It got done. Ford returns to Queen’s Park with second majority mandate

After a 28-day campaign, the results are in, and Ontario has re-elected Doug Ford and his Ontario PCs with a majority mandate. As Ford heads back to the Premier’s Office and prepares to assemble his next Cabinet, here’s what to expect as the Ford government prepares for its first 100 days back in office:

Reintroducing Premier Doug Ford and what he stands for

Doug Ford, Toronto city councillor-turned-Premier, is returning to Queen’s Park with a fresh slate of MPPs and a fresh outlook on governing the province. His leadership up until now has been full of unexpected challenges: he only had three months between winning his party leadership and securing his first majority in 2018, the first two years of his term were surrounded in controversy, and the last two years were consumed by the pandemic. Ford’s ability to navigate these waters while reinventing himself and returning his party to power is reflective of a politically shrewd Premier who will seek to protect and incrementally expand on his success over the next four years.

Ford is returning to government having successfully transformed himself from a bombastic populist to a moderate centrist. His campaign conveyed the maturity of an experienced Premier that we should expect to continue into this mandate. Ford will attempt for his governance to be defined by collaboration with municipal and federal governments, incremental increases to healthcare and education funding, and continued aversion to unnecessary risks.

The Road Ahead

Ford’s successful “Get it Done” campaign will now be measured by what he actually gets done. Ford’s success moving forward will be defined by showing progress on infrastructure projects – highways, transit, hospitals, long-term care – that will take longer than his four-year mandate to complete. This, combined with on-going inflationary pressures, supply chain issues, and labour shortages means Ford is in for some tough challenges along the way.

To secure his success, the depths of Ford’s policy actions will have to extend beyond what was discussed in the campaign. His ambitious building agenda will necessitate further red tape reduction and streamlined approvals across different levels of government, requiring Ford to continue his collaborative approach with municipalities and the federal government. Some in his conservative coalition may demand a return to stricter fiscal restraint, moving away from the big spending budgets that have allowed Ford to “get it done.” However, with a stronger majority tonight than in 2018, it’s clear that this is now Ford’s PC party and his approach is likely here to stay.

Cabinet hopefuls vying for a spot in Ford’s inner circle

 In 2018, Ford inherited the existing slate of PC candidates and many long-time MPPs from his predecessor. As soon as he was elected, Ford was required to balance the seniority of existing MPPs, the aspirations of newly elected MPPs that he did not recruit, and the political differences highlighted by a fierce leadership race.

Now, in 2022, with 19 incumbents not running under the PC banner, Ford has the luxury of building a Cabinet that is uniquely his own. Here’s who to keep an eye on as decisions get made:

  • George Pirie, Timmins – Pirie successfully unseated long-time NDP Gilles Bisson. The strategic importance of his seat, his Northern riding, and experience as Mayor of Timmins makes him one to watch.
  • Anthony Leardi, Essex – Leardi brings 23 years of litigation experience and is former Deputy-Mayor of the Town of Amerstburg. His seat was also a strategic win for the PCs, taking it from the NDP and expanding their reach in southwestern Ontario
  • Rob Flack, Elgin-Middlesex-London – taking over Jeff Yurek’s seat, Flack brings nearly three decades of agriculture experience to Cabinet, currently operating Flack Farms. Flack was also Director and Chair of the London International Airport and Chair of St. Peter’s Seminary Foundation.

We should also expect to see a return of now-seasoned Ministers like Caroline Mulroney, Todd Smith, Steve Clark, Stephen Lecce, and Peter Bethlenfalvy who were also successful in winning back their seats, however they may be serving in different portfolios post Cabinet-shuffle.  Even the hardiest of Cabinet Ministers sometimes needs a change of scenery and an opportunity for a fresh start in a new portfolio.

The Official Opposition

The NDP are returning to Queen’s Park as the Official Opposition, but Andrea Horwath will not be returning as leader.

At the end of her concession speech she announced it is “time for her to pass the torch” after failing to secure government in her fourth election. Although Horwath won her seat, the NDP will be choosing a new leader in the coming months to lead their caucus at Queen’s Park. Expect long-time MPPs like Catherine Fife to mull a leadership bid, or newer MPPs like Marit Stiles who successfully secured their re-election.

A surprising loss for the NDP tonight was Deputy Leader Sarah Singh in Brampton Centre, however given her performance over the past four years, many may be keen to see her enter the race as well.

Liberal leader Steven Del Duca wasn’t able to secure his own seat, or party status for the Liberals. As a result, he is also resigning. Still seeking official party status, the Liberals will be thrust into another leadership race to find a leader that will help them rebuild. Former leadership contestant Mitzie Hunter won her Scarborough seat and could pursue another bid, and although Kate Graham lost her London race, many in the party hope she will go for the job as well.

Ridings we’re talking about

  •  Haldimand-Norfolk – former staffer to PC MPP Toby Barrett, Bobbi Ann Brady was passed over for the PC nomination in the riding after Barrett announced he would not seek re-election. Instead, she ran as an Independent and secured the seat herself.
  • Windsor-Tecumseh – a long-time NDP riding turned blue, Ford expanded his reach in Southwestern Ontario, and demonstrating the success of his concerted effort to attract investment to the border city.
  • Essex – an early target seat for Ford, the PCs flipped the seat after three consecutive wins by the NDP.