(from left) Bill Mauro, Sarah Campbell and Michael Gravelle.
Ontario’s Liberals will continue to rule as a minority government following the results of two by-elections Thursday, something one University professor describes as a slap to the face.
The minority Liberal-led government hoped to claim victory in both by-elections in southern Ontario Thursday, but was unable to secure the sweep and managed to win only one of the two ridings that were up for grabs. The NDP took from the Progressive Conservatives to win the Kitchener-Waterloo riding. As a consolation prize to the governing party, MPP Steven Del Duca was able to keep Vaughan for the Liberals.
In terms of seats, the night ended with the PCs being the ultimate losers, NDP the winners and the Liberals even-Steven.
But Patrick Cain, a political science professor at Lakehead University, said the Liberals were the ones who lost the biggest opportunity in the form of a majority government.
“In one way it is a slap in the face because it means the possibility of a majority was rejected by three quarters of the voters in that riding,” Cain said.
“Dalton McGuinty sold himself as an education premier and the controversy with the teachers over the last couple of months has really put that position in jeopardy. I do think it has put question marks in voters’ minds on where he exactly stands on the question of education.”
Cain argued it was more of a loss for the Liberals than a gain for the NDP, and likened it to a referendum based on the question of giving Dalton McGuinty a majority.
The PCs held the riding for the past two decades but he said the former MPP of Kitchener-Waterloo Elizabeth Witmer was a centrist conservative. He said the party has since moved farther right and even though Witmer was a conservative, she was probably the most liberal minded.
MPP Bill Mauro (Lib. Thunder Bay – Atikokan) said he wasn’t surprised by what happened in the by-elections. He said it’s difficult for any government to win a riding previously held by another party as well as knowing what motivates people to vote the way they do.
“Obviously, it would have been great to win both,” Mauro said. “We’re thrilled that we held on to Vaughan. When comes to Kitchener-Waterloo, I think it’s a much more comment on the Progressive Conservative party. It was a 22-year PC riding I think and clearly I think it speaks of difficult times for the PCs and in fact their leadership. It’ll be interesting to see what goes on there in the days ahead.”
Mauro said the by-election results spoke more about what people thought of PC leader Tim Hudak than anything else.
MPP Michael Gravelle (Lib. Thunder Bay – Superior North) shared Mauro’s comments and said he was happy to work with the two new Members of Parliament.
“Any time you have by-elections, it is always tough for the government win those seats,” Gravelle said. ”It would have been nice to win them both but we will be going back to the legislature clearly with this split. This parliament remains the same.
Gravelle offered congratulations to both new MPPs and looked forward to working with them.
He said they are going to go back with the same goals in mind to focus on health care, education and moving the economy forward.
MPP Sarah Campbell (NDP, Kenora – Rainy River) echoed the political rally cry of federal NDP leader Thomas Mulcair by saying they are the government in waiting.
It was difficult to say who was hit harder but the message voters sent was that they reject both Hudak and McGuinty, she said.
“Since the 2011 general election, the Liberals and the Conservatives have been preoccupied with getting more power,” Campbell said.
“We’ve seen that with some of the maneuvers McGuinty has been doing as well as the Tories when they said they were going to vote against the budget without even saw what was in it. I think we have really distinguished ourselves.”
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