TORONTO—Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal party was handed an unexpected majority win and a fourth straight mandate in the June 12 Ontario election.
And in a snap election that was supposed to be Tim Hudak’s to lose, voters delivered a stinging rebuke to the Conservatives, robbing the party of 10 seats and forcing its leader to step down in defeat.
Defying almost all predictions, Wynne earned a convincing win both in the popular vote and the number of seats, paving the way for her party to govern on their own for the first time in three years—and she did it by moving to the left as her opponents moved in the opposite direction.
Within an hour of the result becoming clear, Hudak—whose austerity platform of smaller government and public-sector job cuts alienated voters—said he’d resign as leader as soon as a successor is chosen.
The Liberals easily beat the Tories in the popular vote amid a solid rejection of Hudak’s pledge to slash 100,000 public-sector jobs as part of a shock deficit-tackling therapy.
They won 59 seats, Hudak’s Conservatives took 27 and the New Democrats 21. At dissolution, the Liberals held 48 seats in the 107-seat legislature, the Tories 37 and the NDP 21, with one seat vacant.
Wynne spent much of the campaign staving off attacks related to decisions made by her predecessor Dalton McGuinty, which included the cancellation of two gas plants at an estimated cost to the public of $1.1 billion.
Both Hudak and Horwath were relentless in branding the Liberals as corrupt and incapable of fiscal responsibility, pointing to the province’s $12.5-billion deficit.
Hudak ran into trouble with his pledge to create one million jobs—widely disavowed by economists as based on faulty math—and his promise to cut public-sector jobs at a time the provincial economy is sputtering.
It was Horwath who triggered the $90-million, 40-day Ontario election by refusing to support the minority Liberal budget many observers called the most progressive in the province’s recent history.
Unions, who had come out strongly against Hudak, welcomed the result.
“Ontario voters sent a clear message tonight that they want an Ontario with good jobs, strong public services and healthy communities,” said Unifor president Jerry Dias.
“Ontario has clearly rejected Mr. Hudak’s offer to race Ontario to the bottom.”
The Ontario Federation of Labour echoed the sentiment.
“This should serve as a warning to the Progressive Conservative party that there is no appetite for emulating American Tea Party-style politics in this province,” the OFL said in a statement.
Wynne said she would ask the lieutenant-governor to reconvene the legislature within 20 days to reintroduce the very same Liberal budget that triggered the campaign.
Here’s a review of some budget items that may impact business and industry:
- Here are some highlights from the Liberal fiscal plan:
- Eliminate the $12.5-billion deficit by 2017-18.
- Create a 10-year $2.5-billion fund to partner with industries poised for growth. Measures include $5 million in grants for the next two years for new small-scale manufacturers.
- $15 billion for transit projects in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area, including the electrification of GO Transit commuter trains and a downtown Toronto subway relief line.
- $14 billion for roads, bridges, highways and other transit projects outside the GTHA
- $1 billion to support the development of the Ring of Fire in northern Ontario, with or without financial help from the Harper government.
- Increase taxes for individuals earning more than $150,000.
- Increase the minimum wage to $11 on June 1, 2014, and index it to inflation after that.
- Create an Ontario retirement pension plan which could be integrated into a CPP expansion in the future.
- Increase the number of apprentices training in Ontario.