While Kathleen Wynne was re-elected in her own riding of Don Valley West, the Liberals fell just shy of the eight seats needed to maintain official party status in the province of Ontario, with MPs elected in just seven ridings.
Recognized parties are entitled to speak during debates and are guaranteed the opportunity to pose questions during question period. They receive public money to establish party offices to help them with research and other organizational tasks.
“They don’t get money for research, at the legislature. They don’t get representation on legislative committees. It means that they don’t get recognized during question period as a party, which means they’ll have a hard time raising questions,” said Nelson Wiseman, a political science professor at the University of Toronto.
Wiseman called the result “quite unusual,” though it’s not unheard of. A frequently-referenced example of a major Canadian political party losing official party status is the governing Progressive Conservatives dropping to just two seats from 154 with Kim Campbell during the 1993 federal election.
WATCH: Ontario Election: Liberals still hopeful for official party status
A current example at the federal level is the Green Party of Canada, which does not hold official party status in the House of Commons.
“Elizabeth May is in this situation federally, where she has gotten to ask questions from time to time, but not automatically every day. And it’s unusual when she has gotten to ask a question so it might end up being once a month,” said Wiseman.
While the election was called just 15 minutes after polls closed, with a PC majority government, the rest of the tallying was a nail-biter for the Liberals.
It was unclear for several hours after the final ballots were cast whether the Liberal Party would win enough seats out of Ontario’s 124 to make it out of this election as an official political party, and in the end, they came up short.
“There’s a lot of soul searching that goes on after a defeat like this,” said Darrell Bricker, CEO of Ipsos Public affairs.
In addition to the sting of defeat, the Liberals now have to contend with having their funds virtually cut in half, and not being entitled to ask questions in the House.
Bricker called the result a “devastating” one, especially if the party has most recently been in power. Furthermore, the Liberal party won’t be able to regain official party status until the next election is held four years from now.
Furthermore, Bricker estimated that the Liberal Party likely borrowed money to run this election campaign. Therefore, having their public funds stripped away will make the necessary “complete rebuilding” even tougher.
“They probably went into significant debt to run this election campaign so they have to find a way to pay that off. So it’s pretty tough going,” Bricker explained.
Kathleen Wynne resigned shortly after the projections for her party were announced, which Bricker said was her only choice.
“It’ll have to start with a new leader. The current premier is obviously not going to be the premier,” Bricker said in an interview with Global News before the polls closed.
The election was called in favour of a PC majority about 15 minutes after most polls closed in Ontario. The PCs are currently projected to win 76 seats, the NDP are projected to win 39, the Liberals are projected to win seven and the Green Party is projected to win one.