Conservative Populism, or Unpopular Liberalism? Review of the 2018 Ontario Provincial Election

Andrea Perrella, Simon J. Kiss, Barry J. Kay


Ontario’s general election on June 7, 2018, brought the Progressive Conservative party to government for the first time in the 21st Century. The PCs’ victory over the incumbent Liberals, however, reached this point despite much turmoil. Months before the election the party faced a crisis when its leader, Patrick Brown, resigned amid a scandal. The PC party hastily organized a leadership election that put Doug Ford at the helm, who then led the party to victory. The following election review traces these steps and looks at some dynamics that contributed to both the PC leadership vote and the overall result of the election. The PC leadership election is analyzed, providing evidence that Ford’s rise may reflect some of the populist sentiment that has gripped other democracies. The analysis then turns to the general election, focusing on media coverage and issue salience, particularly as they relate to the party leaders. Survey data are examined to build some explanatory vote-choice models, which shows that voters in the general election appeared less moved by populism than a desire to punish the Liberals.


election; public opinion; populism; leadership campaign

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@Canadian Political Science Review (CPSR). ISSN 1911-4125