HAMILTON — Andrea Horwath has no intention of ending her career like Moses: she’s going to get her people to the promised land, she says — just not quite yet.
Minutes after a jubilant Doug Ford declared victory in Toronto on Thursday night, the NDP leader told a cheering crowd of supporters in Hamilton that, as leader of the official Opposition to a Progressive Conservative majority government, she will “work each and every day for the change that families need to make life better.”
“I am grateful for the opportunity to lead the official Opposition and hold this government to account,” she added, “because Lord knows they’re going to be need to be held to account.”
And if Horwath is staying on as leader of her party, she presumably intends to lead it into another election four years from now – and maybe close the deal she and the New Democrats failed to close tonight.
While the NDP has had its best showing since the 1990 election — scoring about 34 per cent of the popular vote and winning 39 seats — the party’s next shot at government will come no earlier than 2022, more than 30 years after Bob Rae put a New Democrat in the Premier’s Office for the first and so far only time.
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Results province-wide won’t be final until early Friday morning: Elections Ontario extended voting hours for the riding of Kiwetinoong, in Grassy Narrows First Nation.
The Liberals, as of this writing, haven’t won the eight seats they need to retain recognized party status, and Kathleen Wynne has resigned as party leader despite holding her seat in Don Valley West. It has been a bloodbath for the Grits: high-profile candidates across the province , including many from Wynne’s own cabinet, have fallen. Jim Bradley, who had been at Queen’s Park for 40 years, was defeated by an NDP challenger; Finance Minister Charles Sousa fell to a Tory.
“I promised to deliver a strong, stable majority government and together we did that,” an elated Ford told supporters. “You have sent a clear message, a message of hope and prosperity,” he added. “Our team will work every single day to deliver this vision.” The Tories have at least 74 seats, easily exceeding the 63 needed for a majority.
The only person whose night was arguably as good as Doug Ford’s was Green leader Mike Schreiner, who won the riding of Guelph and will become the first MPP from his party to have a seat in the legislature.
Horwath, for her part, said the New Democrats would be busy for the next four years: “The vast majority of Ontarians did not vote for cuts to our health care, cuts to our schools, or cuts to the services that families are counting on,” she said. “We will not stop fighting until we have change for the better.”
But stopping a highly motivated, fiscally conservative government will be a tall order for the NDP. The majority that Ford leads at Queen’s Park will be able to cut or expand services as it chooses, while rewriting the rules for everything from schools to hospitals to the energy system.
The Tories have pledged to end the province’s cap-and-trade system, intended to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions — a move that will cost billions. The party has also promised to cut income taxes while spending billions in new money on items such as subways for Toronto. Whatever the province looks like in four years, when voters will have the chance to consider whether re-electing the Tories, one thing is certain: it’s going to be a very different Ontario indeed.