Led by Doug Ford, Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives have secured a majority government, CBC News projects, ending nearly 15 years of Liberal power in the province.
Buoyed by Ford — a one-term Toronto city councillor and businessman — the PCs ran a populist campaign long on commitments but short on fiscal details, promising a tax cut for the middle class and corporations and a drastic reduction in the price of hydro and gasoline.
Ford won his seat in Etobicoke North, the symbolic heartland of “Ford Nation,” the catch-all term for the unwavering, core supporters of late former mayor Rob Ford, Doug Ford’s brother.
While results are still pouring in, the PCs have made significant gains in the 905 region and the GTA, areas that are critical to the political landscape in Ontario because the number of seats that are concentrated within them.
As was expected, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath held onto her seat in Hamilton Centre, where she has served as an MPP since 2004. Heading into election day, polls suggested that the NDP had a slim chance of eking out a win, but now it appears they will form the Official Opposition.
While the surge in NDP support suggested by polls before election day didn’t quite materialize, the results represented a marked turnaround for a party that has consistently found itself in third place since Bob Rae’s government was defeated in 1995.
In a first for Ontario, Green party Leader Mike Schreiner has won a seat in Guelph.
Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne, Ontario’s first female and openly LGBT premier, is locked in a tight battle for her riding of Don Valley West. The incumbent Liberals, who enjoyed a majority since 2014, are hoping to avoid electoral humiliation but appear on the verge of a stunning collapse. The party needs at least eight seats to maintain official party status at Queen’s Park.
Several Liberal cabinet ministers have lost their seats, including Charles Sousa, Yasir Naqvi, Steven Del Duca and Glenn Thibeault.
Last weekend, Wynne took the extraordinary step of admitting publicly that she would not be Ontario’s premier after the vote. Conceding defeat, she encouraged voters to elect Liberals to ensure the next government is kept “in check.”
The PCs’ election victory comes after a memorable and at-times vicious campaign that proved difficult for Ford and some of his candidates. What began as a commanding lead in public opinion polls steadily narrowed over the month-long campaign.
Ford, unaccustomed to the scrutiny that a provincial campaign draws, faced down multiple controversies and alleged scandals.
Three days before the election, the widow of his late brother, former Toronto mayor Rob Ford, sued the Tory leader. The suit claims Ford withheld money from her and her two children, and that Ford’s Toronto- and Chicago-based businesses are bleeding money.
He was also the only party leader not to release a fully costed platform during the campaign.
Under Ford, the PCs recaptured the province they have not led since 2003, overcoming the failings of the past three elections that saw them unable to defeat the Liberals. In some cases those campaigns were sunk before they barely got off the ground with promises to fund religious schools or cut 100,000 public sector jobs.
Ford took the reins of the party less than three months ago, winning the leadership race on the third ballot after former leader Patrick Brown abruptly resigned.