Doug Ford's Progressive Conservatives cruised to a second majority government in Ontario Thursday, the CBC News decision desk projected, on a night that saw both the NDP and Liberal leaders say they would resign.
The PCs will send 83 MPPs to Queen's Park, winning about 40.8 per cent of the popular vote share, albeit with roughly 414,000 fewer total votes than in 2018.
That's up from the 67 seats they held when the legislature dissolved in May and the 76 ridings the party took in the last election. It is a rare electoral feat for a provincial party in Canada to expand a majority.
"Thank you for your trust and thank you for once again putting your confidence in me," Ford said during a victory speech to supporters in Toronto.
"It's a responsibility that I will never take lightly. But most importantly, thank you for sharing in the vision for our great province."
WATCH | Ford's full election victory speech to supporters:
Ford won handily in his west Toronto riding of Etobicoke North. In his speech, Ford reiterated the "get it done" pitch that dominated his campaign.
"If you're a miner in the north who's out of work, I want you to know we're building that road to the ring of fire. If you had to worry about your job at the local auto plant, I want you to know we're investing in the future of Ontario's auto sector. If you're a student who wants to work in the tech sector, we will have a job waiting for you," he said.
Horwath, Del Duca step down
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath again won in Hamilton Centre, a seat she has held since 2004. It was her fourth election as leader after taking the helm in 2009. In an emotional speech to supporters in Hamilton, Horwath said it is time for her to "pass the torch."
"My commitment to you is never going to waver and I'm going to keep working to earn your confidence each and every day," she said
"I'm going to keep doing that, but tonight, it's time for me to pass the torch, to pass the baton, to hand off the leadership of the NDP. It makes me sad, but it makes me happy because our team is so strong," she continued.
"Together, my friends, we have built a party that is stronger and more ready to govern than ever before."
WATCH | Andrea Horwath says she will step down after 4 elections:
The NDP spent the last four years as the Official Opposition, holding 38 seats before the campaign began. The party lost nine of those seats, mainly to the PCs. It will, however, return to Queen's Park as the Official Opposition with 31 MPPs, the NDP's second-best result since forming government in 1990.
Some key losses for the NDP to the PCs included Timmins, a region Gilles Bisson had represented for more than three decades, all three Brampton ridings they won last time, and the southern ridings of Essex and Windsor–Tecumseh. The PCs also won in the northern riding of Thunder Bay–Atikokan, marking the first time the party will hold a seat in the city since 1985.
Election night proved an outright disaster for the Ontario Liberals. A senior Liberal Party source told CBC News that it was "worse than anyone could imagine."
Leader Steven Del Duca lost by a considerable margin in his home riding of Vaughan–Woodbridge, and the Liberals picked up just one additional seat, for a total of eight — not enough to attain party status. That's just one more than the Liberals secured in 2018, when the party was decimated after more than 15 years in power.
"It's true, I am disappointed to not have been successful here in my home community," Del Duca told supporters.
WATCH | Steven Del Duca says he will resign after disappointing showing:
Del Duca said he would step down, with a leadership contest coming as soon as possible. The former Wynne government minister was elected to helm the party days before the first COVID-19 lockdown in 2020.
"This isn't the outcome that we had hoped for, and work hard for," he said.
Del Duca left his election night event without taking any questions from media.
Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner was re-elected in his riding of Guelph. He became Ontario's first Green MPP in the 2018 election.
The party lost its second-best chance for another seat at Queen's Park, however, losing in the riding of Parry Sound–Muskoka. The Greens had been hopeful that Matt Richter would win the seat, but Bracebridge Mayor Graydon Smith took the riding for the PCs.
"To see a Green candidate so close, so close in a riding that has always gone blue tells you that there is Green momentum, there is a Green wave building across this province," Schreiner said in his election night speech in Guelph.
"It's not only in Guelph, it's in ridings all across Ontario."
WATCH | Schreiner delivers his victory speech in Guelph:
Meanwhile, independent candidate Bobbi Ann Brady was elected in Haldimand-Norfolk, a region Toby Barrett represented for the Progressive Conservatives since 1995. He did not run this time.
Ford needed majority
The PCs went into election day as the front-runners after a 29-day campaign that saw little movement in public opinion polls.
Ford will return to the premier's office after a term that began turbulently with a series of nepotism scandals and spanned more than two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has claimed the lives of more than 13,000 Ontarians.
Ahead of the campaign, however, public opinions polls suggested that Ford's handling of the pandemic actually proved to beneficial with many voters.
Ford ran a tightly controlled front-runner's campaign, with his handlers deliberately limiting his exposure to media questions. Many PC candidates also refused to give media interviews or participate in local debates.
The PC campaign touted Ford's efforts to expand his voter base, saying he has made significant inroads with working class voters. Ford secured endorsements from more than a half-dozen private sector trades unions during the campaign with proposals to build highways and hospitals across the province.
It marked a significant pivot. During the first 20 months of his first term, Ford scrapped paid sick days, froze the minimum wage and made it harder to join a union.
"When I think about the workers, when I think about the unions who got behind us in this election, when I think about the coalition that we've built together, it's incredible," Ford said.
"Because there was a time not long ago when some of the same people who are with us now couldn't see a home for themselves in this party. It wasn't easy. We had to admit our mistakes. We had to build back confidence. And that journey, it's not over."
The PCs bet big that a winning coalition of voters was eager to turn the page on COVID. Ford's campaign also featured financial relief specifically targeted at drivers, a key demographic — particularly in the vote-rich 905 region, where the PCs flipped previously NDP seats.
Ford needed a majority to return to Queen's Park as premier, as the leaders of the province's three other main parties said they would not prop up a PC minority.