Battleground Ontario: Watch for regional swings tonight.

Today’s election is too close to call.  Our last poll had the Tories and Liberals tied at 36% among likely voters.  The seat projectors predict that unless the Tories can win much more of the popular vote, the Liberals should win a minority.  Why?  Because of how regionalized the results are and the inefficiency of the Tory vote (they run up big margins in rural seats).

For those watching the election with interest tonight, one thing to look for is how well the parties do regionally.  Throughout the election we have been tracking public opinion across five regions based on postal code.  Those results indicate that Ontario is very much of two worlds: with the GTA and rest of the province sharing little in perceptions and vote intentions.

The table below reports the results of the 2011 Ontario election across the five regions.  I am going to be managing the results desk for Sun News tonight and will be looking closely at the change in votes across these regions (make sure to tune in). The early numbers will tell us a lot about how the election might turnout.

Here are a few thoughts:

1. If Liberal support holds in Toronto and the GTA, the Liberals will likely win the most seats.  In our polling, they have consistently led by wide margins in Toronto and have been competitive with the Tories in the suburban communities around Toronto.  If the Tories cannot break through in the 905 region, it will be hard for them to form government.

2. The southwestern region of the province has been the most volatile over the election.  Our polls have shown a close race between the NDP and the Tories.  If the NDP increases its vote share in the SW, it may not translate into many more seats.  That’s because the Tories have such large leads in many of the rural or small town communities outside of the larger urban centres.  Look at Windsor West, London West, and maybe Chatham-Kent-Essex for indications if the NDP will make a breakthrough.

3. Eastern Ontario is an interesting enigma.  The Liberals do well in Ottawa, Kingston, and Peterborough, but the Tories dominate in all the other seats.  In 2011, the Liberals were wiped out of rural Eastern Ontario, except for Glengarry-Prescott-Russel.  The polls don’t indicate that the Liberals have much chance of picking up any of those seats this time.  As for the NDP, they have very few opportunities for pickup and currently hold no seats in the region.  Watch Peterborough to see whether the Liberal vote comes out to vote as it has been a bellwether riding in the past.