Who were election night’s real winners and losers?

ANALYSIS: The Tories won big, and the NDP came second — but victory comes with downsides, and defeats with silver linings, writes John Michael McGrath
By John Michael McGrath - Published on June 8, 2018
Kathleen Wynne, Doug Ford, Andrea Horwath, Mike Schreiner
Kathleen Wynne, Doug Ford, Andrea Horwath, and Mike Schreiner. (Justin Tang/Frank Gunn/CP; Fred Lum/G&M; A.V. Elkaim/CP)

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Well, the dust has cleared, the sun has risen in the east just like it always does, and it’s a new day in Ontario: voters have elected a healthy Progressive Conservative majority led by Doug Ford and will be sending 124 MPPs from four different parties to a new session of the province’s legislature.

Ford is going to name a cabinet in the coming weeks, and at some point after that, he’ll call MPPs back to the legislature to start the hard work of making and changing laws for 13 million or so Ontarians, starting with a Throne Speech laying out his party’s agenda.

But any election has more losers than winners, and last night was no exception. Here’s a rundown of some of the big winners and losers from last night’s vote.

Winner: Doug Ford

There’s no way around this one: Ford has led his party to a majority government, and he and his party will be calling the shots around Queen’s Park for the next four years. (Assuming the new government doesn’t repeal or change the fixed election-date law the Liberals left them, the next Ontario election will be held on June 2, 2022.) For a party that’s been out of power for 15 years, this is literally the best news since the turn of the century.

Loser: Doug Ford

Now the hard work starts. The Tories won the election without having committed to anything remotely like a comprehensive policy plan, and their leader has yet to spend even a single minute working as an MPP, much less head of cabinet. Relatively few Tory MPPs in their newly elected caucus have any experience in cabinet (though there are some), and they’re quickly going to learn the difference between vague, uncosted electoral promises and the brass-tacks accounting reality that’s required of the country’s second-largest finance ministry to consume the next four years.

Loser: Kathleen Wynne

Again, no way around this. Wynne has led her Liberals from government to third-party status — indeed, the Grits are currently sitting at seven MPPs, one fewer than is required for recognized-party status. Thursday night was absolutely brutal for the Liberals, and much of it constituted a personal rejection of Wynne. Her resignation as Liberal leader was not unexpected. And now the party faces serious financial woes: the PCs will now be writing the provincial budget, and they’re committed to eliminating the per-vote subsidy the Liberals introduced in 2016.

Winner: Kathleen Wynne

No, this isn’t the sleep deprivation typing. There’s a faint silver lining to the results last night for the Liberals, and for Wynne in particular. Most of the Grit MPPs left standing, shell-shocked as they may be, were recruited during Wynne’s tenure — and they still feel substantial personal loyalty to and fondness for her, and agree with her vision of the party. The only MPPs who predate Wynne’s time as leader are Michael Coteau and the indestructible Mike Gravelle, who hung on to his seat in Thunder Bay–Superior North. Coteau, a progressive Liberal who won his seat in 2011 and endorsed Wynne in the 2013 leadership race, is already a frontrunner to succeed Wynne as party leader. Meanwhile, Liberals from the party’s more pro-business wing — like Steven Del Duca — were defeated last night.

Put it another way: intentionally or not, voters managed to send to Queen’s Park a Liberal caucus that represents a continuation of at least part of Wynne’s leadership — not a wholesale repudiation of it.

Winner: Andrea Horwath

The New Democrats have had their best election showing in nearly 30 years, winning double the number of seats they had at the dissolution of the last legislative session. It’s a serious achievement for the party, and for Horwath personally, after two prior disappointing election results. Technically speaking, the party’s constitution requires that NDP members vote on whether she should stay on as party leader at their next general convention, but it’s difficult to imagine Horwath going anywhere until after the next election, given last night’s success.

Loser: Andrea Horwath

Being leader of the official Opposition comes with certain perks — Horwath herself will get a substantial raise, relative to what she was making in the last legislature — but in the context of a majority government, it’s basically a four-year sentence that will force her to watch as a party with a wildly different view of government makes its mark on the province in a way her party can’t. At best, she’ll score some good quips during Question Period, but any major changes that the NDP brings forward will be uncontroversial, or at least inoffensive, to the Tories, if they’re allowed at all.

Winner: Mike Schreiner

Schreiner won his seat in Guelph, making him the first Green MPP in the province’s history. At the moment, he has exactly as much status as any of the Liberal MPPs, which is not what he might have predicted when this campaign started. If he hangs on to his seat, he will likely have a podium at the televised leaders’ debates next time around.

Winner: Bonnie Lysyk

The province’s auditor general has not had an easy few years doing her job of holding the government to account. Ever since Lysyk first reported on the enormous (and, she says, unnecessary) costs imposed by Liberal energy policies, she’s been under attack from the Liberal party and its allies in various industry and activist groups. Those attacks only intensified after she said that the government was using accounting gimmicks to hide billions of dollars in deficits. The voters have sent the Liberals packing and elected the one and only party that expressly pledged to conform to Lysyk’s accounting recommendations. Lysyk’s position requires that she remain scrupulously non-partisan, which means that she won’t really get to enjoy those results — she’ll just have a new government to scrutinize.

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