Learning from the Ontario By-Elections

The Ford Government held two by-elections last week. The Conservatives retained the seats of Milton (a swing riding in the 905-region) and Lambton-Kent-Middlesex (a safe rural riding). I took a close look at the results to see if there were any indications of shifts in popularity between the government and the opposition parties, or among the opposition parties. Turnout is always lower in by-elections, falling from approximately 50 percent to close to 25 percent in both ridings. Usually voter apathy reinforces the status quo.


Several opinion polls forecast a close race between the Conservatives and the Liberals, but the Conservatives ended up with 47 percent of the vote and the Liberals 39 percent, a small but significant increase in their margin over the Liberals of 43 to 39 percent in the 2022 election. In my blog analyzing that election, I tabulated the total “progressive” vote (Liberals, NDP, Greens) and total “conservative” vote (Conservatives, New Blue, Ontario Party). In the 2022 election, the conservative vote in Milton totaled 47 percent and progressive vote totaled 53 percent, but the by-election reversed that, with conservatives receiving 52 percent and progressives receiving 48 percent.


In this by-election, the Conservatives received 57 percent of the vote, very close to the 59 percent they received in 2022. The Liberals came second in the by-election with 23 percent, whereas the NDP came second in the 2022 election with 19 percent. In the by-election, conservative parties received 64 percent of the vote and progressive parties 35 percent; in the 2022 election, conservative parties received 67 percent and progressive parties 33 percent. There was little change overall, except that the Liberals bested the NDP in a riding that is unwinnable for progressives.

The Takeaway

The over-riding conclusion (no pun intended) from the two by-elections is that little changed from the 2022 election. Of particular concern to all parties is that the PC Party, and conservative parties, did slightly better in the swing riding than they did in the election.

The PC Party candidate in Milton, Zee Hamid, has held municipal office in Milton for over a decade, and the Liberal candidate, Glenn Naidoo-Harris is the son of Indira Naidoo-Harris, who represented Milton in the Ontario Legislature as a Liberal from 2014 to 2018. Therefore, both candidates had good name recognition. The Ford Government probably helped its cause by increasing the frequency of Go-train service between Milton and downtown Toronto. I don’t know what any of the parties did in terms of local advertising in Milton, but the PC Party’s attack ads on Liberal leader Bonnie Crombie, coupled with the Government of Ontario’s extensive feel-good advertising campaign, must have had some impact on the by-election.

My conclusion from these by-elections is that the Ford Government appears to be on course to win a third majority in 2026. The opposition parties must do some serious thinking if they want a different outcome.

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