Doug Ford will be Ontario’s next premier, leading the Progressive Conservatives to a majority government in a stunning shift of power as the Liberals lost official party status on Thursday night.
A beaming Ford addressed his raucous supporters following his victory, saying he would get right to work to put more money in taxpayers’ pockets.
“We have taken back Ontario,” he said to chants of “Doug! Doug! Doug!”
“We have delivered a government that is for the people and will respect your hard earned tax dollars. And my friends, the party with your hard earned tax dollars is over. It’s done!”
“Tonight, we have sent a clear message to the world: Ontario is open for business.”
Ford’s opponents criticized him for not releasing a fully-costed platform, but Ontarians took a leap of faith, clearing the path for the first PC victory in Ontario since 1999.
Echoing U.S. president Donald Trump, Ford promised to usher in “an era of economic growth and prosperity the likes of which the province has never seen before.”
“My friends, a new day has dawned in Ontario,” he said, his voice quivering. “We are going to turn this province around so our children and their children will always be proud to call Ontario home.”
It was a disastrous night for the Ontario Liberals, who failed to secure the eight seats necessary to maintain official party status, falling one seat short. Several prominent cabinet ministers also lost their seats as voters punished the Liberals for a scandalous stretch that saw hydro bills soar.
Despite her party’s dismal results on Thursday, Wynne managed to win her seat in Don Valley West. But it was small consolation and a glum Wynne announced that she was stepping down as Liberal party Leader.
“I am resigning as the Leader of the Ontario Liberal party,” Wynne said, choking up. “I have spoken to the party president and asked him to start the process of choosing an interim leader. It is the right thing to do,” she added. “There is another generation and I am passing the torch to that generation.”
After Wynne announced her resignation, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath celebrated a breakthrough night.
“I am deeply humbled that Ontarians have asked us to serve as the new Official Opposition,” she beamed to a cheering sea of orange.
“Today millions of people voted for change for the better. We have won more seats than we have held in a generation.”
Despite falling short after late polls showed her neck-and-neck with Ford, Horwath said she was pleased with the result and proud of the NDP party.
“We rejected the politics of fear and cynicism and we put hope and vision for a better future at the heart of our campaign … and Ontarians responded like never before!”
Thursday’s resounding PC victory caps a more than month-long campaign that saw Ford’s focus shift from arch-rival Wynne — to Horwath, whose surging popularity became a serious threat down the stretch.
With Horwath often polling as the most popular of the main three party leaders, Ford began attacking her candidates, calling them “radicals” who were ill-prepared to form a competent cabinet.
Polls heading into the final stretch showed Ford and Horwath in a virtual dead heat while Wynne humbly admitted defeat, urging Ontarians to vote Liberal to prevent a Conservative or NDP majority.
It didn’t work as Ford’s populist message resonated with an electorate thirsty for change after a scandal-plagued 15-year Liberal reign.
It’s not the first time a Ford has catapulted from punchline to powerhouse.
Doug’s brother, the late Rob Ford, was widely dismissed when he announced he was running for mayor of Toronto in March 2010.
But the long-time city councillor’s promise to “stop the gravy train” and put an end to government misspending saw him elected with nearly 50 per cent of the vote.
Doug Ford didn’t stray far from his brother’s popular mantras. His campaign slogan was “For The People” and he promised to lower corporate and small business taxes, slice the gas tax by 10 cents, and cut dreaded hydro bills by 12 per cent while returning Hydro One dividends to families.
“I know that my brother Rob is looking down from heaven,” an emotional Ford said during his victory speech.