Election 2018: What You Need to Know

The Ontario election period officially got under way on May 9th, 2018. For 30 days party leaders and candidates will criss-cross the province, followed by journalists eager to cover their every announcement – and gaffe. With a Liberal government that’s low in the polls, a high-profile (and sometimes controversial) Progressive Conservative leader, and a seasoned NDP leader who thinks her time has come, the campaign could be an exciting, and surprising, few weeks. H+K will be there with you all along the way, keeping you up-to-date on the latest happenings.

For starters, though, here are the basics: what you need to know about Election 2018.

Who’s running?

Ontario has four major parties running candidates in virtually every riding:

The Ontario Liberal Party, led by Premier Kathleen Wynne since 2013, has been in power for nearly fifteen years and is asking voters to extend their mandate by another four.

The Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario recently had a leadership change with the resignation of Patrick Brown earlier this year; former Toronto city councilor Doug Ford is taking them into the 2018 election.

The Ontario New Democratic Party has been led by Andrea Horwath since 2009. Going into her third general election, she’s hoping her personal popularity will translate into votes.

The Green Party of Ontario has been led by Mike Schreiner since 2009. The party has had trouble getting traction with voters and has not been invited to participate in the leaders’ debates.

When are the key dates?

The first leaders’ debate, hosted by CityTV and focused on urban issues, took place on May 7th.

The legislature was dissolved on May 8th.

The campaign period officially began on May 9th.

The second leaders’ debate, hosted by the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities and focused on northern issues, will take place on May 11th at 11:30am.

The final leaders’ debate, organized by a consortium including CBC, CHCH, CPAC, CTV, Global News, and TVO will take place on May 27th at 6:30pm.

The election takes place on June 7th.

Where is my riding?

You may not be in the same riding that you were for the 2014 provincial election. With Ontario’s growing population, riding boundaries have changed and new ridings have been created. In total, there are 17 new seats up for grabs, with a total of 124. This means 63 seats will now be required to form a majority government.

Most of the new ridings can be found in the Greater Toronto-Hamilton Area, with a handful also in Kitchener, Ottawa, Belleville, and the north. In southern Ontario, riding boundaries align with federal ridings, which were reapportioned before the most recent federal election in 2015. In the north, however, Ontario has three more ridings provincially than exist federally.

You can find out which riding you’re in by entering your postal code here.

How have the rules changed?

In response to political and media pressure the Ontario government introduced new rules governing elections and political fundraising, which took effect on January 1st, 2017.

These new rules include:

  • A prohibition on corporate and union donations – only individuals can donate to parties, constituencies and candidate campaigns.
  • A prohibition on corporations and unions guaranteeing loans to a party, candidate, or nomination contestant (including leadership candidates)
  • A prohibition on party leaders, MPPs, candidates, and nomination contestants (including leadership candidates) attending political fundraisers.
  • Donors can contribute $1,222 in total to any political party, $1,222 in total to any number of constituency associations, and $1,222 in total to any number of candidate campaigns during an election period. That means the maximum donation for 2018 is $3,666.
  • Third parties are limited to spending $600,000 on political advertising in the six months leading up to a campaign period and $100,000 during the writ.
  • All parties that received at least two per cent of the popular vote in the last election receive a subsidy of $2.71 per vote in that election; the Liberals, PCs, NDP and Green Party each qualified for this subsidy.


What if no party wins a majority?

If no party wins a majority of seats in the House, it may be unclear for a period of days or even weeks which party will form government. In Ontario’s parliamentary democracy, whichever party can maintain the confidence of the House is allowed to form a Cabinet and govern. In practice, though, what does this mean? There are several possible outcomes:

Minority government managing issue to issue. This has tended to be the most common outcome of elections in Canada when no single party captures a majority, and happened in Ontario following the 2011 provincial election. In this arrangement, a single party – typically the party with the most seats – forms government and carries on as it would if it had a majority of seats. However, on any issues of confidence the government must receive more votes in support than opposed. Confidence votes would include the Speech from the Throne and any supply bills, such as those accompanying the Fall Economic Statement and Budget, as well as confidence motions introduced by individual MPPs.

Agreement to support the government
, where one party agrees to support another, usually for a specified period of time, on all confidence motions. In exchange the governing party would typically agree to implement specified policy priorities of the supporting party. David Peterson’s Liberals struck just such an agreement with Bob Rae’s NDP after the 1985 Ontario election, and a similar arrangement currently exists between the NDP and Greens in British Columbia.

Coalition governments are frequent occurrences in other Commonwealth countries (as well as non-Parliamentary European democracies) but have been rare in Canada. In a coalition, two parties agree to jointly govern, forming a Cabinet together: so, for example, the Premier might come from one party and the Minister of Health from the other. There has only been one coalition government in Ontario’s history – between the United Farmers of Ontario and Labour Party, lasting from 1919-23 – and the only federal coalition was in roughly the same time period, with the Liberals and Conservatives working to present a united front during World War I. After failed talks of a federal Liberal-NDP coalition to displace the then-ruling Harper government in 2008-09, many Canadians have perceived coalitions as subversive of democracy.

A new election is possible if no party can demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Lieutenant Governor that it can maintain the confidence of the House. Typically, the party with the most seats would be given a chance to govern as a minority, but would then be defeated on the first confidence motion (usually the Throne Speech). If no other party was in a position to govern with the support of a majority of MPPs, the Lieutenant Governor would likely choose to dissolve the House and call another election – possibly within weeks of the last vote.