One for the history books: Tories head to Queen’s Park with most MLAs for decades – despite low voter turnout

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The Ontario election will leave the Progressive Conservatives with more MPs at Queen’s Park than they have had in decades.

Doug Ford’s Conservatives achieved another majority on Thursday in an election marked both by its pandemic backdrop and woefully low voter turnout.

The party finished with 83 seats, the most it has won since 1955, when Premier Leslie Frost’s party won a majority a second time with 84. Thursday’s result marks an increase from the 76 seats won by PCs in 2018.

The NDP fell to 31 seats, and the Liberals came out of the election with just eight. The Greens won just one seat, as did an independent candidate.

Adding to the final nature of the outcome was the decision by the two main opposition leaders to announce their resignations on election night – a double knockout that observers have described as rare in Ontario political history.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath announced she would be leaving after four elections as party leader, while Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca admitted he would not stay after failing to win his own riding of Vaughan -Woodbridge, and with his party not getting enough seats to gain official party status.

Ford’s victory is dampened, some say, because of voter turnout — which hit an all-time low in Ontario at 43%.

“Granted, these two opposition parties…it’s quite easy to look at them and say they haven’t lived up to something, and clearly they haven’t,” says Tamara Small, associate professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Guelph.

“But no one has really lived up to Ontarians’ imaginations, in any meaningful way, period.”

In the end, neither party significantly inspired the public to go to the polls, she said.

Four years ago, 58% of the population voted, a high of nearly 20 years.

Compared to previous elections, Ford’s strategy of sticking to a simple party message (“Get It Done”) and his familiarity with voters due to his pandemic press conferences likely gave him a boost. inch, leading him down a “lukewarm path” to victory, says Dennis Pilon, an associate professor of politics at York University.

“He’s a guy with a reputation for getting his foot in there, but somehow he made it through his first election cycle with his party intact,” he said. “People don’t seem thrilled with him, but they don’t seem as polarized about him as they have been for many Conservative leaders in the province.”

Pilon said he would have expected, given Ford’s personality and background, that the prime minister would be a more controversial figure, like Mike Harris in past elections.

Harris is often remembered for his handling of the 1997 Ontario teachers’ strike and an outbreak of E. coli in Walkerton, Ontario, among other controversies. After he resigned as prime minister in 2002, the Conservatives lost 35 seats and became the official opposition in the 2003 election.

According to Nelson Wiseman, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Toronto, the resignations of Liberal and New Democrat leaders indicate that expectations have changed for the leaders of the main parties.

“When Robert Stanfield became leader of the (Conservative) party…he lost three consecutive elections before resigning.”

But with Joe Clark, as soon as he lost his first election, the “knives were out” and there was a gradual shift towards expecting more results from the leadership immediately, which is evident in Del’s case. Duca, he said.

Steven Del Duca leaves the Liberal leadership.

Jonathan Rose, professor and head of the department of political studies at Queen’s University, said that in Horwath’s case, she had been blessed to be the leader of the party for years and it is clear that she failed to convince voters.

“She wisely saw the writing on the wall and thought she had no choice but to quit,” he said.

In Del Duca’s case, it’s hard for a leader to inspire confidence if he can’t convince his own constituency to vote for him, Rose said.

However, the Liberals increased the number of people who voted for them in terms of popular vote and one seat this election, noted Kathy Brock, a professor in the University’s School of Political Studies and Political Science. Queen’s.

As for Ford, Brock said that while he has a majority win, he should take it with a grain of salt given the turnout.

“People gave (Ford) the mandate to move forward…but at the same time they said ‘be careful, we’re watching’.”

With files from Steve McKinley, Toronto Star

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