As this year’s contest proved, federal elections can be won or lost in Ontario and its 121 ridings. Half of the Liberal seats in Canada’s 43rd Parliament will come from the country’s most populous province.
Much post-election analysis has focused on the regional divides that the results show: the Liberals, for example, won no seats in Alberta or Saskatchewan. But the campaign also highlighted the diverse issues affecting different regions within provinces: in the lead-up to the election, TVO.org looked at flooding along Lake Ontario, the rising cost of food in the north, unaffordable childcare in the southwest, and the water crisis on First Nations reserves, among other topics.
So what do the election results reveal about the concerns of voters in different parts of this province? TVO.org breaks down the big stories of the night — and what they say about Ontarians’ priorities.
Mary Baxter, Southwestern Ontario Hub
Analysts were paying close attention to the Windsor and Essex region: many projected that the NDP would lose its long-standing hold there. In September, Cheryl Collier, a political-science professor at the University of Windsor, told TVO.org that residents were tired of voting for a party that has yet to form government. “There is a frustration among people here about the lack of access to power,” she said.
Stay up to date!
Get Current Affairs & Documentaries email updates in your inbox every morning.
And, indeed, on Monday night, the NDP lost two of its three ridings. In Essex, Conservative Chris Lewis, a former Kingsville city councillor, won by nearly 5,000 votes. In Windsor–Tecumseh, Liberal Irek Kusmierczyk, a former Windsor councillor, took the seat by fewer than 700 votes.
In Windsor West, however, incumbent Brian Masse did hold off former Liberal MPP Sandra Pupatello. Elsewhere in the southwest, the Conservatives held rural ridings, while the Liberals and NDP maintained their presence in London, Kitchener, and Guelph.
Collier says she wasn’t surprised by the NDP’s less-than-stellar showing in Windsor and Essex, in part because of the way the local economy is changing. “I think people were starting to get a little exasperated by the fact that we’d been painted that way [as solidly NDP] and kind of written off by the rest of the country, by the province,” she says. “And I don’t think that is generally reflective of the different kind of pockets of support that the other parties have. There is some base of support for all the parties down here.”
Jon Thompson, Northwestern Ontario Hub
Kenora was expected to be a tightly contested race between the Liberal incumbent Bob Nault and NDP candidate Rudy Turtle, the chief of Grassy Narrows First Nation.
Instead, it’s the 21-year-old Conservative candidate — who cast his first-ever federal ballot, for himself — who’ll be heading to Ottawa.
Eric Melillo finished an undergraduate degree in economics last year. The former head of Lakehead University’s Progressive Conservatives campus club earned 9,300 votes in Kenora — nearly 1,200 more than Nault and roughly 1,500 more than Turtle.
Melillo isn’t surprised. “I think, overall, people felt it was time for a new generation,” he told TVO.org. “They felt our region had been ignored in many respects.”
The day after his win, Melillo met with Turtle to discuss a treatment facility for victims of mercury poisoning in Grassy Narrows — a Liberal promise that was unfulfilled before the election. Melillo says that he vowed to “work with him 100 per cent to deliver the investments we need.”
Greg Rickford, the Progressive Conservative MPP for Kenora–Rainy River, told kenoraonline.com that he was “very, very proud of him,” adding, “I don’t want to detract, at all, from the hard work that he did but I’m also very proud of how — when you make an investment in young people — last night it really paid off for Eric and I believe for his family and the community.”
David Corrigan, Eastern Ontario Hub
“It was a bit of a nail-biter, no?” Liberal MP Maryam Monsef asked a crowd of supporters following her narrow victory Monday night.
Monsef held her seat in Peterborough–Kawartha, which continued its decades-long streak — both federally and provincially — of electing the party that forms government. The bellwether riding didn’t just elect an MP from the winning party: its vote share (Liberals 39 per cent; Conservatives 35 per cent; NDP 17 per cent) mirrored the province’s (Liberals 41 per cent; Conservatives 33 per cent; NDP 17 per cent).
Monsef was not the only Liberal to hold on to her seat in eastern Ontario.
Much of the region maintained the status quo by re-electing incumbents, with two exceptions. In Northumberland–Peterborough South, Conservative candidate Philip Lawrence unseated Liberal Kim Rudd, who’d held the seat in 2015. Next door in Hastings–Lennox and Addington, Liberal candidate Mike Bossio lost his seat (which he had won in 2015 by less than 1,000 votes) to Conservative Derek Sloan.
Josh Sherman, Ontario Hubs assistant editor
In northeastern Ontario, all six of the region’s incumbents held on to their ridings — but that doesn’t mean things have entirely stayed the same. Now that the Liberal government has lost its majority status, two New Democrat MPs see an opportunity to exert greater policy influence.
“I’m hoping that the Liberals will be a little less arrogant in a minority situation than they proved in a majority,” Charlie Angus, who has represented Timmins–James Bay since 2004, tells CBC News. “Maybe we can get some good things done for Canadians,”
Carol Hughes, NDP MP for Algoma–Manitoulin–Kapuskasing, agrees. “You’re generally able to move that agenda a little bit further up the ladder,” she tells the CBC. “You’re able to get things done. And I’m hoping that’s what we’ll be able to achieve under this minority government.”
The Liberals held the ridings of Nipissing–Timiskaming, Nickel Belt, Sault Ste. Marie, and Sudbury. In Parry Sound–Muskoka, Scott Aitchison, who took leave from his role as mayor of Huntsville for the campaign, held the riding — won in 2015 by former Tory MP Tony Clement, who resigned from the party in the wake of sexting scandal — for the Conservatives.
Shelby Lisk, Indigenous Hub
In 2015, Justin Trudeau ran successfully on a platform of nation-to-nation relationship-building with Indigenous communities, highlighting reconciliation, clean drinking water, and an inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. Indigenous voter turnout jumped 15 per cent, which helped flip Conservative seats in such places as Kenora.
But many Indigenous leaders were disappointed with the results of his first term and responded to this year’s campaign with skepticism. In this year’s platform, the phrase “nation-to-nation” did not appear once.
On Monday night Pamela Palmater, a Mi’kmaq lawyer, Ryerson professor, and activist, wrote on Twitter: “This election was decided by the fear of Andrew Scheer government. Justin Trudeau and Liberal Party will win but have a lot of work to do to make amends for all broken promises to Canadians & First Nations. This election is not a blank cheque for pipelines and continued genocide.”
It was the Jagmeet Singh’s NDP that seemed to inspire enthusiasm in the Indigenous electorate. On a swing through northwestern Ontario, Singh was asked whether he would write a “blank cheque” to solve issues, including a lack of access to clean drinking water, in Indigenous communities. Singh’s answer went viral: “If Toronto had a drinking-water problem, if Montreal had a drinking-water problem, would you even be asking the same question?”
The NDP also fielded the most robust team of Indigenous candidates, 27 in all. In total, a record 62 Indigenous candidates ran across the country: of the 10 who went on to win their races, two — Vance Badawey, in Niagara Centre; and Marc Serré, in the Nickel Belt — will be representing ridings in Ontario.
Ontario Hubs are made possible by the Barry and Laurie Green Family Charitable Trust & Goldie Feldman.