Ontario voters cast ballots after roller-coaster election campaign

Voters in Ontario will elect a new government tonight after a campaign that has pitted Doug Ford's Progressive Conservatives against Andrea Horwath's NDP amid controversy and volatile swings in public opinion polls.

After 15 years of Liberal governments, Ontario appears poised for a big change

The leaders of Ontario's three main political parties, as well as Mike Schreiner, leader of the Green Party, have spent a gruelling month on the campaign trail around the province. (David Donnelly/CBC)

Voters in Ontario will elect a new government tonight after a campaign that has pitted Doug Ford's Progressive Conservatives against Andrea Horwath's NDP amid controversy and volatile swings in public opinion polls.

The approximately 7,200 polling places will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. ET, with results expected to start pouring in soon after they close. Find out how to watch, listen and read CBC News coverage here.

Heading into today, CBC's Poll Tracker suggests that despite a tumultuous several weeks for Ford on the campaign trail, the PCs could be set for a majority government. There are 124 ridings being contested this year, up from 107 in 2014, meaning 63 seats are required for a majority. 

If advance polls are any indication, turnout could be higher this year than in 2014, when only 51.3 per cent of registered voters cast a ballot. According to Elections Ontario, some 768,895 people have already voted, a 19 per cent increase over the previous election. 

The NDP began the campaign firmly in the third spot, but has nearly erased a PC lead that once stood at more than 20 points. The surge in support is unprecedented, some pollsters said, in a province that hasn't elected an NDP government since former leader Bob Rae secured a surprise victory in 1990.

During her last day on the campaign trail, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said the Liberals have given up. She also warned that a PC government would cut thousands of public service jobs. (Christopher Katsarov/Canadian Press)

Whether Ford or Horwath becomes premier, Ontario appears set for significant change. The Ontario Liberals, who have held onto power for nearly 15 years and enjoyed a majority since 2014, could be left with only a handful of seats.

When the legislature was dissolved, Kathleen Wynne's Liberals held 55 seats. But the Liberal leader had record-low approval ratings, and her campaign has been unable to turn the tide. The Liberals are now desperately trying to secure at least eight seats, the minimum number required to retain official party status

The governing party's brand has become so toxic that some of its candidates have opted to use campaign literature and signs that do not prominently display the traditional Liberal red or the party's logo. 

PC Leader Doug Ford started the campaign with a double-digit lead in the polls. While that advantage has largely disappeared, Ford says he's confident his Tories will secure a majority. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

In a move last weekend that shocked even seasoned political observers, Wynne candidly acknowledged she would not be the province's premier come June 8 and pleaded with voters to elect Liberals to ensure "checks and balances" on a majority PC or NDP government.

Meanwhile, Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner could make history, as he is currently projected by multiple polling firms to win a seat in Guelph. It would be the first for the Greens at Queen's Park. 

During the four-week campaign, which included three televised debates, the leaders have travelled around the province. On the eve of the election, though, Wynne, Horwath and Ford all made stops in the suburban Toronto 905 region. That was not a coincidence, as the region is critical to electoral victory. Home to 47 of Ontario's 124 seats, it will likely decide whether the next government is a majority. 

Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne faces a potential political catastrophe today. Her party is desperately trying to secure at least eight seats at Queen's Park, the minimum necessary to retain official party status. (TIjana Martin/Canadian Press)

The PCs are poised to finish strongly in the 905, but various scandals following Ford and some of his candidates on the campaign trail have helped put some key ridings into contention. Most recently, it was revealed that the widow of Ford's brother, former Toronto mayor Rob Ford, is suing the Tory leader, alleging that he has withheld millions of dollars from her and her two children. Ford has denied the allegations and vowed to fight them in court. 

When the campaign formally began on May 9, the Liberal and PC war rooms looked ready to do battle, each laser-focused on the rival leader. But as Liberal support evaporated and Wynne's message of "care over cuts" floundered, the PCs and NDP turned their fire on each other. 

Ford frequently calls the NDP slate "too radical" to be entrusted with government, drawing attention to activist candidates within its ranks. For her part, Horwath — who has led the NDP in two previous elections — warns voters that Ford's pledge to reduce spending by at least $6 billion over several years inevitably means major cuts to public services. 

Ford is the only leader of a major party who did not release a fully costed platform, despite repeated promises dating back to March that he would. 


Lucas Powers

Senior Writer

Lucas Powers is a Toronto-based reporter and writer. He's reported for CBC News from across Canada. Have a story to tell? Email any time.


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