Tim Hudak told supporters he will step down as leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives following the party's defeat in the provincial election.
"I am proud of what our team has accomplished, and I am optimistic about our party’s future," Hudak told a crowd of party faithful in his home riding of Niagara West-Glanbrook.
"But I will not be leading the Ontario PC party in the next election campaign. I will meet with a caucus, the party executive in the coming days to begin the process of selecting a new leader," he said, to groans of disappointment from supporters.
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Hudak was re-elected in his riding, and said he will continue to serve as its MPP.
"I will lead our party and caucus only until that new leader is selected," he said.
Hudak said he had called to congratulate Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne on her re-election, a sweep that handed the Liberals a majority government and their fourth straight mandate in the province. He said he also congratulated NDP Leader Andrea Horwath on her "strong and respectful" campaign.
Wynne and the Liberals, "will have the opportunity to deliver the change that Ontario so clearly needs," Hudak said.
"Nobody should mistake this result as an endorsement of the status quo," he added. "Kathleen Wynne promised very different behaviour for what we’ve seen these past 11 years. She will be held accountable if she does not deliver on that change.
Returning to a theme that defined his campaign, Hudak said Ontarians expect a government that will "focus on creating jobs above all else."
"Our team will put private sector job creation first in every decision," he said.
In light of the defeat, the party will also have to "re-evaluate" some of its positions, according to longtime Tory insider Norm Sterling, who held various cabinet positions under Bill Davis, Mike Harris and Ernie Eaves.
"The party has to re-evaluate where it sits on the political spectrum, and become more progressive and less conservative," said Sterling, speaking to CBC News at the campaign headquarters of Lisa MacLeod, who was returned to office in the Ottawa-area riding of Nepean-Carlton.
Sterling said Davis and other former party leaders were "more in tune with the people of Ontario."
"They were pragmatic and they … showed compassion," he said.
Hudak, said Sterling, made a "fundamental error" with his controversial promise to create one million jobs, while cutting 100,000 public sector positions. The platform drew heavy fire from political rivals and economists alike.
"Making himself the target, rather than attacking, was a waste of fundamental error in terms of the strategy," said Sterling. "The focus was on him, and it should have been on the past government and [former Liberal premier] Mr. McGuinty's record."
Sterling suggested MacLeod could have what it takes to replace Hudak as party leader.
MacLeod, who served as the party's critic for energy and Francophone affairs during the last government, shows "all the leadership qualities that we need in our party," he said.
"She understands the middle class, she’s compassionate, and ... she has a great presence in the Legislature."