TORONTO — The Greater Toronto Area has done it again – propelling the Liberals to victory.
Justin Trudeau‘s Liberals carved a path to their minority win straight through the Toronto area, as early results showed their win was in no small part due to a sweep, or near-sweep, of the city and much of its surrounding region.
Ontario’s electoral map was little changed from 2019 in the Greater Toronto Area, showing a sea of red, though Davenport flipped between the Liberals and NDP with minuscule margins making it too close to call.
“It’s not just Ontario, I think it’s pretty much the whole country – it’s the same electoral map as last time,” said Jonathan Rose, a political science professor at Queen’s University.
“Of course it begs the question: well why have the election? But maybe the point of the election was sort of a kind of Goldilocks answer. Voters weren’t so hot on Justin Trudeau. They weren’t so cool on him, but they thought he was OK. Not a ringing endorsement.”
Genevieve Tellier, a political science professor at the University of Ottawa, said it was a “copy-paste election,” but the Liberals’ $10-a-day child-care plan was likely a factor in their wins in the GTA, where parents pay some of the highest fees in the country.
“Also, the Liberal win is a blessing for (Premier) Doug Ford: he will be able to negotiate an accord on child-care service with the federal government, and so this will not be an issue for the next provincial election,” Tellier said.
In the 2019 election, Ford became Trudeau’s punching bag, but during this campaign, the premiers of Alberta and Saskatchewan, where COVID-19 cases have surged, served as the Liberal leader’s proxy Conservative bogeymen.
Still, Ford’s popularity has dropped since the initial months of the pandemic, and Trudeau tried to appeal to voters who would be concerned about the prospect of conservative leaders at both levels.
“None of this happens if Erin O’Toole is sitting across the table from Doug Ford,” Trudeau said several times of both his child-care plan and vaccine policies.
Despite much of the province being status quo, there were some notable changes.
Green Party candidate Mike Morrice won Kitchener Centre, where incumbent Liberal Raj Saini resigned during the campaign over allegations that he harassed a female staff member, claims he firmly denies.
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But Green Party leader Annamie Paul placed fourth in Toronto Centre, where she spent the vast majority of the election campaign.
That riding was retained by Liberal former broadcaster Marci Ien. In fact, only a handful of ridings across the province saw incumbents lose their seats.
In the bellwether riding of Peterborough-Kawartha, which has only rarely bucked the trend of electing a government MP, incumbent Liberal Maryam Monsef lost to her Conservative challenger.
The Conservatives won the riding of Thornhill, north of Toronto, but the rest of the GTA electoral map showed red from Whitby to Burlington. Elsewhere in the province, the Tories won 37 seats, much of their support coming from rural and suburban ridings.
Leslyn Lewis, who ran for the Conservative leadership last year, won Haldimand-Norfolk, which had been left vacant after veteran Tory Diane Finley retired.
The People’s Party pulled in six per cent of the vote, though it didn’t win any seats.
There were reports of long lineups at some polling stations, with voters waiting several hours to cast a ballot.
Riley Galapon waited for two hours to vote in the Toronto riding of Spadina-Fort York, where in previous elections it’s taken her less than 10 minutes.
“I was aware there were lineups but didn’t expect to be there for two hours,” she said.
Fewer polling stations were open since many schools were not used as voting locations due to the pandemic.
Galapon said she and her fiance tried to keep busy while waiting in line.
“We streamed a bit of the Blue Jays game,” she said. “We talked to a few people in line here and there. Some were really frustrated while there was some like us who weren’t really too fussy and just enjoyed being outside.”
The Liberals and NDP had both been leading in Spadina-Fort York, despite the Liberals cutting ties with their candidate days before the vote after learning he previously faced a sexual assault charge that was later dropped. However, that came too late for the ballots to be changed, so Kevin Vuong was still listed as a Liberal.
The Liberals have said if he is elected he will not be a member of the Liberal caucus.
Several prominent Liberal cabinet ministers in Ontario such as Chrystia Freeland, Bill Blair and Patty Hajdu retained their seats.