NDP, Tories earn split in Ontario provincial byelections

Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak campaigning with Thornhill PC Candidate Gila MartowOn Thursday night, the Progressive Conservatives may have quieted the critics who have long-believed that leader Tim Hudak can't win when it counts. Andrea Horwath's New Democrats are possibly ready to help the PCs force an election. And Kathleen Wynne's Liberals are in a little bit of trouble.

That's the early narrative after two provincial byelections in Ontario widely seen as precursors to a potential spring election.

The Tories retained the riding of Thornhill while the New Democrats won in Niagara Falls — a riding which belonged to the Liberals since 2003.

Here are the results:

Thornhill:

- Results: Gila Martow (PC) 48.0 per cent; Sandra Yeung Racco (LIB) 41.5 per cent

- Incumbent: Peter Shurman (PC)

- Results from 2011 election: PC: 46.9 per cent; LIB: 40.7 per cent

Niagara Falls:

- Results: Wayne Gates (NDP) 39.4 per cent; Bart Maves (PC) 36.8 per cent; Joyce Moracco (LIB) 19.4 per cent

- Incumbent: Kim Craitor (LIB)

- Results from 2011 election: LIB: 35.9 per cent; PC: 34.8 per cent; NDP: 26.3 per cent

After spending a lot of time campaigning in Niagara Falls over the past month and promising more than $100 million in government goodies, Premier Wynne used this week to downplay the importance of the byelections.

On Thursday evening, however, she admitted that the losses were difficult.

"This is a hard night and we're not going to pretend that it's not," she told a crowd of supporters in Thornhill, according to CBC News.

"We've lost these skirmishes but we're ready for the real battle."

That 'real battle' is a general election that most analysts predict will come this spring.

The common refrain is that, with the victory in Niagara Falls, the NDP will have the confidence to stop propping up the minority Liberal government.

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As for Hudak, he needed and got at least one victory on Thursday night.

Coming into his fifth year as Progressive Conservative leader, Hudak has a record that is strewn with failures. Some conservatives still blame him for not dislodging the Liberals from power in 2011, despite a double-digit lead in the polls just 12 weeks before the general election. And, since then, the party has fumbled and bumbled its way through two sets of byelctions.

The win in Thornhill — although not convincing — should give Hudak a bit of a respite from the critical attacks from both inside and outside his party.

In an email sent to supporters after the victory, the PC leader went on the offensive saying that Ontarions want change.

"There will only be two choices in the next election: a Liberal-NDP coalition that will raise taxes and cost jobs or the Ontario PC Party that will end wasteful spending, lower taxes and create jobs," he said.

Once the new MPPs are sworn in, the Liberals will have 49 seats in the 107-member legislature while the Tories will have 37 and the NDP will have 21.

The legislature resumes from its winter break on Tuesday.

(Photo courtesy of the Canadian Press)

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