Doug Ford’s right-leaning Progressive Conservative party has won an enhanced majority in legislative elections in Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, according to projections.
The party was on track to win at least 83 of the provincial legislature’s 124 seats, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation projected on Thursday. The party held just 67 in the last legislature.
“What a night. And what a result. Together we have done the impossible. We have made history,” Ford, who became premier in 2018, told supporters in his home constituency in Toronto as they chanted “Four more years!”
“Tonight’s victory, it isn’t about me. It isn’t about the party,” Ford added. “This victory belongs to each and every one of you.”
The sweep came after Ford faced criticism over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the province’s strained healthcare system.
Happy #ElectionDay Ontario!
It is so important to vote.
Polls are open until 9pm across the province. 🗳 pic.twitter.com/iSkzDG2pTE
— Doug Ford (@fordnation) June 2, 2022
He campaigned on the back of a promise to increase spending despite a massive existing debt load.
The leaders of the Progressive Conservatives’ main opponents, the left-leaning New Democratic Party (NDP) and the Liberals, both announced they would step down following the victory on Thursday night, with liberal leader Steven Del Duca projected to lose in his own constituency.
“We didn’t get there this time. But just know we will continue to be the powerful champions people need us to be,” NDP leader Andrea Horwath said after the defeat.
Ontario is home to just under 40 percent of Canada’s 38.2 million people and is Canada’s manufacturing heartland.
The provincial government is one of the world’s largest sub-sovereign, or below the national government, borrowers, with publicly held debt currently standing at $331bn.
Meanwhile, with inflation in Canada at a three-decade high, housing and cost-of-living issues topped the campaigns.
While Ford’s popularity plunged in 2020 amid accusations Ontario had bungled the COVID-19 pandemic response, he has steadily regained support, in part through moves including eliminating licence plate renewal fees and expanding a foreign buyer tax on homes.