The people of Ontario will now be governed at Queen’s Park by a majority Liberal Government headed by Premier-elect Kathleen Wynne. New Democratic Party (NDP) leader Andrea Horwath’s gamble of not supporting the last Liberal budget, which triggered the election, has paid off for the Wynne Liberals, giving them 59 seats and a majority government.
The Progressive Conservatives (PCs) lost 10 seats, leaving them with 27 seats in the legislature. In Durham, for instance, which had been a PC riding, Granville Anderson became a first-time winner for the Liberals. The NDP, meanwhile, although suffering surprising losses in Davenport where Liberal Cristina Martins defeated Jonah Schein and in Trinity-Spadina where longtime NDP stalwart Rosario Marchese lost to Liberal Han Dong, improved their seat count to 21 up from17 seats in the previous government.
Along with Wynne, returning to Queen’s Park on July 2 are Mitzi’s Hunter, who had won the previous by-election in Scarborough-Guildwood, and Michael Cocteau in Don Valley East. Bas Balkissoon, a former municipal politician also retained his seat in Rouge River.
Despite their seat gain, perhaps the greater impact in the election will be on the NDP who under the previous Liberal minority government held the balance of power. Now, with a Liberal majority they will not have nearly as much clout going forward.
For the PCs’ Hudak, who won his seat in Niagara West – Glanbrook, the decision to step down as party leader was a given and he wasted no time making that announcement following the election results. The other loser that matters in the Toronto area is PC Doug Holyday, who had won in the recent by-election in Etobicoke-Lakeshore creating a Tory toehold in the strongly Liberal region. This time his rival Liberal Peter Milczyn was elected.
The big winner of course is Wynne who has received the mandate from voters this time rather than through the leadership selection process that put her in the top spot following Dalton McGuinty’s resignation over the controversy involving the cancellation of two gas plants being constructed in Mississauga and Oakville. The cancellation of the plants, a ploy by McGuinty to win seats in the 2011 election will cost $1.1 billion over 20 years in cancellation penalties and relocation of construction. It was the source of attack by both opposition parties as they sought to undermine the Liberal government. Voters however were more focused on promises for the future rather than transgressions of the past.
Believing that the Liberals’ political baggage was important proved to be the wrong focus for those trying to unseat Wynne, as was Hudak’s focus on cutting jobs at a time when the fear of unemployment and poor job prospects is uppermost in the minds of many Ontarians. The province has lost hundreds of thousands of jobs in the private sector over the past decade and Hudak’s talk of cutting 100,000 public sector jobs was rejected by voters, while his promise to create one million jobs was rejected by economists, who claimed his calculations regarding that number was incorrect.
Until Thursday’s majority win by the Liberals, pollsters were wary about who would come out ahead but had been predicting a return to a minority government. Most anticipated a Liberal minority, but primed the public for a possible switch to the PCs.
Voter turnout across the province increased to 52 per cent up from 48.2 per cent in the 2011 election. Toronto voters were at 51 per cent and 48 per cent in the 905 region.
The Wynne Liberals now have a challenging road ahead. Most of their support rests in Southern Ontario, but attention has to be given to the northern regions where the economic downturn has been very strongly felt. Wynne has promised to go ahead with the budget that was presented before the election, including development of transit and transportation infrastructure, which will create jobs; fund full day kindergarten, take 30 per cent off tuition for college and university students and create the Ontario retirement pension plan.