Transcript: Ep. 112 - Stay-at-home... ish | May 18, 2021

STEVE: Welcome, everyone,
to the OnPoli podcast.
I'm Steve Paikin.
JOHN MICHAEL:
And I'm John Michael McGrath.
Are we in a state
of emergency or not
in the province of Ontario?
Well, technically,
we are until June 2nd,
but the weather was
great this past weekend,
and the Victoria Day weekend
is coming up and guess what?
It sure doesn't look
like too many people
are adhering to the protocols.
That, plus the latest
chapter in the Premier's new
fight with the Prime Minister
and fresh polling from
Greg Lyle on whether
the Progressive Conservative
government has stopped
the bleeding on its popularity.
It's Tuesday, May 18th.
So, let's get to it.
JMM, we are, I guess,
finally experiencing these days,
some of the nicest weather
we've had yet this year,
and as a result,
people are getting out.
There may be
a stay-at-home order in place,
but if this past weekend
was any indication,
I'd say precious few people
are following that order.
This is something we talk about
this week's OnPoli newsletter,
which we encourage people
to subscribe to as well,
but it's all raising one
pretty obvious question,
and that is, have people stopped
listening to their provincial
government as it relates to
following COVID-19 protocols?
What do you think?
JOHN MICHAEL:
You know, it's always dangerous
to extrapolate from anecdote,
but I actually did some roaming
around the city this weekend,
which now that I say
that out loud I realize
I was breaking the law.
(Laughing)
STEVE: I'm going to bring in
a citizen's arrest right now.
JOHN MICHAEL: Right.
STEVE:
I know you. You're a decent guy.
It's okay.
I'll cut you slack this time.
JOHN MICHAEL:
I appreciate that, officer.
Um, but I also
wasn't alone, right?
You know,
in my particular case I biked
much of the length of Danforth
and Bloor here in Toronto,
one of the city's
main east-west roads,
and, you know, saw lots of
people who were out like me,
out and about, enjoying really,
really lovely weather.
As you might predict,
huge lineups at
the ice cream shops,
and I even saw what looked
an awful lot like people
who might have been sitting at
patios if that had been legal,
and instead it was just clumps
of people congregating outside
of the doors of bars.
Um, I couldn't--
You know, I was in motion.
I couldn't necessarily see
whether people were actually
holding beers, but it's
certainly what it looked like
from my vantage point.
Um, you know,
I think there's a lot of that
going on right now.
Everybody that
I've spoken to, certainly,
let's say, everybody not
currently in the Cabinet,
acknowledges that the closure of
outdoor amenities in Ontario
really doesn't have, you know,
the strongest basis in science,
let me put it that way. Um...
Yeah, I almost don't know
what else to say about this
except that, you know,
I think on the big stuff,
you know, the few places
that I went indoors briefly
over the weekend,
people were still being serious
about masking.
Hell, most of the people
I saw out on the street
were masked even outdoors.
So, I think on the big stuff
people are still doing
the right thing, but yeah,
they seem to be, uh,
tuning out some of
the provincial law
at the moment.
STEVE:
Yeah, and let's just
be clear here,
we're not saying this
because we're trying to be,
you know, fools about the thing.
The reality is, the ICUs,
the intensive care units of
this province are still over
800 spots taken right now,
which is well higher than,
you know, where they want it.
They'd love it to be half
or a third of that much
before they really start
to roll back protocols.
So, it's not like we're out of
the woods or anything like that,
but I think you hit on the point
there a moment ago when you said
some of the decisions coming
out of the Cabinet these days
don't seem to be
based in science,
and that is odd considering
that for the last 13 months
they've been saying that
science is going to be
the backbone and the basis
for every decision they make.
So, I don't know.
That's all I'm trying to say.
JOHN MICHAEL: (Laughing)
No, and I think that's right.
You know, the good news is that,
with vaccines where they are,
you know, the numbers there
are really, really good.
And, so, you know, I think that
some of the things that might
have seemed risky six months
or even a year ago
really just don't have the same
potential for harm anymore.
STEVE: Yeah, well,
you've touched on vaccines,
so let's stay there,
because there's been some pretty
good news on that front lately.
The province has been regularly
hitting more than 100,000 doses
of vaccine
administered every day,
that is a really good number,
and as of today,
anyone over the age of 18
will be able to register
through the provincial portal.
So, let's get the update.
Where are we at on
vaccines altogether?
JOHN MICHAEL:
You know, this is not, like,
the most important
provincial indicator,
but it's something that
happened over the weekend,
and I think it tells you a lot
about where we are right now.
There were two really big
mass vaccination clinics.
One in Peel, one in Toronto.
The one in Peel ran
through basically
all of Saturday and Sunday.
The one in Toronto
was just on Sunday.
Over the weekend, collectively,
they administered something
like 17,000 vaccines.
The entire province of Ontario
did about that many vaccines
on February 28th, which--
(Laughing)
Maybe it's I'm getting older,
but that doesn't feel
like that long ago anymore,
and I think that gives you
a sense of how far we've come.
More than half of people
in the province over 18
now have their first shot.
We still have a long way to
go on getting people their
second shots,
but that is coming along, too.
By the end of the week,
it's likely to be more like 60%
of people have their first shot.
Sorry, that's people over 18.
We are starting to
talk about what--
you know, how to get
people who are, you know,
12 to 17 their first shots.
That is looking like that's
going to start registering
end of May, early June,
but things are moving fast now,
and it's having the effect
that they want to see
in terms of daily new cases.
Both Toronto and Peel
are down by half
from their peaks in April.
Just really fast--
Well, not fast declines.
It's been, like, six weeks,
but big declines moving in
the right direction,
and we're seeing some regions
go back to, you know,
obviously these are, like,
rural and northern regions,
primarily,
but we're seeing some of
them report days without
even a single case.
So, you know, it's--
(Laughing)
It is still a pandemic,
there are still
outbreaks happening.
In particular, things
are not looking great in
Timmins right now.
They actually had the most
new cases per capita in
their numbers on Sunday of
any region in the province,
but overall,
across the province,
right now things are mostly
headed in the right direction.
STEVE: Yeah, I'd like to
remind people that a year ago,
when you and I were talking,
there were 200 cases per day,
which just seems like forever
ago.
JOHN MICHAEL:
Yeah.
STEVE:
But then again, two months ago,
or maybe even less,
we were at 4000 plus
cases a day in the province.
We're now down around
2000 positive tests a day
in the province.
So, that is clearly going
in the right direction.
Now, let me follow up on
one other thing with you,
because I've got
an 18-year old daughter.
So, needless to say
I was keeping an eye on
when she became eligible
for her vaccination, which--
which she got today,
and I'm glad to see that
she got it today, but frankly
we weren't expecting it.
We weren't expecting her
to be eligible until closer to
the end of the month.
So, what happened?
JOHN MICHAEL:
So, two things seem
to be going on here.
One is that we really just
have a huge number of vaccines
coming in this week.
2.2 million doses according to
the Ministry of Health.
That's from both
Pfizer and Moderna.
I was trying to confirm
before we recorded this
whether that is in fact
the largest single volume
that we've ever
received in a week.
I'm reasonably confident it is,
but I don't have that
absolutely certified.
Um, but it's also more
than was expected.
You know, it's rare for
us to get that kind of
good news lately,
but apparently the feds,
and this is
Minister of Public Procurement,
Anita Anand,
negotiated with Pfizer to
actually move up some of
next week's shipment
to accommodate for
the Victoria Day long weekend.
You know, next week is likely
to be a shorter week in terms of
working hours
for the government.
So, they are moving
some of next week's
shipment up to this week.
The combination of that,
plus the Moderna shipment has
just this enormous volume
of doses landing on us.
And, so, that's one thing.
The other thing that is
happening is that the province
has ended the prioritization of
hot spot postal codes that was
largely but not entirely
focused in the GTA,
and they've gone back to
straight sort of per capita
distribution of vaccines
around the province.
You know, some people
in Toronto and Peel are
not underst--
or, not unreasonably upset
about, you know, that this is
effectively a cut in the number
of doses they were seeing,
but for parts of the province
that were not in those hot spot,
uh, postal codes,
this is going to be a very
large increase in
their vaccine supply.
So, I think it makes sense from
where they were in terms of
the supply right now,
and how that's getting allocated
around the province, um,
but, you know, it seems to be
a surprise to a lot of people.
I mean, just last week on
one of the technical briefings
that we had, you know,
I asked if there was any
discussion of opening
up eligibility this early,
and was told no.
So, clearly they are, um,
rolling with the punches,
I guess, in the pandemic still.
STEVE:
And plenty of punches that's
for sure.
Any idea why they changed
their minds so quickly on this?
You know,
I think one thing is simply just
the surprise volume
that came in this week.
You know,
that's their stated reason
and I think it makes
a certain amount of sense,
but we had also
gotten to the point in
the government's plan,
and, you know, people who have
been paying attention over
the last few months,
you know,
there was the straight sort of,
you know, going down
the age cohort process,
but then there were
always these exceptions, like,
you know, if you had
certain medical conditions
or workers who
couldn't work from home,
or people who lived in
hot spot postal codes,
and we had actually gotten
basically to the end of
that process, and the only
thing left to do was to sort of
keep climbing down
the age ladder,
I guess you could say, um,
but it was just for people
39 and younger, basically.
And, so, it sure looks like
the government basically decided
that there was not a
whole lot of percentage
in very tightly managing, uh,
the next few weeks
of the process.
You know, it's confusing
and administratively difficult
for some people,
so they've just made it--
(Laughing)
--open access for people
18 plus starting today.
STEVE:
39 and younger. 39 and younger.
Does that include you anymore?
JOHN MICHAEL: No, no.
I was eligible as of last week,
but I happen to have hit
a clinic in my neighbourhood
that, uh, gave me
a Pfizer shot, like,
two weeks ago, now.
STEVE: I actually knew you
were no long 39 and younger.
I just wanted to rub in
the fact that you're becoming
an old fogey like me now.
So, there you go.
JOHN MICHAEL:
Well, I mean, I tried to get
an AstraZeneca shot,
but, unlike you,
I wasn't eligible in
the very first wave.
STEVE: (Laughing)
Oh. Boom.
Yeah, that's the last time
I play straight man to you.
Okay.
JOHN MICHAEL: (Laughing)
Well, let me just touch
on some polling here,
because the Angus Reid
Organization does do some
public opinion surveys
on this from time to time.
Particularly now around
the issue of vaccine hesitancy
and AstraZeneca for all of
the reasons that we have
heard about, and it showed
that nearly half of the people
who received their
AZ shot say they are
pleased with their decision,
and you can
include me in that half.
I got the AZ shot
and I'm pleased with it.
44% say while Pfizer and Moderna
would have been better,
they are still pretty happy.
Only 2% say they totally regret
their decision to
go for the AZ shot. 2%.
Last week, Canada received
more than 600,000 doses of AZ.
Has there been any
more scuttlebutt from
the Ontario government
that you've picked up about
whether they will let
someone who's already received
their AZ shot get a second dose?
JOHN MICHAEL:
Nothing formal yet.
The Minister of Health was
asked about that a few
different times on Monday
and even before,
and the short answer is that,
um, it looks like
most people who
received an AZ shot
will be able to get a second
AZ shot if they want to,
um, based on the shipments
that are coming in
and how much of that is
destined for Ontario, um...
People should obviously
talk to their doctor about
what's the best
approach for them,
but the other, um, option that
is going to be presented,
it looks like, is that people
who got their AstraZeneca shot
as a first dose, may be offered
a Pfizer or Moderna shot
as a second dose
and there's studies that are
still sort of ongoing
and in the process of publishing
about the various effectiveness
of these different approaches.
So far, it sure looks
like both approach--
both approaches are very safe,
but the, uh...
The Ministry of Health is
still waiting on, you know,
formal sort of publication
of advice about what to do.
Um...
The problem of course is that,
you know, once again,
we've got a ticking clock here.
The province is currently
in possession of some
AstraZeneca doses that
have an expiry date.
Some are going to expire
at the end of this month.
Some will expire early in June,
and, you know, it would be--
(Laughing)
I think it would be a real shame
if any of those doses expire.
You know,
Canada did a lot of work
to get these doses, uh,
in the timeframe we did,
and there are plenty of other
countries out
there who don't have the--
the vaccine supply that
Canada currently enjoys.
So, yeah. I mean,
I'm actually kind of surprised
we haven't seen a decision from
the Ministry of Health yet,
because it frankly doesn't seem
like there's that much left
to learn before
they make a decision,
but they are waiting
for more formal advice.
STEVE:
Mm-hm, and I think,
just for the record,
I think both Premier Doug Ford
and Health Minister
Christine Elliot,
they've both received
one jab of AstraZeneca,
is that not the case?
JOHN MICHAEL:
That is in fact the case,
and also the Prime Minister
and his wife.
STEVE: Right, right.
And so far, all of the above,
without any adverse
consequences that we can see.
JOHN MICHAEL: Yes.
STEVE: Okay. Moving on.
For about 13 months,
the federal, provincial,
and municipal governments
in Ontario seemed to be
getting along quite well.
They understood that in
the midst of a global pandemic
that was killing
thousands of people,
mm, now maybe wasn't
the best time to try to score
cheap political points,
but rather roll up their sleeves
and just get the job done.
Well, obviously,
those days are over.
Have a listen to this.
DOUG FORD:
But one thing threatens
all the progress we've made.
One thing threatens the summer
everyone hopes to have,
and that's the weak
and porous border measures
that the federal
government has kept in place.
STEVE:
That's Premier
Doug Ford of course,
saying only one thing,
only one thing,
is responsible for whatever
difficulties we're in the midst
of right now as it
relates to COVID-19.
The provincial government
has decided, in its wisdom,
that despite the fact that
cross-border transmission
accounts for fewer than 10% of
COVID-19 positive test cases in
this province, they are going
to spend 90% of their focus
on this issue.
JMM, what's going on here?
JOHN MICHAEL: (Chuckling)
Well, we were
talking earlier about
how the province's focus
doesn't seem to be totally
grounded in science,
and here we have a case
of if not pure politics,
then pretty close
to pure politics--
(Laughing)
--driving, frankly, the agenda
of the Premier's office.
This seems like an attempt to,
you know, either simply
distract responsibility away
from the provincial government,
or it's an attempt to try
and just create a distraction
based on picking
a fight with Ottawa
and lord knows Doug Ford
would not be the first
Premier of Ontario to,
uh, try and win
a, uh, political contest by
picking a fight with Ottawa,
it happens, but, you know,
this is, um, uh,
I don't know if this
is unique historically,
but this certainly
seems notable,
especially in the context of,
you know, 14 months where,
I think the province
and the feds had
a surprising amount
of, uh, what do you want to say?
Cordial good will?
(Laughing)
STEVE: Yeah, which doesn't
always happen when you got
one party represented
on Parliament Hill
and another party
represented at Queen's Park,
and the comment we just heard
from Doug Ford was given
at last week's news conference.
If you've been watching
TV at all lately,
you probably will have noticed
there are almost election-style
attack ads that they're being
run by the Ontario PC party
against the federal government.
I can tell you,
this is really very unusual.
I won't say unprecedented,
because I think I can recall
previous governments running ad
campaigns against the feds on
other issues like, you know,
why aren't you spending more
on healthcare,
that kind of thing,
but that was often
government to government.
This is a political party
buying what sure looks like
a political attack ad, um,
for what are clearly partisan
political purposes during
a global pandemic,
and I think that's unprecedented
in my lifetime, since I wasn't
around for the Spanish Flu,
but I do wonder whether
this can stem the tide of
the government's
popularity downfall.
They certainly
hope it's the case,
which is why they're
doing it in the first place,
but I don't know, you got any
thoughts on the advisability
of doing it?
JOHN MICHAEL: It, uh...
It's confusing to me.
I mean, we're coming up on
a year from the next election,
and instead of trying
to define the people
who will be their opponents
in the next election,
whether that's Andrea Horwath
or Stephen Del Duca
or Mike Schreiner
for that matter,
you've got the PC party
of Ontario running attack ads
against somebody who,
win or lose,
they will not be running
against in the next election.
It's really confusing to me.
Um, here's what
U of T epidemiologist
Colin Furness said.
He called the focus
on border issues, quote,
"Despicable,
reflecting an unwillingness
or inability to
take responsibility."
He also suggested this was more
about the government trying to
rewrite the narrative,
which is another way of saying
they're trying to
change the channel
on their unpopularity.
He urged a singular focus on
getting more people vaccinated,
rather than picking these,
let's say it, pointless fights.
STEVE:
Hm. It does take
a certain amount of,
I believe the technical
term is chutzpah, to--
to purchase, um...
I don't know how much
these ads are costing,
but I think we can assume
they're tens of thousands
of dollars of ads to run
against the federal government,
and against Justin Trudeau
in particular.
I mean, he is the personal
target in these ads.
When Mr. Trudeau just wrote
you a cheque for $1.7 billion
for an LRT in Hamilton,
and billions more for,
you know, the Ontario line
and the extending
the Yonge Street line up into
York Region, and etcetera,
etcetera, etcetera.
Um, but if you can--
boy, I don't know,
if you can get away with it,
alright. Fine.
This seems to be such
a fact free zone sometimes.
At last week's briefing,
the Solicitor General said
Ontarians have done their part.
They've stayed home to ensure
no transmission of the virus.
Now, it's up to
the feds to do their part.
Well, um...
Can I do a little
fact checking here? I mean--
JOHN MICHAEL: Please.
STEVE:
As we've already pointed out,
lots of people are
not staying home,
which accounts for
a significant proportion of
the 2500 or so
positive test cases
we're still getting
on a daily basis,
or certainly between
2000 and 2500,
but this is the reality
of politics I guess
in the 21st century.
You just say something
over and over and over
and over and over,
and even if it's not
particularly accurate,
you know, some people
are going to believe it.
It's kind of
disappointing actually.
JOHN MICHAEL: You know,
you mentioned the billions of
dollars in transit funding that,
uh, the Liberal government,
the federal government
announced last week,
and, you know, it's just one of
these things that I find so,
um, interesting about
the political context right now.
You know, if you've got...
You know,
let's imagine a voter, right?
A voter who,
they've got a kid in school,
uh, they...
They haven't been to work in,
you know, a year,
a year and a half, um,
but they used to
commute on the TTC.
They probably see,
if you live in Toronto
or any big city, frankly,
they see local
municipal issues on the TV
as much as they
see anything else,
and, you know,
go down that list, and, like,
the federal government has given
money to make schools safer.
They had an unprecedented
bailout of municipalities
and transit agencies last year,
and now, you know,
Justin Trudeau has announced
billions more dollars
for transit building in
the GTA and Hamilton,
and I just think, you know,
every time this government
wants to pick a fight
with the federal government,
Justin Trudeau gets to show up
with a bag of money and say,
"Hey, here's what I'm doing to
make your life better,
and Doug Ford is yelling about
how I'm not doing my part,"
and, you know, I'm--
I'm not a pollster.
I'm not-- I've never had to
run a political campaign.
I sure-- I'm sure smart
people know what they're doing
in a sense,
but the last year has been
very instructive for
me in the sense of...
I think voters see this stuff
and they just process it in
just a totally different
way than people who are,
you know, neck-deep in politics,
you know,
every single day of their lives.
STEVE:
Well, we can just add a couple
of other facts to this,
and that is that at the moment,
Justin Trudeau's Liberal Party,
federally,
is seven to 10 points,
according to the latest
several surveys that I've seen,
seven to 10 points ahead of
the Conservative opposition.
Meantime, Doug Ford,
who was that far ahead
of his opposition in Ontario,
is now running anywhere from,
I don't know what,
five to seven points behind.
So, okay, everybody.
You do the math.

One of the reasons pollsters
love surveying the public to get
their opinions of things
political is that things can
change so dramatically
so quickly.
Where it might take years to
see a change in public opinion
related to a product
on the market place,
swings in opinion
about politicians can
literally change overnight.
For more on this,
we're joined by Greg Lyle.
He leads
the Innovative Research Group,
and he joins us now from
Gibsons, British Columbia.
Greg, first thing's first,
weather forecast, please,
in Gibsons.
What's it doing out there?
GREG LYLE:
I'm sorry to say it's
a beautiful sunny day.
STEVE:
No, that's okay.
We're happy for you.
That's nice.
GREG: Excellent.
STEVE: Okay, tell us this.
You're in the field every week,
taking the temperature
of Ontarians.
What kinds of things
are you trying to find out?
GREG:
We look at three things.
We look at key bench marks.
So, things like
government approval,
who are you going to vote for?
What do you think
of the leaders?
We look at events.
So, we'll ask people what have
you read, seen or heard lately,
and what the impact of that was.
We'll test things
like the budget,
and we'll, um, if we're lucky
and we get the timing right,
we're able to get reaction
to things like, um,
COVID-19 announcements.
And then the third thing that
we look at is groups of voters.
And, so, everybody groups
voters by demographics,
but we also group
them by attitudes.
So, we look at shared values,
um, we look at an economic
segmentation to identify
the struggling
middle class voter.
Those sort of things.
STEVE:
When you ask people
"If the election
were held today,
which party would you vote for?"
for the longest time the answer
to that question was
"The Progressive Conservative
Party of Doug Ford."
They were in a comfortable
first place for many years.
If you ask that question today,
what would the results be?
GREG: Um, well,
it's a horse race right now.
Um, we had, actually,
prior to COVID-19,
we actually had
the Liberals ahead,
and then, as the government
responded to COVID-19
over just a couple of months,
Doug Ford's numbers improved
quite significantly,
and the Tories started to
emerge as
the front-runners in the race,
but in the last
couple of months,
and in particular
in the last month,
we've seen the numbers
get a lot closer.
STEVE: And what do you think
has been the reason for that?
GREG:
Well, it's very
clearly COVID-19.
The way the government's
been managing it,
and the numbers really started--
there were two key moments.
So, one moment was, uh,
the whole issue
of the St. Bart's
vacation at Christmas time.
Um, we happened to be in
field with leadership numbers.
So, not just favourables,
but, um, who's mo--
who's the--
Who's best at providing
strong leadership,
who's most confident,
who cares about people.
Like key things like that.
And, so, we saw
the lead flip right away.
The Tories have been ahead prior
to the St. Barts controversy,
the Liberals moved
ahead once that happened.
Ford's empathy numbers
actually held the same.
So, cares about people like me,
that number didn't go down,
but his competence
and strong leadership numbers
dropped six or seven points.
Then the second moment
was at the start of April.
And, so, the famous
Friday press conference
was sort of the final straw,
but the numbers had been
dropping quite significantly
in the two weeks prior to that.
STEVE: Well, let me
follow up on that, because yes,
the famous Friday news
conference that you're referring
to saw the Premier bring in
a whole lot of measures that--
that the public simply
would not accept.
They rose up and mutinied
the very next day,
and the Premier walked some of
it back and then apologized.
Do we know whether
the apology actually worked?
GREG:
Uh, it did to some degree,
but there's still some
underlying weakness there.
So, I really thought there
were two great media questions
over the past couple of months.
The first one was actually
from one of your colleagues,
John McGrath,
when he asked the question,
"Am I reading these numbers
wrong or are you
predicting a disaster?"
And then the second one
was Laura Stone,
when she asked Premier Ford
what is he apologizing for.
And, um, and he said he was
apologizing for moving too fast.
He didn't say he was apologizing
to not responding to that
February warning at that
press conference that had
the "Are you predicting
a disaster?" comment.
And, so, what we see is that
a lot of people are taking
contrition at face value, um,
about 40-41% agree
that the premier's taken
responsibility for his mistakes
and is trying to do better,
and that's a big
win for the Tories,
because in our
multi-party plurality,
first past the post system, um,
you--
you basically can win at 40%.
So, if you're a Tory election
strategist and you're at 40%,
um, accepting the apology,
you're feeling okay,
but what's scarier for them
is that well over 70%
believe that the Premier
and the government were warned
that if they didn't take action
in February that we were going
to see the sort of numbers
we have seen in March and April.
And secondly, over 50%,
well over 50%, close to 60%,
agree that Doug Ford
and the government
are directly responsible
for the spike in cases
we've see because they
failed to take dramatic action.
So, to the degree that
COVID remains an issue
and if cases were
to move up again,
although they've
been coming down, um,
that would bring people
back to Laura Stone's question.
Is he actually apologizing
for the right things?
But if the number of cases keep
coming down, which, of course,
we all hope, um,
then Ford will be able to
move on to other issues.
STEVE:
Now, you've just hit us with
three very interesting numbers,
which don't necessarily
conflict with each other,
but they do raise the question
of which of those three numbers
would be the most significant
metric for the public to
consider as they weigh their
decision a year from now
at election time?
Now, I don't know whether
you can apply weighting
to any of those numbers
to say, "This one's far more
important in the public's mind
than that one," but if you can,
can you share what that is?
GREG:
Well, the apology one is going
to be the critical question.
I think the other two questions,
though, the ones about,
you know, was he warned
and is he responsible for
not responding to that warning?
If those end up being framed as
the key ballot question, right?
Do you want a leader who was
warned and failed to act
or do you want a leader that is
prepared to do what's needed?
Um, that could be
a problem for Ford,
um, but that election's
a year from now,
and people are paying
attention right now.
So, that's a really
important thing to understand.
I mean, often we'll look
at these sort of between
election polls and we'll say,
"Well, you know, really it's
only partisans paying attention.
Yeah, there's some
dramatic ups and downs,
but the swing voters
aren't paying attention
and the bases are defected.
So, really this doesn't matter."
But what we're seeing right
now is that almost anyone
who's likely to vote is
paying attention to what
the government's
doing right now.
Awareness of Read, Seen, Heard
for the provincial government
is running around
80% in Ontario.
The comparable number
for the federal government,
which actually has
an election potentially
in a couple of months,
is only 50%.
Um, and so there's a really
big difference between,
um, people's interest in
following the ups and downs
of federal politics right now,
and their interest in
following the ups and downs of
provincial politics,
and no doubt that's directly
related to, um,
the spike in the cases
and the concern
about community spread,
and people see this much
more as a provincial issue
than as a federal issue.
STEVE: I've always used
the lines over the years though,
that polls are actually
wonderful indications of
what the public were
thinking yesterday.
They are not predictive in
telling you what the public is
going to think a year from now.
Would you stand by that?
In other words can you take
the numbers you've just given us
and say these are baked in
and there's not much anybody
can do about that?
GREG:
No. I think that
they're very dynamic.
I mean, that's basically
the premise of a tracking poll,
which is what we run.
We believe that the winds of
public debate, what we hear
either from our friends
and acquaintances,
what we experience in life,
or what we see watching TVO, um,
all those things come together
and react with our
underlying predispositions
and our current point of view
and create change.
So, um, there's plenty of slip
between cup and lip right now.
The other thing that's important
to bear in mind is that there
are two dimensions to what goes
on as the numbers move between
now and the election.
One is persuasion.
Can someone get you
to change your mind about
something or someone?
And the wild card in that
is Steven Del Duca, right?
Steven Del Duca is,
even though he's a tried
and true former
Cabinet Minister,
been around a long time,
is essentially unknown
particularly to swing voters.
And so, whoever, you know,
the law of the jungle
is eat or be eaten,
the law of politics
is define or be defined,
whoever defines Steven Del Duca
is going to have a big edge
in this election.
Um, and then the second--
the second mention
of this is framing.
So, if what a swing voter
is asking themselves
as they go to vote is
"Who's best at protecting
frontline workers in
the healthcare system,"
the answer is probably not
going to be Doug Ford.
It's probably going to be
the Liberals or the NDP.
And if the question is,
"Who's going to help me get
ahead in life?"
Well, then Doug Ford has a much
better chance, because, um,
he has a reputation as being
a guy who worries about
the average person,
and when he hears of a concern,
rolls up his sleeves,
gets into his pickup truck,
and goes to do
something about it.
STEVE: Just to be clear though,
I want to make sure that
I'm crystal on this one,
you're saying-- are you saying
that neither the Liberals,
whom Steven Del Duca leads,
nor the Progressive
Conservatives,
whom he hopes to defeat,
neither one of those two
parties has really firmly
defined Steven Del Duca yet?
GREG:
No. Not--
They absolutely have not,
and that's not unexpected
in the middle of a pandemic.
I mean, who cares about someone
who might govern one day,
when you have a crisis
where the decisions of
what the government
is doing today matter?
Um, I do think that if you
look at the narratives that
the Liberals have been
pushing versus the NDP,
that the NDP have been
a little bit smarter, right?
So, a week or so ago,
the competing headlines from
the Liberals and the NDP were
NDP has a five-point plan they
want the government to
take to make Ontario safer,
the Liberals said that
the Premier should resign.
Well, you know,
opposition calling for a Premier
to resign, not very exciting,
but five things that might
make me safer, I might be
a bit more interested in that.
And, so, you know,
it's very hard for the NDP
because they have the smallest
base within the electorate,
but, um, it's not a given that
just because people want to
defeat Doug Ford that they'll
all flock to Steven Del Duca.
STEVE:
Well, let me follow up on that,
and let's finish up
by looking at the NDP,
because this has been one of
the most curious things about
the New Democratic Party
over the past few years.
They had a pretty strong
2018 election campaign,
in which they went from
third to official opposition,
a robust 40-member caucus,
however, as you've pointed out,
they've now fallen back to their
more traditional third place in
the polls despite the fact that
they're only, I don't know what.
What are they? 22, 23 seats
away from forming their own
majority government,
and the Liberals,
who were utterly thrashed
in the last Ontario election,
they only have eight
seats at the Legislature,
the leader doesn't have a seat,
the leader is not well-known,
they're in first place in
much of the recent polling.
Help us understand why the NDP,
which sort of is supposed to be
the government in waiting,
right,
they're the official opposition,
they're the government
in waiting,
but they're back in third
and the Liberals are in first.
How does that happen?
GREG: Right.
So, the last election was, um,
a situation in which
the Liberal Party,
through their record,
pushed their own voters away.
So, parties have what
we call brand identity,
which is essentially brand.
Um, um.
And when you look
at the party brands,
more people wake up in
the morning feeling like
Liberals in Ontario
than any other party,
and that was even true
when they were getting
trounced on election day.
It's just that almost half
the people that woke up feeling
like Liberals on
election day voted NDP,
because they wanted to send
a message to the Liberal Party,
that what they were
seeing wasn't good enough
and they wanted better, um,
but they didn't change
their underlying allegiance.
They didn't vote NDP, go home,
and wake up the next day feeling
like New Democrats.
They woke up the next day
still feeling like Liberals,
but Liberals that had got
a chip off their shoulder,
got something off their chest,
and were willing to go home,
and over the probably six
months following the election,
little by little, more and more
of the Liberals came home.
So, the challenge for the NDP is
that they always start behind.
The only way they can
win is with defectors.
They must knock people that
feel like Liberals away from
the Liberals
and into their camp.
Now, one thing they have
on their side is, um,
Andrea Horwath.
She is very well-regarded,
and what's happened,
I mean, she's going into
her fourth election now?
STEVE: Yes.
GREG:
Every time she
fights an election,
her numbers go up, and then,
as all opposition leaders do
when the election's over
she borrows Harry Potter's
cloak of invisibility,
disappears from the stage,
and people start forgetting her.
Not for lack of trying,
just because that's the way
the world works.
Politics is cruel.
Um, but again, three times now,
the election starts
and she goes up in favourables.
Um, and so, that's the big
problem the Liberals have,
that the alternatives to
the Liberals for centre-left
voters is a very charismatic,
proven competitor.
STEVE: Well, that doe--
Okay. False call.
I thought we were going to
finish up on that last question,
but you said something to me
that requires one more
follow up,
and that is, you know,
obviously if you're
a New Democrat right now,
and you see that you ran
a good campaign in 2018,
your leader is well-liked
and well-respected by
the people of Ontario,
you've brought up all
the right issues, right?
I mean, the NDP was banging
the drum hard on long-term care,
and the government's failure to
do what was required to keep
people in long-term care safe.
They've raised the right issues
at the right time, they're not
being rewarded for it.
So, what is the road ahead for
them to try to become government
for just the second
time in Ontario history?
GREG:
Well, I mean, the reality
for opposition parties
outside of elections is it's
very hard to move the numbers.
Um, it's really the election
itself that is the key window.
That doesn't mean
they shouldn't keep trying,
but realistically
it's very hard to do,
and they're very much
in the same position that
the Tories were in 1995,
when they did
the Common Sense Revolution.
They started in third,
and then they--
and at that point in time
people decided that they were
going to defeat the NDP.
And, so, they had to frame
a question to which they were
better answered than
the Liberals and their
ballot question was,
"Who's for real change?"
And they were able to
beat the Liberals on that.
So, the NDP have got to find
issues that put the Tories
and the Liberals on
the same side of the spectrum.
It's going to be a challenge
for the NDP to frame,
um, the Liberals as
not enough change,
not the right change,
but that's what they have to do.
STEVE: Hm.
GREG:
Now, there's another way to go,
which is essentially
what the Tories did to
Dalton McGuinty in 1999,
and what happened
to Stephane Dion
and Michael Ignatieff,
because federally,
Dion and Ignatieff were in
exactly the same position as
Del Duca.
They had more identifiers.
There were more people
loyal to the Liberals
than to any other party.
All else being equal they
should have been able to win,
but in both those elections,
their opponents,
all their opponents, were able
to frame Dion and Ignatieff as
not up to the job,
just like the Harris people
did to McGuinty in 1999.
And, so, if the Liberals can--
If the Liberals are
able to frame Del Duca,
if they're able to
take the opportunity of,
you know, the 50 plus percent
that think that the Premier's
responsible for the spike
in COVID right now,
and put him at
the front of that parade,
and get people to like him
because he's saying
what they're saying,
then it'll be hard for the NDP
to pull ahead,
but if he remains undefined
and either Tories or the NDP
are able to define him
as not up to the job,
as another Dion or Ignatieff,
um, then, uh,
then the NDP have a chance,
but it's always going to be
an outside shot for the NDP.
STEVE: In which case,
if you're Steven Del Duca
and you want to make
sure you frame yourself,
as in tell the people who
you are before your opponents
get to tell the people
who they think you are,
at what point-- we're a year
away from the election now.
A little--
A year and a couple of weeks,
at what point do you start
taking out ads that you have to
pay for to tell
people who you are?
GREG:
Well, and that is the toughest
choice a strategist has to make.
Um, so, everyone's paying
attention right now, right?
Like, they are.
So, this is not
a bad time to run ads.
Now, the downside is that
people will start forgetting.
Right?
But they tend to forget facts,
not feelings,
and, so, if they can establish
positive feelings towards
Del Duca now,
and then they back off,
those feelings won't
fade as fast as the facts
and the election is
just a year away.
STEVE: Gotcha.
Greg, this was fascination.
Thanks so much for doing this.
GREG: Thank you.

JOHN MICHAEL: That's Greg Lyle,
head of
Innovative Research Group,
coming to us from
Gibsons, British Columbia.
STEVE: And we always conclude
this podcast with our favourite
quotes of the week,
and we'll have those for you
immediately after we ask
you to give us a rating on
Apple Podcasts
and any other device
to make this show
a little bit better.
JOHN MICHAEL:
You can also shoot us
an email at onpolitics@tvo.org.
Here now, my quote of the week,
and this is from Doug Ford from
last week's news conference,
answering the question everybody
wants to know, which is,
"What do we have to do to
ensure we can prevent
the state of emergency from
continuing into the summer?"
DOUG FORD:
We must keep doing what
we're doing and what's working.
We need to do everything
in our power to protect this
summer for all Ontarians.
My goal is to have the most
normal July and August possible.
Obviously that won't mean
large sporting events
or concerts,
but if we manage
the next few weeks properly,
I believe that we can
have things in a very good
place this summer.
STEVE: That's Premier Doug Ford
at last week's news conference.
JOHN MICHAEL:
My quote of the week is
from Minister of Health
Christine Elliot.
She was speaking at Queen's Park
on Monday about the possible
future of summer camps
and other outdoors
amenities in Ontario.
CHRISTINE ELLIOT: We know that
the stay-at-home order will end
on June the second, and so--
unless it's renewed again,
but we are anticipating that
there may be other events,
summer camps, golf, tennis,
other things may be
available as of June 2nd,
or perhaps before depending
on the clinical evidence
that we receive.
What's happening with
our hospitalizations
and our intensive care numbers.
So, there's a number of factors
that we need to consider,
but it's being reviewed
on a very regular basis.
JOHN MICHAEL:
That was Christine Elliot,
and, if you missed it,
there's just the tiniest hint
that the current stay-at-home
order might be lifted before
June 2nd when it is
currently scheduled to expire.
Not that I want to
get anybody's hopes up.
STEVE: No, you better not,
because if it doesn't come off,
they're going to come
after you, my friend.
They're going to come after you.
JOHN MICHAEL:
Well, I expect you to, you know,
put your body between me
and our angry crowd.
STEVE: I'll do whatever I can to
protect you, but, you know,
I'm not as tough
as I used to be.
Let me just say that.
'Cause as you pointed out
earlier, I'm so ancient now.
So, anyway.
JOHN MICHAEL:
Oh, this is coming
back to haunt me now.
STEVE:
Yes, it will. Yes, it will.
And so ends episode 112
of the OnPoli podcast.
It was produced
by Katie O'Connor,
with editing this week
form Donny Swanson.
Welcome aboard, Donny.
And production support
from Nikki Ashworth
and Jonathan Halliwell.
JMM, let's conclude
as we always do.
As my dad likes to say,
stay positive, test negative.
JOHN MICHAEL:
Stay safe, Steve.

Watch: Ep. 112 - Stay-at-home... ish