The scale of Doug Ford’s victory on June 7 is obvious from the province’s seat count. Seventy-four seats adds up to a clear majority, a definitive sign that Ontario voters chose to empower Ford’s brand of change. Progressive Conservatives won in all kinds of rural strongholds and suburban swings. The NDP solidified its hold on traditional downtown ridings, working-class districts and northern areas. The Greens finally came out on top in Guelph. But the top-line numbers mask the volatility of the province’s electoral map, and the true restlessness of its voters. Comparing the 2018 results to those from 2014, distributed proportionally among new ridings, offers a clearer picture.
Liberals were wiped out in most strongholds—and it wasn’t even close.
The 2014 Liberals won 10 ridings with margins of 26 per cent or more. They lost all but three on June 7, including in Vaughan-Woodbridge, where Steven Del Duca’s 31-point edge turned into an 18-point defeat. The onslaught spread from the suburbs to the core. In the heart of Toronto Centre, the NDP flipped a 41-point loss into a 27-point win. Indeed, the Tories and New Democrats both won more seats with 25 per cent margins than the Liberals won at all.
So widespread was voters’ rejection of Liberals that the party’s share of the vote dropped in every single riding. Their biggest slide came in Sault Ste. Marie, where their share of votes dropped 48.57 points from 2014 to less than 10 per cent. The NDP vote jumped 15 percentage points, and the PCs vaulted more than 20 points.
In 2014, the Liberals finished first or second in 110 ridings. This time, they finished worse than second in 90 out of 124 ridings. The NDP finished first or second in only 49 ridings in the last election. This year, the party more than doubled that number to 99. Ford’s PCs finished out of the top two in only a dozen ridings combined.
The PCs and NDP ganged up on the Liberals around Toronto.
Take the six ridings in Scarborough, the sprawling inner suburb on the east side of Toronto. The Liberals swept the city in 2014, and it wasn’t close. On their way to that majority win, the party built up a winning margin of 34 per cent in Scarborough Centre. But four-term MPP Brad Duguid didn’t run for re-election in 2018, and his Liberals sank to third as the PCs beat the NDP by five per cent. The Tories won four surrounding ridings, where the Liberals sank to third place in all but one. The New Democrats swiped Scarborough Southwest, where PCs came second. Only Mitzie Hunter, a popular Liberal in Scarborough-Guildwood, hung on for the win—and by a mere 81 votes, the closest race in the province.
The rest of the GTA underscored the same lurches to the right and left. In 2014, Liberals won four of five ridings in Brampton. Jagmeet Singh, now the federal NDP leader, scored the fifth. This time, the NDP won three and the PCs two. The Liberals sank to third in all five.
Everybody gained vote share in Guelph—except for one party.
Only the Liberals saw their vote share drop in Guelph, where Green Party leader Mike Schreiner ran away with his party’s first seat in the province. The Liberals were down 31.39 points, a vote swallowed up mostly by Schreiner. But the PCs were up almost one per cent; the New Democrats were up nearly four per cent; and even the combined “other party” vote, which included the None of the Above Party, the Libertarians, the Ontario Party and a Communist candidate, inched up slightly.
The NDP and PCs mostly lost votes in ridings that weren’t close.
The NDP did see its vote share drop in 11 ridings, but they still won eight of those contests. One they didn’t win was Kenora-Rainy River, where former federal natural resources minister Greg Rickford, a Progressive Conservative, completed his political comeback after losing federally in 2015. Rickford, who won the similar federal riding by a margin of 20 per cent in 2011, fell to third after two popular locals entered the race: Howard Hampton, a former provincial NDP leader who retired in 2011 and attempted his own comeback; and the winner, Liberal Bob Nault, a former MP who earlier retired in 2004.
Rickford was one of dozens of candidates to see a boost in PC party support in his riding. His party did, however, lose ground in eight ridings. Six of those were in Ottawa, and none had the effect of flipping ridings to other parties.
Not so for the Liberals, for whom even bad luck played a role in the calamity. Ten ridings were decided by margins tighter than 1.6 per cent. The Liberals won just one of those races, lost by a hair in a handful of others, and were not a factor in the rest.