Ontario premier hopes to move past scandal after byelection losses
Opposition leaders trumpet victories after taking Liberal ridings
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne is seeking to move beyond the gas-plant scandal that has plagued the provincial Liberals, a day after her party lost three of five seats in provincial byelections.
"I believe that the byelections were about recent past events and I think that the next general election will be about the future," Wynne told reporters at noon Friday. "I think it will be a very different ballot question."
Ontario's NDP and Progressive Conservative leaders both claimed the byelections were a success.
The NDP, led by Andrea Horwath, took two of five seats up for grabs that were all previously held by Liberals.
The Progressive Conservatives, headed by Tim Hudak, earned their first win in Toronto since 1999.
The Liberals were victorious twice: Mitzie Hunter kept the Toronto-area riding of Scarborough-Guildwood in Liberal hands and John Fraser will succeed former Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty in Ottawa South.
But Wynne did not strike a triumphant tone, and instead said it was clear that voters were angry over the scandal that saw more than $585 million spent to cancel two Ontario gas plants.
"We've heard that message loudly and clearly that people expect more of us," she said.
She said the voters' message will be listened to, but that she has to be forward-looking.
"There’s no way that I can dedicate all of my time as premier of this province to responding to one issue," she said.
Horwath 'over the moon'
At a Friday morning news conference, Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said she would be surprised if the Liberal minority government makes it to the scheduled end of its mandate in 2015.
At the same time, she was coy about whether she would bring the government down, saying the party would take it a day at a time.
She said she was "over the moon" about the results — victories for Percy Hatfield in Windsor-Tecumseh and Peggy Sattler in London West.
It was a bad night for the Liberals, she said.
"They went from five very strong seats that were held by high-profile cabinet ministers to barely holding on to two seats."
'We broke through'
Hudak trumpeted the win of Conservative candidate Doug Holyday in Etobicoke-Lakeshore as the Conservatives first win in Toronto since 1999.
"We broke through…We’re going to take more Toronto and GTA seats," said Hudak, who spoke Friday morning with Holyday by his side.
Pressed by the assembled media about winning only one seat, Hudak repeatedly noted that the Conservatives received the most votes across both Ontario and Toronto in both byelections.
He congratulated the NDP, but characterized their support as a union-supported protest vote that won't work as well in a full general election.
Holyday said he wouldn't have run for the Tories if he didn't think Hudak is the right leader, and blamed losses in Ottawa South and London West on the Liberals' calling a byelection in the middle of the summer.