Well, we didn’t get the result we wanted of course, but our June 3 mood chart held up. We were angry and saddened, but we weren’t devastated in the same way we were in 2018 when Ford’s victory fell in our laps like a ton of bricks. Instead of feeling hopeless and powerless our brains went straight to work analyzing how things could have gone differently and what needs to happen next time.
As others have said, this was the apathy election. The PCs received more than 400,000 FEWER votes than they did in 2018 and still managed to win a larger majority, because the other parties turned out even less voters. Our strategy of convincing a handful of voters in key ridings to vote strategically was designed for a much closer election than this one.
It’s also important to highlight the fact that Doug Ford completely avoid talking policy or engaging through the media. He avoided media interviews and required his candidates to skip local debates. He had no platform — just as he did in 2018 — and ran on a very vague promise to ‘Get it done.’ Doug Ford recognized that many people don’t follow traditional media at all and that he could win an election by going around the media entirely, connecting through paid advertising, social media and campaign events that were little more than photo-ops with no Q and A component.
Although polling shows that people preferred the other parties’ positions on many key issues like healthcare and highways, policy discussions were almost irrelevant because Ford did his best to avoid ever talking about policy. Between now and 2026, we will have to do the long, slow work of informing people about how provincial policy impacts their lives and what concrete choices the different parties are making.
Looking Back at our own Campaign
We had thousands of visits to the website in May and the first few days of June, driven both by hundreds of thousands of views of our social media material and by direct hits which were likely driven by posters, flyers and canvassers. In the last few days before the election, hundreds of people clicked through to Stop the Split and Votewell to find the strategic vote in their riding. In areas like Brampton and York South Weston, the strategic vote wasn’t clear though and our strategy was unlikely to bear fruit.
Some people have suggested that calls for strategic voting discouraged voting overall. While this may be true for some, the opposite may be true as well. Many people we spoke to wanted the Liberals and the NDP to find a way to cooperate and were deeply discouraged by their endless attacks on one another. For NDP voters willing to vote strategically for the Liberals and Liberals willing to vote NDP, seeing the leaders relentlessly attacking their preferred party instead of Ford could well have convinced them to give up on the whole thing or stick with their preferred party in a riding where they had no hope of winning. Indeed, the Liberals were polling higher midway through the election but lost much of that support on election day — perhaps as strategic voters who preferred the NDP turned back to their original party.
Our approach of meeting people where they are with “political parties suck” messaging on pamphlets and posters accurately read the mood of the electorate, but we didn’t have a compelling enough message, or enough time and resources, to get people from ‘political parties suck’ to ‘I’m going to vote.’ Indeed, we’re worried that without enough follow-through, the ‘political parties suck’ messaging could have simply reinforced the disinterest some people felt in this election.
We found it was very, very hard to get people to actually do deep canvassing. Our volunteers were more willing to flyer and poster, and in the days before the election we were thinking: ‘well maybe we should focus on less intensive volunteering opportunities in the future.’ But the election results showed that people are not engaged and need a personal connection to politics to get involved, so maybe deep-canvassing is still the answer, but we need to offer more training and more support to convince volunteers to give it a try.
In the next election, we will need a more inspiring leader and campaign from the NDP or the Liberals, but we also think it is important to start sowing the seeds now and doing more to engage and inform people in the years leading up to the election, rather than simply suddenly convince them in the last month.
First, a well-deserved rest for us and for all of you. If you’re struggling to disengage you might enjoy this free e-book called ‘Treasure Map’, written by our co-founder.
After we rest, there are two initiatives we’re interested in: 1) convincing the Liberals, Greens and NDP to do a better job cooperating and 2) finding ways to reach people directly and keep them engaged with political news throughout Doug’s 2nd term.
For now, it’s just an idea, but we think it’s one worth talking about with friends and family and with your MPP if they’re a member of one of the progressive parties. With leadership contests coming up in both the Liberal and NDP parties, and with the Liberals having clearly gotten the short end of the first-past-the-post stick, now is the time for this idea to gain momentum.
We’re also considering setting up a petition targeting key MPPs in each party asking for cooperation in the next election later in the summer or the fall — so keep an eye out! If you would be interested in signing such a petition, sign up for our email updates — we promise they will be few and far between in the next year or two, because we’ve got other things to work on.
The most exciting idea we’ve had is a way of reaching out directly to voters with political news that they might otherwise tune out in the form of mini-newsletters delivered straight to their door either by Canada Post or by our volunteers.
An Ontario Voters Coalition newsletter would be short and engaging with a few bullet-point news items, suggestions of local and alternative media to get more information from, and perhaps a crossword puzzle, the answers of which would be key Ontario political news.
We especially like the idea of having an intriguing headline and a ‘Read More’ link or QR code that connects people to great journalism like The Pointer, The Narwhal or The National Observer. Journalists are doing a great job of telling the stories that need to be told — but we need a way of driving more people to their work and social media accounts to counter Doug Ford’s plan to completely ignore policy, local debates and journalists. If we have the time, energy and resources it could come out four times a year in the years leading up to the next election.
Last but not least, municipal elections are coming up in October, and they will have major implications for housing, transportation and the environment. While we aren’t likely to get directly involved, we will share the work of progressive organizations that do take a stand in those elections.