A stunning Liberal victory in Thursday’s Ontario election didn’t shake incumbents’ hold on Hamilton’s five provincial ridings.
The city’s three New Democratic MPPs, including party leader Andrea Horwath, held onto their seats in the vote. Paul Miller has been re-elected Hamilton East-Stoney Creek and Monique Taylor will return to Queen’s Park as the NDP MPP for Hamilton Mountain.
"Frankly, I’m ecstatic about the results in Hamilton, as usual," said Miller, who was first elected MPP in 2007. "I think the people of Hamilton get it."
Among non-New Democratic incumbents, Community and Social Services Minister Ted McMeekin won re-election in Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale, and Ontario PC leader Tim Hudak came out on top in his largely rural riding, Niagara West-Glanbrook.
Incumbents also fared well farther east, in the Niagara peninsula. Jim Bradley, the incumbent for St. Catharines, retained the riding for the Liberals. The NDP held on to its two seats in the Niagara region. Cindy Forster was re-elected in Welland, while Wayne Gates, an MPP since he won a by-election in February, once again prevailed over the Conservatives in Niagara Falls.
Liberals upset PC's in Burlington and Halton
The Steeltown results contrasted sharply with the red tide that swept through other regions in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area. Upsets in two long-held Tory ridings outside Hamilton were among the results in 905 area code that buoyed Kathleen Wynne to a majority mandate.
In Burlington, Liberal challenger Eleanor McMahon defeated incumbent Jane McKenna, ending 71 consecutive years of Progressive Conservative representation. Former journalist Indira Naidoo-Harris took Halton for the Grits, nabbing the riding from the PCs’ Ted Chudleigh, the riding’s MPP since Mike Harris was elected premier in 1995.
As of 11:43 p.m., the Liberals were projected to win 59 of the province’s 107 seats. The PCs tallied 27 ridings, down 10 from the last sitting of provincial parliament. The NDP remained steady at 21.
'New Democrats are fighters and we are going to keep fighting for the things that matter most. For the things that matter most for the families in Ontario.' —Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath
After winning his west Hamilton riding, McMeekin told CBC Hamilton that voters in the 905 area responded to the leadership style of Kathleen Wynne and the Liberals' desire to fix the "mistakes" that dogged the reputation of former premier Dalton McGuinty.
Voters, in his constituency and beyond, McMeekin said, "saw through all that Tory crap and the all the NDP crap and said 'Give me someone who believes in something and wants to leads.' "
As for his personal goals for the next session of provincial parliament, the Hamilton MPP says he wants to "sit down as quick as I can with [Wynne] to get a fairly clear picture of where we want to to go, and to do whatever I can to serve the good people of Ontario — and in particular, my riding — to the best of my ability."
The election marks the end of one of the most contentious provincial campaigns in recent memory.
The writ was drawn up in early May after Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath refused to support Premier Kathleen Wynne’s left-leaning spring budget, ending the governing Liberal’s two-and-a-half-year stint of minority rule.
At a speech in front of dozens of supporters on Thursday night, Horwath acknowledged that New Democrats might be disappointed by not improving on the party's third-place status, but she vowed to continue to advocated for "change that makes sense."
"And I know that perhaps people weren't hoping for this particular result tonight," said Horwath. "But New Democrats are fighters and we are going to keep fighting for the things that matter most. For the things that matter most for the families in Ontario."
Wynne wins, Horwath stays, Hudak goes
Horwath said she'll continue as the leader of Ontario's NDP. Hudak, however, told supporters he will be stepping down as the head of the Progressive Conservatives in the wake of his party's loss.
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Much was at stake for Hamilton in the election. The Ontario Federation of Labour had estimated that the Conservatives' plan to cut 100,000 public sector jobs province-wide would eliminate as many as 10,000 positions in the city. And social activists have said that candidates from all of the parties have been too quiet on the issue of urban poverty.
The future of rapid transit in Hamilton also hung in the balance. The Liberals have said they would fund 100 per cent of the capital costs for a rapid transit line crossing Hamilton’s lower city, but haven’t clarified whether they would prefer light-rail transit or a cheaper, less elegant bus rapid transit option for the route. Hudak says that, if elected, he will scrap the project altogether and focus instead on expanding GO Train service in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area. Horwath, on the other hand, expressed her support for the LRT — which council endorsed in early 2013 — during the campaign.
Mayor Bob Bratina was pleased with the results. He said Wynne is interested in Hamilton, and “she has no reluctance or hesitation in hearing what (we) have to say.”
Before the election, then-Minister of Transportation Glen Murray said he’d meet with the city about its transit plans.
“He did promise he’d come and talk to us, so I’m looking forward to that,” he said.
The political fortunes of the Hamilton-area party leaders were also on the line. Horwath's gambit of pulling the plug on the Liberal budget — which proposed an Ontario pension plan to supplement CPP, an uptick in the minimum wage and a plan to fund $29 billion in public transit and road improvement projects over the next decade — drew outrage from dozens of longtime NDP supporters.
Expectations were even higher for Hudak, who, like the NDP chief, was running as leader in his second general election. Once considered the premier-in-waiting due to the spending scandals dogging the Liberals, the Niagara West-Glanbrook MPP's stint at the helm of the provincial Tories appears to over.
Take a look at the field below to view a recap of CBC Hamilton’s live blog of Thursday's election.