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Observations on the Ontario provincial election

Yesterday, Ontarians voted in a provincial election.

The outcome was a majority government for Liberal premier Kathleen Wynne, the first woman – and openly gay person – to be elected the premier of this province. She defeated Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak, who has now resigned the leadership of his party, NDP leader Andrea Horwath and Green Party leader Mike Schreiner.

A few observations.

This vote appears to be a strong rejection of Hudak’s proposed austerity agenda.

During the election, Toronto Star columnist Martin Regg Cohn wrote, “Give the Tory leader credit for laying his job on the line: not many politicians go into an election campaign telling voters they’d ditch 100,000 jobs from the provincial government, schools and municipalities. …Beyond the explosive job cuts, he’d also cut corporate taxes by a stunning 30 per cent. The Tory leader announced he’d make Ontario the lowest-tax jurisdiction for business in North America.”

And in a speech to the Toronto Board of Trade, Hudak described fracking in positive terms as the “shale gas revolution”, promised to “abolish the wind and solar (power) subsidies”, and has stated, “Free trade with Europe presents enormous opportunities for Ontario workers.”

That said, the Wynne government will need to be pushed on key issues like the Energy East pipeline, funding for public health care, and the Canada-European Union CETA ‘free trade’ agreement. Additionally, her government has endorsed the Drummond austerity report, clearcutting at Grassy Narrows, and the destructive Ring of Fire mining plan.

The election also tells us something about proportional representation.

With proportional representation, the Liberals would have about 42 seats (rather than 59, a majority of seats in the 107 seat legislature, with just 38.7 per cent of the vote), the Conservatives would have 33 (not 27), the NDP 26 seats (not 21), and the Greens would have won 6 seats (rather than 0).

It tells us too that voters continue to not be engaged in the electoral process. Voter turnout was terribly low in this election at just 51.7 per cent. That’s even lower than the 61.4 per cent turnout for the last federal election in October 2011.

And it perhaps gives us a hint of what we could see in the October 2015 federal election.

Toronto Star national affairs columnist Tim Harper comments, “Publicly, federal Conservatives were pledging allegiance to Tim Hudak. Privately, they knew a Wynne victory would give them the free-spending, debt-building enemy to vilify next year, something they will need if they are at least to hold their Ontario strength as they try to scale the dauntingly high political fence that goes up as a government seeks to enter a second decade in power.”

The Ontario Legislature is set to reconvene on July 2.