Ontario PCs enter second term as NDP and Liberals hunt for new leaders

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Ontario’s main political parties are charting new courses forward today, with one heading into a second term with an even stronger mandate than before and two others searching for new leaders.

The Progressive Conservatives won a second majority Thursday night, leading to resignations from both Andrea Horwath as leader of the New Democrats and Steven Del Duca as leader of the Liberals.

The Tories won a startling 83 seats, even more than than the 76 they won in 2018 that was considered a “super majority” at the time.

The NDP formed official Opposition again, with 31 seats, while the Liberals failed to secure official party status for the second consecutive election with just eight seats.

Now, the PCs will turn their attention to delivering on their promises of rebuilding from the pandemic, while also adding some new faces to caucus.

Mitch Heimpel, a former Conservative staffer in Ford’s government, said he’ll be watching to see how new members shape the party and its approach to governing.

For the NDP, the hunt is on to find a successor who can surpass Horwath’s legacy. The Hamilton-born daughter of an automaker ran in four elections, forming official Opposition for the first time in 2018 partly due to the stunning collapse of the Wynne Liberals.

Peter Graefe, an associate political science professor at McMaster University, said whoever takes the helm of the Ontario NDP next will have to find a way to better appeal to Ontarians – but first they must gain recognition.

“You have to first get Ontarians to know you,” he said. “And that’s going to take some time, I think.”

The Liberals, on the other hand, will be looking for a leader who can present a new image for the party that isn’t affiliated with past missteps. Del Duca, a former Wynne cabinet minister, was unable to overcome his previous tenure during the campaign.

Chris Cochrane, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Toronto Scarborough, said the Liberals’ real defeat in this election is that they aren’t in a better position than where they were four years ago.

Their biggest challenge will be reintroducing themselves as a party that can form the government, he said.

“They have a real uphill battle,” he said. “Not just do they have to hope that the Conservatives falter … But they also have to hope that they’re the party voters turn to to replace them and it’s not obvious that that’s going to be the case.”

Ford took a more straightforward and less buzzy approach to campaigning this time around, focusing on building infrastructure rather than making buck-a-beer promises that defined 2018.

Heimpel said the simple message focused on construction and jobs likely had a hand in delivering the Tory victory – so the biggest task for Ford’s government will be to actually do that.

“‘Get it done’ was the slogan. It also has to be the mantra this government for the next four years, because that’s how they’re going to be measured,” he said.

Wayne Petrozzi, a political science professor at Toronto Metropolitan University, said the government will “have a pretty free hand” for the next year as the Liberals and New Democrats look to fill their leadership voids.

As politicians and parties carry on, Petrozzi said voters — who weren’t largely engaged with the campaign or issues at stake — will likely move on with their lives and focus on other things.

“I think the dust will settle quick, then everyone’s going to go away,” he said.

Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press