New Democrats now Official Opposition to new Tory government
ONTARIO—A jubilant Mike Mantha celebrated with supporters last Thursday evening at Jackleggers Bar and Grill in Elliot Lake after the voters of Algoma-Manitoulin returned him to Queen’s Park with a commanding majority of votes (58 percent).
This is Mr. Mantha’s third term as MPP for the riding. But the jubilation is tempered with the realization that, for the next four years, it will be Doug Ford and the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party that will form a majority government. Mr. Mantha’s New Democratic Party, however, have been elevated Official Opposition status after the 2018 vote.
The PCs ended the election winning the popular vote, taking 76 of the 124 seats up for grabs, a gain of 49 seats. The NDP will form the Official Opposition, with 40 seats, while the Liberals have taken an historic loss, reduced to seven seats and losing official party status and posting a historic low of 19.59 percent of the popular vote. The Green Party also made history, winning its first seat for leader Mike Schreiner in Guelph, finishing fourth in most ridings and garnering 4.6 percent of the popular vote.
In Algoma-Manitoulin, the NDP bucked the blue trend, as did most of the North, with Mike Mantha securing 15,995 votes (or 58.25 percent) in the June 7 tally, winning by a margin of 9,245 votes. He was followed by the Progressive Conservatives’ Jib Turner who placed second with 6,750 votes (or 24.58 percent); Liberal Charles Fox with 2,272 votes (or 8.27 percent); Tommy Lee of the Northern Ontario Party with 1,260 (or 4.59 percent); Justin Tilson of the Green Party with 989 votes (or 3.60 percent); and Kalena Mallon-Ferguson of the Libertatian Party with 192 votes (or 0.70 percent).
All of the Island’s polls were a decided orange colour following the election, in fact, the only two polls in the entire riding that bucked the trend were polls 35 and 36 running in a line from Thessalon to Mississagi Lake, which went Tory blue.
Contacted on election night, Mr. Mantha said that he was “absolutely pleased” about being re-elected to represent the people of Algoma-Manitoulin but that he was clear in his mandate. “I am very happy that the people of Algoma-Manitoulin have put their confidence in me. It’s a responsibility that I take with great pride,” he said. “I look forward to going back to Queen’s Park, but for me really nothing changes. I’ve heard from people I met on the doorsteps across Algoma-Manitoulin and the issues they brought forward are those that I’m going to continue to be focusing on when I go back to Queen’s Park.”
As for operating in a very different landscape when he arrives in the provincial capital, Mr. Mantha said that he was confident that his networking skills will continue to serve the people of Algoma-Manitoulin well. Mr. Mantha said that he will be meeting old and new colleagues when he returns to Queen’s Park, and as for working with the new PC government, the veteran MPP said “I pride myself on being able to build relationships, I have been successful in the past.” Mr. Mantha said he will work to continue to see good things happen in the riding as they did under the previous government.
Haweater Jib Turner of Little Current said that he was “pleased with the overall result with a majority Progressive Conservative government taking the helm. But I am obviously disappointed with the results in this riding. The riding will again be sending someone to Queen’s Park as a spectator. That has not been effective for this riding in the past.”
But still, Mr. Turner sees good things ahead for the riding thanks to the Progressive Conservative majority. “The Progressive Conservative government is looking to uplift the resource industries in the North and that will benefit the riding.”
For Green Party candidate and also Haweater Justin Tilson, it was also bittersweet moment. Although he came in fifth in an election where most ridings saw the Green Party filling the fourth place slot, his party leader made history by becoming the first Green Party candidate to be elected to the legislature.
“I was inspired to run as a Green candidate after Mike Schriener made his second trip to Manitoulin to visit and speak with a tiny group of supporters here last year,” said Mr. Tilson. “His breadth of understanding on issues, combined with his straight, honest, tell it like it is approach and his care of people and the planet made it really easy to get behind him. His tireless commitment and dogged persistence through three election cycles has finally paid off. Almost one in 20 people who have never had a voice at Queen’s Park will finally have someone to represent them.
“Unfortunately this breakthrough comes at a very difficult time. Our first past the post electoral system has handed the Conservatives 100 percent of the power while the majority (60 percent) of Ontarians voted for a different team. Perhaps now the Liberals and NDP will see how it feels to be excluded from a meaningful position at the table simply because of how votes are counted. I hope that this outcome will lead to change to a more proportional and representative voting system in the future. Mike (Schreiner) will have his work cut out for him to be a voice for progress but not at the cost of our natural resources, our health care, relations to First Nations and future generations.”
As for premier-elect Doug Ford, he reached out in premier-like fashion. “I intend to lead a government for all the people,” he said during his victory speech. “This is incredible. My friends, this victory belongs to you. Tonight the people of Ontario have spoken. You have come together around one common vision of Ontario.”
Mr. Ford will be sworn in as Ontario’s premier on June 29—just in time for the Canada Day long weekend.
His transition team will include veteran political consultant Chris Froggatt, who served in the Harper government and who will chair the transition team; former federal Conservative Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird (and also former Harris-era cabinet minister), former PC president Rueben Devlin (a physician who was CEO of Humber River Hospital for 17 years); Simone Daniels, who works at Ford’s firm, Deco Labels and Tags; and PC stalwart Mike Coates.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, who becomes official Opposition leader, said the election is a “new beginning” for her party, which will be on its toes, given the concerns of millions of voters about Ford’s promised $6 billion in unspecified government spending cuts.”
“We have a big job ahead of us. The people of Ontario have asked us to hold Doug Ford accountable for every decision that he makes,” she said. “When I think about the cuts that are coming, what I know is people don’t want their health care system cut. They want their schools fixed for their kids.”
Former Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne stepped down as Liberal leader after Thursday night’s electoral debacle, but she will stay on as the MPP for Don Valley West while the party selects an interim leader. “It’s going to be different,” said Ms. Wynne, who is going from leader to simple MPP, but as for her constituents in a riding where she remains very popular… “they can count on me to represent them at Queen’s Park.”
Her Liberal Party is one seat short of the eight MPPs required to maintain party status in the Ontario legislature and it is likely that the party will petition the new government to grant them this status without the requisite seats. The NDP was in this same position a dozen years ago and the McGuinty Liberal government of the day allowed them to continue functioning as a party with all the ordinary prerequisites.