Ontario Moves Rightward, toward Populism

After a nearly 15 year lock on Ontario’s provincial parliament (“Queen’s Park”), the Liberal Party suffered the strong rejection of voters in the June 6, 2018 election. Triumphant in the last two elections, the Liberals won so few seats that they lost official party status.

Early on, it was clear that the Liberals were in trouble, and it appeared that the Progressive Conservatives (PC’s) would regain a majority at Queen’s Park, under the leadership of Doug Ford. The Globe and Mail had characterized Ford as having led a populist takeover of the Party. But Ontario voters have not always been predictable, and by the eve of the election many were predicting that the PC’s would not win a majority, and that the more likely outcome was a government led either by the PC’s or the New Democratic Party (NDP). The NDP has usually been the third strongest party in the province in recent decades, though held power from 1990 to 1995.

Liberal prospects had become so dim that incumbent Premier and leader Kathleen Wynne conceded defeat days before the election, but called for Liberal support sufficient to deny a majority government for either of the two other parties.

So, it was a surprise as the votes were reported, when the PC’s emerged with a strong victory, taking 76 seats. The NDP became the official opposition, with 40 seats. The Liberals took only seven seats, while the Greens won one. The popular vote rejection of the Liberals was stunning. Voters gave 40.5 percent of their votes to the PC’s, and 33.6 percent to the NDP. The Liberal vote was less than one-half that of the PCs (19.6 percent).

Ford, and his government are will move policy in not only a rightward direction, but also one that is more populist. The National Post said that: “Doug Ford positioned himself during the campaign as a defender of 'the little guy,' promising to lower taxes, cut hydro rates and eliminate the province’s cap-and-trade-system.”

Toronto Sun columnist Antonella Artuso provides an interesting day-after-the-election commentary summarizing reactions from the three party leaders, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and others.