The Top Line
As expected, Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative Party won the most seats in yesterday’s Ontario provincial election and will now form a second consecutive majority government. The unofficial results are:
• Progressive Conservative 83 (+10)
• NDP 31 (-8)
• Liberal 8
• Green 1
• Other 1
Leading from start to finish, Ford took a very safe, risk-free approach to the campaign, correctly judging the complacent mood of the Ontario electorate. Neither NDP Leader Andrea Horwath not Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca were able to break through and create a reason for change. The electorate clearly decided they were okay with the status quo for the time being.
Voter turnout was one of the lowest on record at just 43%, down from the already low level of 58% in the previous election in 2018.
During their respective speeches after the results had been declared, the Leaders gave their own views on the campaign while thanking their teams, their workers and volunteers and each paid tribute to their opponents.
Doug Ford called for unification while both NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca announced their intentions to step down as leaders of their respective parties.
The strong majority means that the PC government will not have to rely on any other party in order to pass legislation. The electorate has decided that there will be no change and in fact has increased the strength of the government’s mandate, giving them additional time to implement its plan. With the pandemic fears winding down, the government will be looking to return to an agenda of economic growth with a strong focus on post-pandemic recovery. This was outlined in the budget introduced but not passed, on April 29, 2022.
A Deeper Dive
Last night’s results contained positive results for the Progressive Conservative Party, but it would be hard to say that there was much positive for any of the others.
The PC Party strengthened their position in the Legislature by adding seats. They expanded their regional representation across the province, including Thunder Bay, Windsor and Hamilton – regions where they typically struggle for support. All but one PC MPP that stood for re-election will be returning to Queen’s Park while the NDP saw a quarter of its caucus defeated including long-time member for Timmins, Gilles Bisson, first elected in 1990. Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca lost his own seat for the second election in a row and failed to return his party to official status in the legislature.
The PC government will now proceed to form the government. First up will be the establishment of the new cabinet. With all Ministers re-elected and some new talent added to the mix, Leader Doug Ford will have to make some tough decisions. Most importantly will be to fill the shoes of retired Health Minister and Deputy Premier, Christine Elliott. Look for a veteran Minister from the first term to fill the Health portfolio and then watch the domino affect as changes result throughout the Ministry.
The Budget introduced just before the election has yet to be passed, likely prompting a brief summer session to deal with it, followed by an extended legislative break until the Fall. If the government sticks to its plan, the core commitment includes a move away from the pandemic spending with a focus on five main themes. Each theme was aimed at the government’s priorities as highlighted by earlier announcements and focused on their most urgent priorities for Ontarians. The five themes in the budget are:
• Rebuilding Ontario’s Economy;
• Working for Workers;
• Building Highways and Key Infrastructure;
• Keeping Costs Down; and,
• A Plan to Stay Open.
The Ontario NDP Party, led by Andrea Horwath, won 31 seats last night, and will form the Official Opposition. Their seat-count in the 2018 election was 40, so although they are returning to parliament, it is with considerably less representation this time.
This was also, what could be described as a pivotal election for leader Andrea Horwath, who has been the Leader of the party since 2009 – making this her fourth run to be Premier of Ontario. Though she held her Hamilton-Centre seat, she announced that it was time to “pass the torch” and that she would be stepping down as the Leader.
Despite going into this election with many incumbents, the NDP campaign never gathered the momentum it needed to win. This was reaffirmed by the fact that they lost some key NDP strongholds like Hamilton East-Stoney Creek, and Timmins to the PCs.
The NDP will be selecting a new interim leader in the coming weeks, and likely have a leadership election later this year, or early 2023.
The Liberal Campaign failed to deliver official party status and was the victim of low voter turnout and a lacklustre campaign that failed to properly introduce its Leader, Steven Del Duca, to voters. Although it increased its vote share by over 3% points, the Ontario Liberal Party actually received fewer overall votes than the Kathleen Wynne led Liberals in 2018. Without official party status (they needed to win 12 seats to gain official status) the Liberal team will be unable to access the resources need to mount an effective opposition. The Ontario Liberals will now enter a leadership race to succeed Steven Del Duca with no obvious frontrunner and four years of hoping to raise enough money to launch an effective campaign in 2026.
The Green Party of Ontario leader Mike Schreiner held on to his seat in Guelph, and will continue to be the only Green MPP in Ontario’s parliament. Schreiner was impressive during the leaders’ debate in May, and was able to generate momentum for his party – especially in Parry Sound-Muskoka, where they challenged for a second seat.
The party increased its vote share considerably – from 4.2% in 2018 to 6% in 2021.
Impact on Advocacy and Looking Ahead
It’s “Ford” more years of a Tory majority at the Ontario Legislative Assembly, which means we should see continued progressive conservative policies brought forward – in an effort to ease the province out of the pandemic.
During the campaign, Doug Ford, the re-elected candidate for Etobicoke-North, focused on delivering key polices to build Ontario. He said yes to getting more women and men in the skills trades, yes to more newcomers to come here and find a job, yes to building Highway 413 and Bradford bypass, building subways and expanding Go Train service and yes to restoring the Northlander Train service and yes to building 1.5 million homes over the next 10 years.
With respect to post-pandemic recovery, Doug Ford promised Ontarians he would keep the economy open. This is evident in his significant investments announced in healthcare; such as the $40 billion into hospitals, giving nurses a 7.6% increase with a $5,000-dollar bonus, PSW’s $3 increase per hour and hiring 27,000 more. Doug Ford promises to “Get it Done” and he appears to be focused on following through on such mandates. With these promises from the re-elected conservatives, it looks like the province will remain open and continue on its path to post pandemic recovery.
The Bottom Line
The newly elected Ford government will face some initial challenges that will not come easily. The new Cabinet, likely to be announced before the end of the month will be drawn mainly from veterans in the first term. The big question will be who goes into Health with the responsibility for the largest Ministry in the government coupled with bringing the pandemic effort to a close. Who ends up in Health will likely trigger a domino effect as other Ministers are moved around to fill senior vacancies. Look also for some new faces in the Cabinet with possible appointments including Todd McCarthy (Durham), Rob Flack (Elgin – Middlesex – London) and Michael Ford (York South – Weston).
The government is likely to move quickly with a brief summer session to pass the budget and facilitate many announcements made prior to and during the election. Then beginning in the fall, it is likely we will see an aggressive agenda to rebuild Ontario’s economy. With a campaign slogan, “get it done,” Ford promised tens of billions in new infrastructure, including subways, hospitals, and freeways like the 60-kilometre Milton-to-Vaughan Highway 413 that the NDP, Liberals and Greens opposed over environmental concerns.
Key Seat Changes
• Neil Lumsden (Hamilton East – Stoney Creek) Gain
• Kevin Holland (Thunder Bay – Atikokan) Gain
• Andrew Dowie (Windsor – Tecumseh) Gain
• Michael Ford (York South – Weston) Gain
• Jeremy Roberts (Ottawa West – Nepean) Loss
• Mary-Margaret McMahon (Beaches – East York) Gain
• Ted Hsu (Kingston and the Islands) Gain
• Gilles Bisson (Timmins) Loss
• Chandra Pasma (Ottawa West – Nepean) Gain
• Lise Vaugeois (Thunder Bay – Superior North) Gain
• Bobby Ann Brady (Haldimand – Norfolk) Gain