut down Nanticoke and the rest of the province’s coal-fired power plants, a move considered the single-largest greenhouse-gas emissions reduction initiative in North American history. Minister of the Environment and Climate Change Chris Ballard also took the opportunity to bash all four PC leadership candidates for walking away from the party’s promise to institute a carbon tax.

With files from John Michael McGrath.

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