Despite pressing issues, Ontario election 2022 a boring campaign

Where is the apathy coming from? ‘Part of it has got to be political fatigue,’ one expert said

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It was the campaign that wasn’t.

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Despite heading to the polls in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, skyrocketing cost of living and local states of calamity in the wake of destructive weekend thunderstorms, experts say candidates and voters alike just don’t seem capable of mustering much enthusiasm for next week’s provincial election.

“What stood out the most is really sort of the lack of a story on the campaign,” said Andrea Lawlor, a political scientist and associate professor at King’s University College at Western University in London, Ont.

“Here we are, coming out of the biggest health crisis our generation has seen, international conflict, inflation, housing prices, gas prices — it’s sort of just a perfect storm of disruptions, but the campaigns seem to have plodded along on a relatively even course.”

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With about a week left before Ontario chooses its next provincial government, all indications suggest Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives will return to Queen’s Park with a second majority mandate from voters — with Ontario’s NDP and Liberal parties battling to fill seats in the house’s opposition gallery.

“Consequently, we haven’t really seen a lot of change in the polls, so it’s a little confounding that we’ve seen so much upheaval, and yet the way that the campaign has progressed, it’s been sort of evenhanded,” she said .

Opinion polls have painted a possible election-day portrait of another PC majority, with both the NDP and Liberals frustratingly unable to close the gap.

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Last week’s Postmedia/Leger poll suggested voters think quite highly of Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath and her party’s policies — support that seems to stop short of actually casting a vote for them.

Asked to blindly rank a variety of campaign promises made during the election, the top two issues — free-to-low-cost dental care and provincial gas price regulation — were key planks in the NDP platform.

Both the NDP and Liberals are also directing much of their campaign might against each other, leaving little bandwidth to attack either the Ford Conservatives’ campaign or their years in office.

“Both the Liberals and NDP have been trying to execute this campaign in a very strategic manner — ‘where can we make the greatest gains?’ — and for the most part it seems like they can make the greatest gains off one another,” Lawlor said.

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“In doing so, I think they’re really giving the Premier and the Conservatives an opportunity to walk very comfortably back into government.”

Tuesday morning saw the Liberals and NDP trading paint over a pair of controversies that did little to move either party ahead.

Global News took a highlighter to annual expense reports submitted by Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca’s riding association, uncovering over $50,000 in hospitality expenses over the past six years — specifically between 2013 and 2018 when the Vaughan-Woodbridge MPP was a cabinet minister under former premier Kathleen Wynne.

Multiple press releases issued by the Del Duca camp on Tuesday tried to draw attention to Brian Lilley’s column published Sunday in the Toronto Sun claiming the Ontario NDP’s alleged tolerance of antisemitism in their ranks is prompting resignations from some Jewish party supporters.

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Another Liberal party press release attempted to paint Ford as a “climate change denier” for referring to this weekend’s devastating weather as a “once-in-a-lifetime storm,” one day after Del Duca announced he was ‘suspending his campaign’ to visit storm damage in Ottawa, only to hold a press conference and produce campaign materials, while blaming the storm on Ford and his PCs’ lack of movement on climate change.

Election polls aggregated by 338canada.com suggest an easy PC majority, listing 14 polls last week all showing Tory leads of between three and 12 percentage points.

Where is this apathy coming from?

“Part of it has got to be political fatigue,” Lawlor said.

“Everyone has been forced to be so engaged over the last two-and-a-half years.”

Ontarians, she said, are stuck in the ground zero of the current affordability crisis — facing high rent and housing costs, gas prices and high food prices, she said, makes voters concentrate more on day-to-day concerns than looking ahead.

“Citizens are just concerned about the here and now, right now,” she said.

“That, coupled with fatigue is probably what’s driving lower numbers of engagement, whether it’s in terms of clicks on election stories or fewer signs in neighbourhoods.”

• Email: bpassifiume@postmedia.com | Twitter:

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