OMA directors gain a fresh view of Ontario’s changing political landscape

This article was provided by the Ontario Mining Association (OMA), an organization that was established in 1920 to represent the mining industry of the province.

As we wait to see what the first Throne Speech from Ontario’s new Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne, which is being delivered today, and a pending budget really mean, Ontario Mining Association members were advised, at a recent board meeting, the political landscape has changed irrevocably. “Throw away the old playbook because right now conventional wisdom is worth nothing,” Darrell Bricker, Chief Executive Officer of Ipsos Global Public Affairs told the OMA.

His presentation “The Ontario Political Landscape” showed how the steady growth of Western Canada as an economic force and large scale immigration has changed the political environment. He noted that 90% of Canadians are now governed at the provincial level by women. There are female premiers in Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, Alberta (Canada’s four most populous provinces) and Newfoundland.

Mr. Bricker, who has a long career in public opinion research including time in the Prime Minister’s Office, said the 30 new seats that will be in House of Commons for the next federal election demonstrate the change. Fifteen of the new seats are in Ontario, six in B.C. and six in Alberta and almost all of these seats are in the suburbs of Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton.

“While Alberta has the fastest growing population in Canada, Markham, in the Greater Toronto Area, is the fastest growing city in Canada,” said Mr. Bricker. “The new political power base is in the suburbs and the areas of Ontario that will decide the next election are not mining areas. More than 50% of people in Toronto were not born in Canada.”

He recapped the 2011 election results in which the Liberals captured 38% of the popular vote, the Progressive Conservatives 35%, NDP 23% and the Green Party 3%. The most recent opinion polls show the PCs at 34%, NDP at 32% and the Liberals at 27%. Mr. Bricker cautioned that parties to be successful must gauge and then match the mood of the province.

“Campaigns matter, debates matter and speeches matter,” said Mr. Bricker. “No one party is running away with things, an election could be some time off, and we should never forget that the Liberal government is only one seat shy of a majority.”

He noted the next Ontario election will have two females Premier Wynne (Liberal) and Andrea Horwath (NDP) leading major parties with Tim Hudak being PC leader. Mr. Bricker believes the main issues in the next Ontario election will be the economy, jobs and health care.

Elections are seen by Mr. Bricker as battles between voters wanting change and voters favouring continuity. He said current polling numbers show that 42% of Ontarians think the government is on the right track and 41% think it is heading in the wrong direction. This virtually even split will make it difficult for all parties to strive to “match the mood of the province.”

“Unless the mining industry makes its own case, no one will make it for them,” he said. “If you don’t tell your story, someone else will tell it for you.”

Mr. Bricker provided his insights at a recent meeting of the OMA board of directors and mine managers. Along with his work in public affairs and public opinion polling, Mr. Bricker is an author of several books and a supporter of Canada’s military. He serves as the Honourary Colonel of the historic regiment Queen’s York Rangers.