It’s Friday morning, the sun is shining, the birds are singing, and the sky has not fallen. In the face of all the polls suggesting it would not happen, the Liberals pulled off a majority government: 59 seats for the Liberals, 27 for the Tories, and 21 for the NDP. The result was less an endorsement of the Liberals than a personal victory for Premier Kathleen Wynne. And a stunning rebuke to Tim Hudak.
The Liberals may have received only 38.7% of the popular vote but, adding in the NDP vote of 23.7%, a total of 62.4% of the voters of Ontario made it loud and clear that they do not want a hard right alternative going forward. The Conservatives, at 31.2%, were reduced to their base. The great utility of the election campaign was to make the choice very stark. Ontario voters have shown that they are fundamentally centre to progressive, that they want government involvement in the economy, and that tea party-inspired solutions have no appeal north of the border.
What struck me in this election was how practically everyone I know, from all parts of the spectrum, ultimately voted for the Liberals, some for the first time. In my home riding of Trinity-Spadina, newcomer Liberal Han Dong soundly defeated long-term NDP incumbent Rosario Marchese by over 8,400 votes. Next door in Davenport, Liberal Cristina Martins defeated incumbent NDP Jonah Schein. In Lakeshore-Etobicoke, Liberal former city councillor Peter Milczyn defeated incumbent Tory Doug Holyday, also a high-profile former city councillor who had recently won a provincial by-election for the Tories. And in Beaches-East York, in a close race, incumbent NDP Michael Prue fell to Liberal newcomer Arthur Potts. In these ridings, voters opted for the Liberals, among other reasons, because Wynne, alone of all the leaders, understands in her bones the problems facing the city, including transit, and the link between transit, the economy and promoting jobs. Dwelling on past scandals and Liberal “corruption” had less resonance when Wynne agreed that mistakes were made and promised not to repeat them on her watch. She offered her integrity and, whatever voters think about her Liberal predecessor, they took her at her word, if only as the best of a mediocre lot.
I watched the election results with friends from my old all-women’s law firm, Dickson MacGregor Appell. We watched in amazement and delight. Wynne is such an impressive woman: intelligent, articulate, fit, openly lesbian, the parent of three adult children, a modern woman who has had to deal with the personal consequences of diversity in our society. That her lesbianism was not an issue in this campaign is a testament to the fundamental liberalism of the province. The ad showing her running every morning was wonderfully symbolic, an inspiration for those of us who have finally learned that fitness stimulates energy and promotes well-being. If she brings that kind of discipline to her political activities, there is hope. Unlike most of the media, I thought she won the debate. She showed admirable stamina and resilience and, in the face of withering attacks from both sides, became stronger and more articulate as it went along.
Haroon Siddiqui wrote, last week in the Toronto Star, that Kathleen Wynne has the potential to be another Bill Davis. I agree. Davis had great personal skills, led a conservative government that was progressive, and held office for a long time. With a majority government, Wynne has the scope to show us her stuff. I have faith that the voters made an excellent choice yesterday. Wynne can’t achieve all expectations, but I don’t think we will be disappointed. And with Wynne in Ontario and Couillard in Quebec, maybe central Canada will reclaim its former influence in the country. That would be good for the confederation.