As the Doug Ford government charts the course for its second mandate, the re-elected premier will be looking to build upon his recent electoral success.
Holding on to tough Toronto seats like Eglinton—Lawrence helped Ford secure a majority. Significant gains in the north, like Timmins, and in the Southwest, like Windsor—Tecumseh and Essex, ensured his 2022 victory was bigger than his first. His success was thanks to the PCs' ability to weave together the traditional Conservative base with non-traditional voters. If Ford hopes to build on this success, he’ll have to maintain his momentum, continue his pragmatism, and attract even more atypical conservative voters.
Young people fall into this category, and housing is the way to reach them.
Typically, appealing to young voters is considered an ineffective electoral strategy. Federally, Canadians under the age of 34 had the lowest voter turnout of any age group in 2021. Although Elections Ontario doesn’t release voter turnout data by age, with only 43 per cent of Ontarians voting in this year’s provincial election, it is safe to assume turnout was low across all demographics. However, tight margins in 2022 mean future gains, or losses, by the PCs could be determined by very few voters.
Consider that the PCs held on to Eglinton—Lawrence by just under 600 votes and picked up York South—Weston by just under 800 votes. With about 40,000 and 30,000 votes, respectively, in each riding, the difference between a victory and a loss was slim. The same is true in Humber River—Black Creek, where the PC candidate lost by just shy of 1,000 votes – out of nearly 23,000 votes cast. Close results in competitive urban ridings like these could heavily influence the government’s makeup the next time Ontarians head to the polls.
These 2022 margins could change with the right combination of policy and effort over the next four years.
The day before the election, Ontarians ranked the cost of living and housing affordability and accessibility as the two most important issues impacting their vote. Ford earned the electorate’s confidence to act on these issues, and now he must deliver. His future electoral success in critical urban ridings may depend on it. The largely untapped youth vote could be Ford’s path to future success.
Toronto is home to over 800,000 people aged 15 to 34. The early end of that spectrum will reach voting age by the next election and will struggle to afford a home if prices remain unattainably high. The latter end of that range could still be priced out of the market or kicked out of the market due to rising borrowing costs.
Addressing their housing needs could be an even bigger electoral factor come 2026 than it was this June.
Ford has a foundation to build on with these voters. Some polls showed he led the youth vote — ages 18 to 34 — on the eve of the election. Youth voter intention showed about 37 per cent in favour of the PCs versus 30 per cent for the NDP. Ford promised to build 1.5 million new homes in the next ten years. His progress on this goal will be critical in the next four.
It will be important for Ford to take meaningful action early in his mandate to solidify his position as the fixer of the housing crisis. As the NDP and Liberals struggle to get their internal affairs in order, Ford would be wise to move swiftly on housing — his opponents will undoubtedly be focused on this demographic also. Luckily for Ford, his government has already started devising a plan to reach that target: the Housing Affordability Task Force report provides a road map.
Policies like ending exclusionary zoning and allowing higher density housing “as of right” (by default) in urban areas would immediately spur growth. Although municipalities like the City of Toronto would likely object to the perceived vetoing of their planning authority, expanding on programs like the $45 million Streamline Development Approval Fund could help incentivize municipalities to accept accelerated development, and negate jurisdictional concerns with additional funding.
Like many of Ford’s election promises, housing won’t be built quickly, so all the more reason to jump on this challenge immediately. As Ford looks to tackle today’s top challenges and strengthen his electoral map, enabling housing development is the best way to accomplish both.
Kyle Sholes is a former chief of staff to the Associate Minister of Transportation in Doug Ford's government. He is currently a Manager at StrategyCorp Inc.
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