5 ways the Ontario election made history
After a rollicking provincial campaign in which the leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives resigned just months before the election, only to be replaced by the brother of Canada’s most notorious mayor; the NDP basked in a surge of unprecedented support after left-leaning voters fed up with 15 years of Liberal rule looked elsewhere; and the Liberal leader and former premier admitted defeat just a week before election day.
This was no ordinary election and the outcome proved it.
Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives won a decisive majority with 76 seats in the Ontario legislature, while the NDP took 40. And after 15 years in power, the Liberals suffered a resounding defeat, winning just seven seats.
Here are five ways the Ontario election made history:
Green Party wins first seat
It was an historic night for the province’s Green Party, as leader Mike Schreiner was elected in his Guelph riding Thursday night. The American-born politician won 45 per cent of the vote to become the party’s first-ever sitting MPP.
During his triumphant victory speech, a jubilant Schreiner vowed to fight for the environment in a message aimed directly at premier-elect Doug Ford.
“You said in the debate that you believed that climate change was real, and people were causing it,” he said. “And so you better listen to the Green MPP from Guelph about how we solve the climate crisis.”
Liberal party loses official party status
It was a difficult night for former premier Kathleen Wynne. She eked out a victory by a slim margin of less than 200 votes in her longtime Toronto riding of Don Valley West, but resigned as party leader after the Liberals lost 48 seats on Thursday.
The party’s remaining seven seats means they are a seat shy of the eight required to retain their “recognized party” status at Queen’s Park. Parties with official status are entitled to speak and ask questions during debates in the legislature and question period. They’re also given public money for party offices, research and organization.
It’s the first time in its 161-year history that the Liberal party has lost official status. The last time the party had such a dismal showing at a general election was in 1951 when they scraped by with only eight seats.
NDP becomes the Official Opposition
It may not have been the result NDP leader Andrea Horwath hoped for after polls leading up to the election placed her neck and neck with Ford, but the party still has plenty to celebrate.
The NDP clinched 40 seats, up 22 from their previous 18, and becomes the province’s Official Opposition for the first time since 1987. It was Horwath’s third election as the party leader and the third time she has grown the party’s number of seats in the legislature.
During a speech to a crowd of supporters in Hamilton, Horwath said she was “deeply humbled” that voters elected the NDP to serve as the new Official Opposition.
“Today, millions of people voted for change for the better,” she said. “We have won more seats than we have held in a generation!”
Perhaps it was the chaotic campaign or the desire for change after 15 years of Liberal leadership, but Ontarians came out in force to ensure their voices were heard this election.
It was the strongest voter turnout since 1999 when PC premier Mike Harris won a second term with a 58.3 per cent showing, according to unofficial results posted by Elections Ontario as of Friday morning. This time around, 58 per cent of eligible individuals cast their ballot.
Data from Elections Ontario also showed that more voters took advantage of advance polls this year with an estimated 768,895 participants casting their ballot ahead of June 7.
Introduction of electronic voting machines
In an effort to speed things up, Elections Ontario introduced the use of new electronic voting machines for the first time in the province’s history. Instead of cumbersome paper lists with constituents’ names and information, “e-Poll books” with electronic databases were used to find people in order to issue ballots in a more timely fashion.
Thursday’s election was also the first time “vote tabulators” were implemented to electronically tally votes in 50 per cent of the province’s polling stations.
Despite reports of technical issues with the new machines creating delays and long line ups, Elections Ontario claimed that 99.5 per cent of the technology-enabled polling stations were running smoothly and that contingency plans involving paper ballots were in place if need be.