Ontario Liberal leader Kathleen Wynne speaks to supporters after winning the Ontario election in Toronto on June 12, 2014. Kathleen Wynne/Reuters
Despite being hounded on both sides by rivals who harped on Liberal government scandals during the campaign, Premier Kathleen Wynne has steered her party to a majority and a commanding electoral victory, based largely on major gains in the Toronto area, while PC Leader Tim Hudak declared he is resigning.
With all ridings reporting, Liberals were elected or leading in 59 constituencies to 27 for the Progressive Conservatives and 21 for the NDP. The Liberals took 38.6 per cent of the popular vote to 31.3 per cent for the PCs and 23.8 per cent for the NDP.
"You voted for jobs, you voted for growth. Thank you for voting to build Ontario up," Wynne said in her victory speech, delivered to a packed and energized crowd at the Sheraton Centre in downtown Toronto.
"We are going to build Ontario up for everyone in this province, everyone. We’re not going to leave anyone behind," she continued.
"We all took our ideas to the people of the province, we debated them, we talked about them in all parts of the province, and the democracy of the province is stronger for that process."
Wynne said her party will not waste time in getting its pre-election budget passed — a virtual certainty now that she commands a majority. She is scheduled to visit Ontario Lt.-Gov. David Onley tomorrow to ask for the Legislature to be reconvened.
The former community activist and school board trustee becomes the first elected female premier in Ontario history, and the first elected openly gay premier in Canadian history.
Her party's strong showing had its roots in the Greater Toronto Area, where eight seats are changing hands — seven of those going to the Liberals. Overall, the results mean the Liberals will be even more concentrated in the GTA.
The Liberals also picked up seats from the Tories in the Kitchener-Waterloo area, Barrie and Northumberland, while they only lost two: Sudbury and Windsor West. Wynne herself was re-elected in her home district of Don Valley West.
The outcome was also slightly rosier for the NDP under Leader Andrea Horwath, who was the first of the major party leaders to be declared elected in their home riding tonight. The NDP vote share was up 1.2 points from the 2011 campaign.
The NDP picked up seats in Oshawa from the PCs, and in Sudbury and Windsor West from the Liberals, while losing two Toronto-area ridings to the Liberals.
Horwath acknowledged it wasn't the result her party was hoping for, but said she had no regrets about triggering the election when she opted not to support the Liberals' budget at the beginning of May.
"People were able to make a decision, and that’s all along what I had said was the important thing," she said.
"I believe in taking our message to the people of Ontario. We did increase our popular support, we grew in other parts of Ontario which I think is important. But ultimately the work starts when the legislature resumes."
PCs fail to pick up any seats
The PCs did not purloin any seats from either of the other parties but lost 10, and their share of the popular vote was down more than four percentage points from the last election. PC Leader Hudak is keeping his seat; however, he announced in his concession speech that he is resigning as party leader.
Wynne's Liberals now "have the opportunity to deliver the change Ontario so clearly needs," Hudak said.
"Nobody should mistake this result as an endorsement of the status quo. Kathleen Wynne promised very different behaviour than what we've seen the last 10½ years."
Hudak's two central promises of the campaign — to create one million new "good paying" jobs in Ontario within eight years and to cut 100,000 jobs from the public service — failed to capture voters.
But John Mraz, a strategist for several previous federal and provincial Liberal campaigns, said Hudak's tactics failed on another level, as well.
"Hudak made the choice to personally attack the credibility, likeability and trust of Kathleen Wynne," Mraz said, "while every piece of research in the province said that Kathleen Wynne as an individual was more likeable, more trustable and had more integrity than Tim Hudak was perceived to."
Delays kept a few polls open
The polls closed at 9 p.m. except at six polling stations in three ridings where delays earlier in the day meant they remained open up to an hour longer for voters. Results from only those ridings weren't made available until all their polls closed.
Given how close the parties were in a number of pre-election polls, the outcome of the election was expected to depend on a dozen key battleground ridings. Those included races where the Progressive Conservatives would have needed to unseat Liberal incumbents in order to win, and a handful of others where the Liberals needed to knock off NDP and Tory incumbents to clamber into majority territory.
In the end, the Liberals did poach most of those seats. Among them: the downtown Toronto riding of Trinity-Spadina, which had been NDP since 1999, and the west Toronto riding of Etobicoke-Lakeshore, where city councillor Peter Milczyn turned the tables on his former municipal council colleague, Conservative Doug Holyday. Backed by the campaign team of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, Holyday had defeated Milczyn in a byelection in the same riding last August.
At dissolution, the Liberals held 48 seats in the 107-member Legislature, the PCs had 37 and the NDP held 21, with one vacancy.
Breaking down the results
Voter turnout improves
The election was originally tipped as a tight two-way race between the Liberals and PCs, but polls in recent days had been all over the map, suggesting it could have been anything from a three-way battle with the NDP or a decisive victory for either Wynne or Hudak.
Overall voter turnout is poised to top 51 per cent, an improvement of three percentage points from the 2011 election, which saw the lowest turnout in Ontario history, but still below 2007 and well below voting levels in the 1990s.
The campaign was triggered when the NDP'sHorwath refused to support the minority Liberals' budget. The snap election will cost the province about $90 million once the final tab is in.
Job creation, the several scandals that emerged under the previous Liberal administration of former premier Dalton McGuinty, and the elimination of the $12.5-billion deficit dominated the 40-day campaign, which in the final stages was marred by nasty personal attacks and accusations of voter manipulation.