ONTARIO PROVINCIAL ELECTION RESULTS, JUNE 12, 2014
After an extremely tight race that no one felt they could call leading into election day, Ontario voters elected a Liberal majority government. This is the fourth consecutive term won by the Ontario Liberals, something that hasn’t been accomplished by a Liberal party in Ontario since the early 1900s and by any political party in Ontario since the PC’s Bill Davis in 1981. This was also the first time in Ontario’s history that a female Premier has been elected. Tim Hudak also announced that he will be stepping down as Leader of the PC Party as soon as a new Leader is chosen. Andrea Horwath gave no indication that she was considering stepping down as leader of the NDP. As noted during the campaign, the Premier will bring the Ontario Legislature back within 20 days of election day and will re-introduce the same budget as was tabled on May 1, 2014. With a majority of seats in the legislature, the budget will pass without issue.
Seat Count at Dissolution
Seat Count Election Results
Voter Turnout: 51.7%
+ This is an increase of 3.5% from the 2011 turnout of 48.2%
+ Many had thought turnout would decrease due to voter disaffection and other factors such as the World Cup, etc.
Advanced Voter Turn-out: 566,845
+ 2014 had 7 days of advanced polls compared to 10 days in 2011
+ On a per-day basis, advance voter turn-out is up in 2014 over 2011
+ Overall, advanced voter turn-out was down 6% in 2014 compared to 2011
This election was both Tim Hudak’s and Andrea Horwath’s to win. Both had on their side a three-term Liberal government that was plagued with a stalled economy and numerous scandals. But the NDP was never able to cut through and Tim Hudak was weighed down throughout the campaign by his hard right platform, particularly a pledge to eliminate 100,000 jobs.
Telling is the fact that the Liberals made gains in this election in traditionally conservative seats such as Thornhill, Newmarket-Aurora, Cambridge and Halton. While the NDP grew their popular support, they essentially remained the same in their seat count. Of importance is where they gained seats (in the North and southwestern Ontario) and lost seats (downtown Toronto).
Majority Liberal Government
Because the Liberals have won a majority, they no longer need to negotiate with either of the other two parties in order to implement their legislative and government agenda. The Liberals will go back to controlling the legislature, legislative committees, etc. The Premier has been clear that the Liberal platform and agenda going forward is represented by her May 1st budget and this will be introduced and passed without issue.
Key Wins and Losses
In the 107-seat Ontario legislature, 54 seats are required for a majority. The Liberals won 53 seats during the 2011 election but lost five in the course of their three-year minority term. Coming out of the 2014 election, the Liberals have picked up 11 seats from a mix of traditionally held PC and NDP ridings. Ridings previously held by the PC Party that are now held by the Liberals include: Thornhill, Newmarket-Aurora, Cambridge, Durham and Halton. They also took back Etobicoke-Lakeshore from Doug Holyday. The Liberals also made in-roads in downtown NDP Toronto ridings such as Trinity-Spadina that has long been held by Rosario Marchese, Davenport that went NDP in the 2011 election and Beaches-East York held by long-time NDP MPP Michael Prue.
The NDP, as predicted, picked up seats in the Southwest as well as in the North. Liberal Teresa Piruzza in Windsor West was unseated by Lisa Gretzky and the Sudbury seat of long-time Liberal Cabinet Minister Rick Bartolucci, who did not run again, went to Joe Cimino.
The PCs, unfortunately, suffered huge losses in their traditional strongholds (as noted above) and even failed to win back long-time PC riding Kitchener-Waterloo where NDP Catherine Fife held on to the seat that was won in a by-election. They were also unable to win the riding of Niagara Falls, just next to Tim Hudak’s own riding. The biggest loss for the PCs, of course, is the loss of their leader, who indicated he will initiate a leadership race to name the next leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party. He will stay on as MPP for Niagara West-Glanbrook.
Key Policy Issues
The key policy issues in the campaign were jobs and the economy and while this dominated the election message track, the key issues moving forward will be those represented and mentioned in the May 2014 Liberal Budget. They include:
The Ontario Registered Pension Plan (ORPP) is a mandatory savings vehicle structured similarly to the Canada Pension Plan. The ORPP aims to replace 15 per cent of income up to a maximum of $90,000 in earnings. Equal contributions would be shared by employer and employee, up to a maximum of 1.9 per cent each or 3.8 per cent combined. ORPP and CPP combined would aim to replace a maximum of 40 per cent of income, up from the CPP’s current 25 per cent.
Improved pension security in Ontario could effect change across the country — the majority of provinces have indicated support for increasing the CPP, and continue to grapple with the problem of inadequate retirement savings in their jurisdictions. This model also keeps the door open to the potential of a federal government willing to implement an enhanced CPP down the road.
The budget reiterated the government’s commitment to invest $29 billion dollars over 10 years in transportation infrastructure projects. This money will be raised by allocating existing gas tax revenue and a handful of smaller tax increases as well as a few other measures. The government created two funds (one for the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area and one for the rest of the province) where the new revenue will be dedicated.
Because the budget reallocates existing tax revenue, there are additional tax increases in the form of personal income tax for high income earners and tobacco tax to raise compensating revenues.
Energy & the Environment
There is very little in the budget that is material to Ontario’s energy or environmental sectors. The document contains a five-point business energy savings plan focused on helping business manage the costs of electricity and it confirmed the government’s proposal to remove the Debt Retirement Charge from residential (but not business) hydro bills providing $70 on average in relief per household per year.
The budget was positioned as a 10-year plan for the economy, and spending in the social ministries and programs were geared to support that framework. Training and education programs to create opportunities for Ontarians to move into new careers with the potential for higher paying jobs were emphasized.
Budget 2014 did not focus on healthcare, mirroring the lead up of announcements to the budget. Healthcare spending continues to be over 40 per cent of the provincial budget and will continue to grow at 2.2 per cent this year, similar to the amount projected in last year’s budget.
As with last year’s budget, the government again chose to invest in the home care sector with major investments in the wages of personal support workers (PSWs). As announced on April 30th, Ontario will raise the minimum pay for PSWs to $16.50 an hour, a four-dollar increase over the next three years. Other initiatives highlighted include the creation of demonstration projects on self-directed care for seniors, continued advancement on improving end-of-life care, and commitments to increase the number of Health Links to more than 90. There was no discussion about the hospital sector.
With most of Premier Wynne’s cabinet re-elected, it is expected that familiar faces will return to the portfolios they held prior to the election. With Teresa Piruzza having lost her seat, a new Minister of Children and Youth Services will have to be appointed. While there are plenty of new faces in the Liberal caucus, expect those ultra-new MPPs to take on roles not in Cabinet but rather on Cabinet Committees, as Parliamentary Secretaries and on legislative committees. With a commitment to call back the legislature within 20 days, Ontarians can expect the Liberal agenda to be outlined by the Speech from the Throne and a re-introduced Budget 2014.
Expect to see a majority of senior political staff return to their positions in the Premier’s Office and Ministers’ Offices, at least for the time being, to assist the government through the first weeks and months of its mandate. Don’t be surprised though to see departures in the late summer and fall of long-time staffers that will take the opportunity to leave government on a positive note and move on to new challenges. Replacing them will be both staffers that have been gaining experience over the past years in more junior roles as well as interesting and seasoned individuals from outside government that may take the opportunity to try their hand at political staffing given the stability of a four year majority government.
Finally, there is plenty of talk about both PC and NDP leadership races and reviews. Without question, there will be a PC leadership race and there is much speculation on who might throw their hat in the ring. Numerous names are flying around, however our assessment is that a key name to watch is Christine Elliott. She is the current Deputy Leader of the Ontario PC Party, runner-up in the last PC leadership race, wife of the late federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and, importantly, the only PC MPP to hold on in this election to a GTA riding. That said, a run federally in her husband’s vacant seat is also an option for the formidable Ms. Elliott.
And while Andrea Horwath gave no indication that she will be stepping down as leader, there is plenty of talk that this is in fact on the horizon for her. After triggering the election, with no seat gain, loss of influence with the Liberals winning a majority government, the shift right and away from the NDP’s traditional ‘social conscious’ brand as well as the loss of key NDP ridings in downtown Toronto, many are of the view that Ms. Horwath will face pressure to leave. Stay tuned. The NDP leader is known as a fighter.