TORONTO – Ontario voters have re-elected Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal Party, upgrading her government to a majority mandate and rejecting the main opposition Conservative Party’s call for budget austerity.
The Liberals were elected in 59 of 107 districts, according to unofficial results compiled by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., taking 38.7 percent of the vote.
The Conservatives were reduced to 27 seats and 31.3 percent of the vote. The New Democratic Party took 21 seats and 23.8 percent of the vote.
The victory marks the first time in more than a century that the Liberals have won four consecutive Ontario elections, even as they were hurt by scandal in recent years. The results reflect Conservative leader Tim Hudak’s failure to win broad public support for his budget restraint plan, which included a pledge to cut 100,000 government jobs. Conservative support fell more than 4 percentage points from the 2011 election.
“It’s a Conservative debacle,” Nelson Wiseman, a University of Toronto political scientist, said in a telephone interview. “His whole campaign was pitched to his base.”
The Liberals went into the elections holding 48 seats, with the Conservatives 37 and the NDP 21, with one district vacant. With Ontario’s economy struggling to gain momentum, Wynne promised to boost spending in the short-term in a bid to stoke growth, place more focus on government investment and put off budget curbs into the future.
Hudak, 46, wagered that a mix of government job cuts, spending freezes and corporate tax reductions would resonate with voters, as Ontario struggles with mounting debt fueled by the 2008-09 recession and an underperforming economy.
Hudak stuck to his platform until the very end.
“I am immensely and will forever be proud of the campaign we ran and the clear vision of hope that we put before the people of the great province of Ontario,” Hudak said in his concession speech. He said he will step down as leader.
Wynne took the opposite tack, seeking to stoke economic growth with stimulus. Her agenda, based on an April fiscal plan, accelerated spending, financed by increased borrowing and higher taxes even as credit rating companies warned of possible downgrades for provincial debt.
The Ontario legislature will get back to work within 20 days to implement her budget, Wynne said in her victory speech Thursday night.
“Thank you so much for this strong mandate, you have put your trust in us and we will not let you down,” Wynne told supports in Toronto.