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Ontario election has highest voter turnout in nearly a decade

Last Updated Jun 8, 2018 at 3:17 pm EDT

Poll clerk Carmela Caccavo puts up Elections Ontario voting signs outside of the Mississauga-Erin Mills polling station on University of Toronto, Mississauga Campus on Thursday, June 7, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marta Iwanek

Just over half of Ontarians went to the polls over the last two weeks to decide who would take over as premier, making it the highest voter turnout in almost a decade.

Numbers released by Elections Ontario showed that 58.04 per cent of the approximately 9.8 million registered voters cast a ballot.

The last time voter turnout was this high was in 1999 — at 57.8 per cent — when Mike Harris was re-elected to a second majority government.

On Thursday, the Progressive Conservatives, helmed by Leader Doug Ford, unseated 15 years of Liberal control over the province, winning 76 seats with over 2.3 million votes.

Ford, the least politically experienced of the top three candidates, won over voters with promises of lowering gas prices, a more prosperous economy, respecting tax dollars and implementing “buck-a-beer.

The election also saw a huge shift in power for Andrea Horwath’s New Democrats. They more than doubled their previous seat count at Queen’s Park from 18 to 40, rocketing them into official Opposition. According to Elections Canada, over 1.9 million Ontarians voted orange, giving them 33.56 per cent of the vote.

The Liberals, who lost official party status, took only seven seats and only 19.59 per cent of the vote, although former premier Kathleen Wynne retained her seat. Shortly after the results were announced, Wynne stepped down as party leader.

As well, the Green Party made history with Leader Mike Schreiner becoming its first-ever candidate to be elected to provincial parliament. Schreiner, who was running in Guelph, and the rest of the Green Party amassed 264,094 votes or 4.60 per cent.