ONTARIO (May 5 - June 3, 1999) - Freedom Party fielded 14 candidates in its fifth general election campaign, bringing to the Ontario electorate a comprehensive and alternative platform that frequently became the center of controversy and debate in the ridings where the party was represented.
Given the political environment and the shortest campaign period in Ontario's election history, there was little doubt that Ontario's Progressive Conservative Party would win a second term in government. The short campaign, combined with fewer provincial ridings (reduced from 130 to 103), a first-past-the- post 'majority rule' electoral system, a divided political opposition assisted by 'strategic voting', a Liberal and NDP agenda that had nothing new or different to offer voters, and four years of negative and destructive 'anti-Harris' campaigning on the part of radical union organizers virtually guaranteed Harris and the PC's their victory.
For Freedom Party, these polarized conditions combined to lower vote expectations in Election'99, and Fp candidates were advised well in advance of the election call not to expect any meaningful electoral results. For them, the primary objective in Election'99 was less to win seats in the legislature than to help Freedom Party grow as a political organization, and to increase our influence in the political marketplace.
Ironic as it may seem, the presence of a political party like Freedom Party does NOT 'split' the vote to the detriment of a party like the Ontario PCs; the reverse is true. Freedom Party candidates lose "their" votes to the PCs. Many Fp members and supporters openly admitted to voting PC in Election'99, fearful of what any alternative government might do to the province's economy.
Official Freedom Party vote results in Election'99 were as follows: (Number following the candidate's name indicates votes received, with vote percentage indicated in brackets.)
London Fanshawe: Lloyd Walker 293 (0.74%); London North-Centre: Robert Metz 156 (0.34%); London West: Jack Plant 236 (0.47%); Elgin-Middlesex-London: Ray Monteith 405 (0.92%); Perth- Middlesex: Rob Smink 521 (1.23%); Lambton-Kent-Middlesex: Wayne Forbes 1,076 (2.48%); Sarnia Lambton: Andrew Falby 517 (1.30%); Oxford: Paul Blair 312 (0.73%); Toronto Centre-Rosedale: Paul McKeever 344 (0.75%); Don Valley East: Wayne Simmons 53 (0.13%); Willowdale: Vaughan Byrnes 152 ((0.35%); Trinity-Spadina: Silivio Ursomarzo 182 (0.51%); Victoria-Haliburton: Charles Olito 198 (0.39%); Nepean-Carleton: Bill Frampton 386 (0.76%).
Averaging 0.79% of the vote in the 14 ridings where Fp was represented, only three of Fp's 14 candidates exceeded 1%, clear evidence that Harris' Common Sense Revolution is drawing votes away from Freedom Party's electoral base of support. (See Openers by Lloyd Walker for a commentary on this phenomenon.)
In comparison, past vote averages were as follows: Election'85: 1.45% (3 candidates); Election'87: 1.55% (9 candidates); Election'90: 1.70% (10 candidates); Election'95: 1.14% (12 candidates).
Freedom Party's star candidate of Election'99 was undoubtedly Lambton-Kent-Middlesex candidate Wayne Forbes whose 2.48% vote return bucked the over-all trend. In 1995, his 398 votes represented 1.43% of the vote. In 1999, his 1076 votes (a 170% increase in absolute numbers) represented only a 1% increase in vote percentage due to the increased size of his riding.
(See riding coverage of candidate's campaigns elsewhere in this issue.)
Election'99 met every Fp campaign target: (1) Increasing the number of candidates, (2) Operating at a break-even or surplus. (In 1995, the election campaign resulted in a $7500 deficit.), (3) Ensuring that Freedom Party candidates are represented at all-candidates' debates, (4) Providing the basics (literature, signs, administration, etc.) for Fp candidates to run their campaigns.
Thanks to Fp supporters, during Election'99 Fp candidates were represented at candidates' debates in their ridings, literature and signs were supplied in varying quantities according to riding budget allowances, and local media coverage allowed many Ontarians to discover Freedom Party for the first time.
At 14, the number of candidates fielded was the highest ever. (In order to achieve party recognition in the legislature, a minimum of 12 candidates must get elected. However, following the election, this rule was changed by the Harris government to accommodate the NDP.) Fundraising efforts combined with our minimal campaign strategy resulted in a $2300 surplus in 1999, along with a 38% increase in income (from $45,000 to $62,000) over 1998.
Congratulations to our candidates and many thanks to our supporters are in order. Without your involvement and input, these results would not have been possible.
last updated on April 28, 2002