With the media and polls alike predicting a change election, last night Ontario voters delivered on that change, electing Doug Ford and the Progressive Conservatives to a very strong majority government with 76 of 124 seats in the Legislature. The NDP under Andrea Horwath had its best showing since winning the 1990 election, more than doubling the number of seats held by the party to send 40 New Democrats to Queen’s Park. The Liberals had their worst outcome in history, being reduced to just seven seats, one shy of the number needed for official party status. Before the night was over, Premier Kathleen Wynne had announced she is stepping down as Liberal leader. The Green Party made history, with Leader Mike Schreiner winning his seat in Guelph—a first for Ontario. This election saw the strongest voter turnout since 1999, with 58 percent of eligible individuals casting ballots, according to Elections Ontario.
There were many close races last night, but a few were particularly close and would be considered prime for electoral challenges from losing candidates: the Scarborough-Guildwood Liberal win (with a possible challenge from the Conservatives), the Brampton Centre NDP win (possible challenge from the PCs), and the Thunder Bay-Atikokan NDP win (possible challenge from the Liberals).
The Conservatives won seats in every region across the province, reflecting the widely-held view going into the election that the party’s support was more broadly-based than the NDP, despite the two parties being close in the polls. It is worth noting, however, that the NDP has elected members in beachheads in every region—making gains in areas they were previously shut out from, such as Scarborough and Eastern Ontario. The NDP also grew its base of support in other areas such as downtown Toronto, Kitchener, London and the North. This speaks to the NDP being well positioned to provide effective Opposition to the government—and signals that Andrea Horwath isn’t going anywhere.
The broad victory for the Conservatives speaks loudly to the party having run a disciplined campaign with clear, straightforward messaging that resonated with voters looking for change right across the province.
That theme of change runs through the ranks of Conservative and NDP MPPs elected to Queen’s Park last night. On the Conservative government side, 48 of 76 MPPs are new to Queen’s Park—although some bring experience as having served as political staff or having been elected federally. Among the NDP party that now forms the Official Opposition, 24 of 40 MPPs are newly-elected. It is only among the Liberal ranks that there are no newcomers—not surprising given that the Liberals were reduced to just seven seats.
Premier-designate Ford has already announced that his campaign chair Dean French will serve as his chief of staff and that political consultant Chris Froggatt is chairing his transition team.
Mr. Ford has indicated that the transition will likely take 21 days, during which he will pick his Cabinet and set a date for the swearing in of the new government—to be followed by a Throne Speech that will confirm the priorities for the Conservative government in the near- to medium-term. Expect the group of star candidates involved in Mr. Ford’s May 28th roundtable to feature prominently at the Cabinet table.