Ontario bleeds red as Liberals oust
(CP) Eight years of Conservative tax cuts in Ontario came
to a screeching halt Thursday as Dalton McGuinty's Liberals
sailed to a majority government, luring voters with a promise
to end the "politics of division."
"The people of Ontario have chosen change," said McGuinty,
a straitlaced lawyer and family man who represents the Ottawa
riding once held by his father.
"They've chosen more than just change in terms of their government,
they've chosen something more profound, they've rejected a
negative message and chosen a positive one."
The Liberals were leading or elected in 72 ridings around
the province, leaving the Tories with 24 seats and the New
Democrats with the remaining six seats. All three leaders were
elected, but the NDP appeared to fall short of the eight seats
required for official party status, which extends privileges
in the legislature.
It was the first time in almost 70 years a sitting Conservative
premier in Ontario had lost an election outright.
Defeated Ontario Premier Ernie Eves was gracious in defeat
congratulating McGuinty for a campaign well-fought while thanking
his campaign workers for their tireless work.
"Earlier this evening I phoned Dalton and congratulated him
and his team, wishing them well as they form the next government
in the province of Ontario," Eves told supporters to applause.
"While we have some fundamental differences, Mr. McGuinty
and I, we both share a strong desire to make a difference for
the fine people of this great province of Ontario. And as he
becomes Ontario's 24th premier, I do wish him well."
Ontario Tories were quick to admit they had regrets over the
way their aggressive campaign was handled upon losing control
of the province to the Liberals.
A number of prominent cabinet ministers were defeated, most
notably Tony Clement, who as health minister was lauded for
his performance during the recent SARS outbreaks and Janet
Ecker, who as finance minister was derided for delivering the
spring budget before TV cameras at an auto-parts plant.
McGuinty said the province could ill afford more tax cuts
if there were to be improvements to Ontario's schools and hospitals.
Corporate tax cuts will be rolled back as the Liberals start
to implement Ontario's $71-billion budget, and a promised property
tax break for seniors will be cancelled.
In the new Liberal Ontario, residents can also expect to see
a cap on class sizes in the early grades, more doctors and
nurses, a tuition freeze and an increase to the minimum wage.
NDP Leader Howard Hampton had boldly predicted his party would
form the official Opposition. Instead, Hampton found himself
telling supporters in his northern Ontario riding the NDP's
meagre showing would still allow them a meaningful role in
the democratic process.
"The people have told us they want New Democrats in the legislature
to protect the things people care about and we will continue
to do just that."