Ontario reacts with mix of frustration, hope after Doug Ford's stunning victory

Jon Rumley

Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative Party has won a majority government in Ontario, and the province is divided over the result.

The New Democratic Party will form the Official Opposition for the first time in decades. As for the Liberals, they will move forward in search of a new leader after falling to third-place status after 15 years in power.

“Tonight, the people of Ontario have spoken,” Ford told his supporters in Toronto. “We have sent a clear message to the world: Ontario is open for business.”

Ford promised to bring in a new government that always puts the taxpayer first while ensuring “prosperity that will benefit every resident of Ontario.”

“We will reduce your taxes, reduce your gas prices and keep more money in your pocket,” he said. The PC leader added he will work hard to earn the confidence of those who didn’t support the Tories.

Ford also mentioned his late brother, former Toronto mayor Rob Ford, who died in 2016 after a battle with cancer. He said he knew his brother was “looking down from heaven” and he was “getting chills talking about him.”

The PCs captured 76 ridings, which is more than the 63 seats required to secure a majority mandate.

Horwath vows to fight

Despite the polls showing strong support, the NDP finished in second place as they were elected in 40 ridings to form the Official Opposition after years of third-place finishes.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath told her supporters “the vast majority of Ontarians” didn’t vote for cuts and her party “will be the voice at Queen’s Park for all of those Ontarians.”

She stressed she will keep fighting to “make life better for all of us” while promoting “change for the better” in the province.

“I could not be more proud that we offered a positive vision,” Horwath said. “New voices, new ideas and a strong team of New Democrats working for you.”

Wynne stepping down

Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne announced she will be resigning as party leader just four years after capturing a majority government.

“It is the right thing to do. There is another generation, and I’m passing the torch to that generation,” an emotional Wynne told her supporters. “I know tonight is not the moment we were looking for.”

The Liberals are holding onto seven seats, one less than is required to retain official party status. Several cabinet ministers, including Yasir Naqvi, Glenn Thibeault, Steven Del Duca, Charles Sousa, Dipika Damerla and Chris Ballard, have lost their seats. Wynne was re-elected in her own Toronto riding of Don Valley West.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau weighed in on the result, saying “Ontarians have voted for change.” Federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said the PCs have put “an end to 15 years of Liberal mismanagement.” Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh praised Horwath, saying she will lead a “fiercely progressive Official Opposition.”

Meanwhile, the Greens captured their first seat in Ontario as party leader Mike Schreiner won his riding in Guelph.

“I’m ready to take my seat at Queen’s Park,” Schreiner told a raucus crowd.

On social media, Ontarians are reacting to the results with a mix of happiness, outrage and relief.

The Ontario Liberals had been in power since 2003 when Dalton McGuinty won a landslide to defeat Ernie Eves and the PC party. McGuinty won twice more for the Liberals in 2007 (majority) and 2011 (minority) before Wynne secured a majority government for the Grits in 2014.

The last time the PCs won was in 1999 when Mike Harris captured his second consecutive majority mandate after first winning in 1995. Since Harris was premier, the party has had five different leaders (Eves, John Tory, Tim Hudak, Patrick Brown and Ford), including three that finished second to the Liberals in elections.

The NDP has only emerged victorious once in an Ontario election and that happened in 1990 under Bob Rae. They have since been regulated to third-party status after a devastating loss in 1995. Before 2018, Horwath has been unable to secure more than 21 seats for her party in an election since becoming party leader in 2009.

Supporters of Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives react to his victory in the Ontario provincial election at his election night headquarters in Toronto on Thursday, June 7, 2018. Photo from The Canadian Press.
Supporters of Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives react to his victory in the Ontario provincial election at his election night headquarters in Toronto on Thursday, June 7, 2018. Photo from The Canadian Press.

With files from Elisabetta Bianchini and The Canadian Press