An evaluation of the results of Thursday’s Ontario election indicates that One Big Campaign (OBC) clearly played an important role in helping stop Tim Hudak and the Conservatives from becoming the government.
OBC made close to a million anti-Tory phone calls and carried out other campaigning in 40 key ridings where we felt Hudak had to be defeated in order to stop him from forming a government.
Now that the results are fully tabulated, OBC’s small group of volunteers is very pleased to see that, amazingly, Hudak lost in 36 of the 40 ridings we focused on.
We can’t tell for certain exactly the impact we had, but did our work make a difference? Yes!
Our success has to be shared with several strong unions and Working Families Ontario, all of which campaigned in various ways, as well as millions of voters who showed the common sense to vote against Tim Hudak’s half-baked program.
However, it is important to point out that, as far as we know, OBC is the only group that telephoned every voter in several of the ridings we focused on, urging people to vote strategically for the candidate our research showed as having the best chance of defeating the Conservative.
I’ve been working on elections in Canada since the start of Pierre Trudeau’s career, as a journalist and now as an activist, and I’ve never seen a campaign where people were so desperate for advice on who they should vote for to stop a political party.
Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals won a majority, taking 59 seats. The Conservatives remain the Official Opposition with 27 seats, but Hudak used his concession speech to announce his resignation as leader. The NDP’s Howarth, who badly misjudged the electorate in forcing the election, won 21 seats. But I don’t think Howarth will survive as leader, as many of the party’s more progressive old guard were after her even when she forced the vote.
The OBC team is pleased that it helped prevent nine Conservatives from being re-elected in ridings we targeted. Most significantly, we helped knock off the Conservatives only sitting member in the Toronto area, Doug Holyday, who was handily defeated by former fellow city council member, Liberal Peter Milczyn.
Other Tory incumbents to fall were: Rod Jackson (Barrie), Jane McKenna (Burlington), Rob Leone (Cambridge), Roxanne Villeneuve Robertson (Glengarry-Prescott-Russell), Ted Chudleigh (Halton), Jane Twinney (Newmarket-Aurora), and Rob Milligan (Northumberland-Quinte West).
Moreover, the OBC researchers correctly identified a number of Liberals and New Democrats who were leading, but threatened, in key ridings, and helped push them to victory.
“We definitely had influence,” said one of OBC’s researchers, “but exactly how much is really hard to say. No riding is alike and there are local issues involved. It’s hard to say exactly how many voters we swayed with riding wide messaging. Either way, a win against Hudak is an important win.”
The four of 40 ridings OBC and other campaigners “lost” were to Laurie Scott (Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock), Randy Pattapiece (Perth Wellington), Michael Harris (Kitchener-Conestoga), and Gila Martow (Thornhill).
Political observers who were skeptical that strategic voting would have any real impact on the election are back peddling.
“Well, congratulations,” Wilf Day of Port Hope, an astute political analyst, wrote on Facebook. “History will show Hudak lost this election, and strategic voters won. My congratulations are tempered by only two caveats. First, didn't you succeed a bit too well, getting the Wynne majority? Second, you endorsed three Liberals where the PC ran third: Kingston, Brampton-Springdale, and Brampton West. However, in the history of strategic voting campaigns, getting it right 31 times out of 34 is pretty good.”
OBC is pretty much ecstatic about what we were able to accomplish with a handful of volunteers and a few thousand dollars donated by concerned citizens. Late in the campaign, when we didn’t have much cash on hand and a key funding request was turned down, we consider shutting down our campaign. But we reduced our goals, obviously made some good decisions about target ridings, and carried on.
Ours was one of the most concentrated strategic voting campaigns ever in the country, and it clearly speaks to the need for a well-organized similar campaign against the federal Conservatives next year.
Lastly, the election outcome was another example of the inadequacies of our cockeyed first-past-the-post electoral system. As our friends over at Fair Vote quickly pointed out, The Liberals won 59 seats with only 39 per cent of the popular vote. The Tories took only 27 seats with 31 per cent, and the NDP only 21 seats with 24 per cent. The Greens took five per cent of the votes but won no seats. A better way would be to adopt some form of proportional representation voting system.