Kathleen Wynne ready to 'pass the torch,' quits as Ontario Liberal leader

Kathleen Wynne has announced she will resign as leader of the Ontario Liberal Party after Ontario voters decided they'd had enough of her government and awarded the Progressive Conservatives a majority mandate.

Outgoing premier said 'it's the right thing to do' following her party's resounding defeat by the PCs

Kathleen Wynne announces to supporters that she is resigning as Liberal Party leader during her election night event at York Mills Gallery in Toronto on Thursday. (Tijana Martin/Canadian Press)

Kathleen Wynne has announced she will resign as leader of the Ontario Liberal Party after provincial voters decided they'd had enough of her government and awarded the Progressive Conservatives a majority mandate.

Wynne made the announcement, pausing to wipe away tears, as she addressed supporters in her north Toronto riding late Thursday night.

She called the move "the right thing to do" in order to "pass the torch" to a new generation of Liberals.

"This is not a concession speech — I conceded days ago," Wynne said. "This is my chance to say thank you for allowing me to be premier, allowing me to connect with so many of you the last five years."

Wynne said she has asked the Liberal Party president to begin the process of finding an interim leader.

Wynne's own fate as an MPP was in doubt after she spoke, but close to 11:30 p.m., CBC declared she would hold her Don Valley West riding by fewer than 200 votes.

Kathleen Wynne announces she has resigned as Ontario Liberal Leader. 0:30

Her decision to step down did not come as a surprise — last weekend she stood before reporters and conceded that Ontario would have a new premier after the election. But at the time, she urged voters to cast their ballots for her party to try to stop the PCs and NDP from winning majority governments. 

But Wynne herself has grown increasingly unpopular in recent years, as Ontarians grew angry over hydro rates and the partial privatization of Hydro One, as well as the quick pace at which she raised the province's minimum wage.

"I know that tonight is not the result we were looking for and no one feels that more sharply than I do, but this is not a moment where any of us should linger. We can't stay here," she said.

"I hope that you can feel very proud of what we have done together in the past and absolutely determined to take on the task that lies ahead."

The Liberals dipped to their lowest popular vote ever Thursday, sitting around 19.3 per cent. The last record was set in 1923.

In his note of congratulations to incoming premier Doug Ford, Toronto Mayor John Tory congratulated Wynne and NDP Andrea Horwath on "hard fought campaigns."

"In particular, I would like to acknowledge Premier Wynne for her service to our province and our city over the last five years," Tory went on.

"I wish her, Jane and their family well."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a statement to congratulate Ford, but also thanked Wynne "for her years of service as premier."

The Liberals tied for their worst ever seat result tonight — seven seats. They got the same result back in 1951.

Just after 11:30 p.m. ET, the PCs had 76 seats, well into majority territory, while the NDP had 39 seats. The Liberals had seven, and appeared poised to fall one seat short of "recognized party" status in the legislature. 

The Green Party was the other big winner Thursday night, gaining its first seat in the legislature as Leader Mike Schreiner handily won in Guelph.

As the time closed in on 1 a.m. Friday, voter turnout was sitting at just under 58 per cent with one riding, Kiiwetinoong, left to report.

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