Ontario election: 5 key questions after Liberals win majority

Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne scored a surprise majority win in last night's Ontario election. Here are five key questions to consider as voters and pundits sift through the results.

Surprising result leaves PCs, NDP facing leadership questions

A supporter of Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak watches the election results come in for Ontario's provincial election last night. Hudak will step down after his party's poor showing. (Fred Thornhill/Reuters)

Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne scored a surprise majority win in last night's Ontario election.

Here are five key questions to consider as voters and pundits sift through the results.

1. What's next for the Tories?

Leader Tim Hudak is out as leader after two failed bids to steer his party to power at Queen's Park. Voters rejected Hudak's plan for deep spending cuts to spur job growth and quickly clear the deficit. But who will pick up the Tory torch in a now depleted caucus that offers no clear choice for a successor? A list of five possible candidates is listed here. The answer will likely be more about what kind of conservative alternative the PCs want to offer.

2. How solid is Andrea Horwath's hold on the NDP?

Horwath's decision to withold support for the Liberal budget triggered this $93-million snap election. In the next few weeks, she'll be left to answer why this was done when the result was a Liberal majority and an NDP seat count that stays static at 21. Horwath wakes up Friday as the leader of a party leader whose views the Liberals no longer have to listen to. Horwath was seen as the strongest of the three party leaders after the 2011 election. This time, she was somewhat hand-tied by her decision to reject a Liberal budget that many progressives liked. It will be interesting to see whether her party chooses to punish Horwath for her failed gambit and push for a new leader, or continue to support a leader who is — despite Thursday's results — a seasoned campaigner. NDP MPP Jagmeet Singh, who was re-elected in Bramalea-Gore-Malton, told CBC's Metro Morning on Friday the caucus stands by her decision to trigger the election. We'll see.

3. What does poor PC showing in Toronto mean for Rob Ford?

After less than a year as an MPP, Doug Holyday, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford's former deputy mayor, was ousted in the west Toronto riding of Etobicoke-Lakeshore. Toronto conservatives were high-fiving each other when Holyday took the riding from the Liberals in a 2013 byelection. That win gave the PCs their first foothold in the GTA, with thoughts of a full onslaught in Toronto ridings to come. Now Etobicoke-Lakeshore is Liberal red again under Holyday's former council colleague, Peter Milczyn, and the Tories were shut out of vote-rich downtown Toronto. Holyday supported Ford's fiscal agenda, then decried the mayor's antics as the crack scandal took hold last year. Ford is expected to emerge from rehab later this month and resume his bid for re-election in October. The PCs' poor showing across the GTA may not bode well for Toronto's controversial mayor or federal Conservatives seeking re-election in Toronto.

4. Do polls still matter?

All over the place is the only way to describe what pollsters were saying ahead of this election. Almost no one was predicting a majority by any party, much less the Liberals. The polls also failed to predict results in recent B.C. and Alberta elections. It may be time for professional pollsters to re-evaluate how they gauge voter intentions.

5. Do debates still matter?

Wynne did not have a strong performance in the televised debate of the main party leaders that most pundits felt Hudak won. She spent too much time on the defensive for the gas plant decision made by predecessor Dalton McGuinty. She rarely looked her opponents in the eye and many were distracted by her sharp, frequent hand gestures. In the end, though, the performances were not decisive, leaving some to wonder if debates are given too much weight.