A sea of blue swept electoral ridings across the province last night at the Progressive Conservatives secured a commanding majority government, ending 15 years of Liberal rule. This seismic shift saw Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals reduced to non-official party status with only 7 seats, while the New Democrats rode an orange wave into the official opposition benches.
As we’ve noted before, this was Premier-designate Doug Ford’s election to lose. Despite the Tories holding a commanding lead in the early days of the campaign, a series of strong debate performances by NDP Leader Andrea Horwath saw her party leapfrog the Liberals in the polls and came within striking distance of the Conservatives. While polls showed the PCs and NDP running neck-and-neck in the final days before the vote, the first-past-the-post electoral system allowed Ford's party to win a substantial more number seats than the NDP, 76 to 40, even though the popular vote was much closer at 40 per cent to 33 per cent.
As for the Liberals, it couldn’t have gone much worse. It was no surprise that they would lose the election. In a rare move, Wynne conceded defeat last week, saying she knew she was not going to be leading Canada’s largest province for another term. Despite barely holding onto her Toronto-area riding, Wynne resigned as party leader. Whether or not she will stay on as an MPP is yet to be determined. But one this is certain is the Liberals will now have to select an interim-leader.
So what does this mean for the province going forward, and, in particular, the business community? For starters, there was a sigh of relief on Bay Street this morning. There was concern surrounding the NDP’s plan to raise corporate tax rates at a time when the United States is aggressively slashing their own, potentially impacting competitiveness and making it harder for Ontario to attract foreign investment. Despite the PCs’ promise to make Ontario more competitive, there is little substance to their plan. The Tories failed to release a full costed platform during the election which leaves a lot of lingering questions about their fiscal policy despite Mr. Ford pro-free market stance.
Ontario hasn’t had a new premier in recent history who has never held elected office at Queen’s Park. While critics were quick to point out Doug Ford’s lack of provincial politics experience, he is surrounded by many political veterans and newcomers with senior private sector experience who will likely be appointed to cabinet. Here’s a look at who could potentially head up some major portfolios:
Finance minister: Vic Fedeli, former interim PC Party leader, Rod Phillips, former CEO of OLG and Peter Bethlenfalvy, who hails from senior positions at TD, Manulife and others.
Health minister: Christine Elliott, who most recently was patient ombudsman. Prior to that, she was shadow health minister under PC opposition leader Tim Hudak.
Energy minister: Todd Smith, who has been the PC’s point man on hydro prices as energy critic.
Education minister: Lisa MacLeod, the long-time Tory legislator has been the party’s education critic in the past.
Attorney general: Caroline Mulroney, the Harvard educated lawyer who was also a leadership contestant against Ford.
Ford also has a handful of political heavyweights such former deputy leader Steve Clark and others to draw from to fill his front bench. While the dust is still settling from last night’s vote, we should expect the new government to announce its cabinet in the coming weeks.
With the Tories now in power for the first time since 2003, it will be interesting to see how this party will govern. Armed with a majority, you can expect the PCs to move fast on issues such as repealing the carbon tax, moving ahead with the Ring of Fire, and taking action to reduce hydro prices. How exactly they plan to do it, we’ll just have to wait and see. We at Provident will be closely monitoring all developments at Queen’s Park and are ready to assist your organization with navigating the complexities that comes with a new government.