The 2022 Ontario Election is over and the second chapter of the Ontario Government led by Premier Doug Ford begins. Despite a campaign that produced little drama, the election results already demonstrate immediate impacts and foreshadow challenges ahead that will shape Ontario’s next four years.
Taking our clients and readers beyond the headlines, Counsel will be sharing a series of debriefs observing the outcome of yesterday’s election and how this will shape the priorities of the government, the legislature, and your sector in the months and years ahead. We’re starting off with a focus on the new faces at Queen’s Park, and how they will define this next chapter.
First, the top-line numbers from yesterday’s election:
- The PC Party succeeded in winning a clear second mandate with a very strong majority government of 83 seats;
- The Ontario NDP secured its role as Official Opposition and held onto a number of seats in close races – even though they narrowly lost the popular vote race for 2nd – with 31 seats;
- The Ontario Liberals won 24% of the vote, but with just 8 seats they only narrowly increased the size of their caucus and remain four seats short of official party status;
- The Greens failed to pick up any new seats, despite increasing their vote share and easily re-electing leader Mike Schreiner; and
- There is a rare sighting at Queen’s Park – an elected Independent MPP (more on her below).
As the results streamed in, two party leaders – NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and Ontario Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca – announced that they are stepping down, ending this chapter of their political careers and putting their parties into a leadership selection process over the coming months. This creates further opportunity for the Ford government to define this mandate on their own terms.
Perhaps one of the biggest stories of the night turned out to be the level of apathy among voters. Voter turnout hit a historic low at only 43.5%, meaning well over half of Ontarians chose not to participate this election. This is down from nearly 58% in the 2018 election. Despite the top line results, all three major parties saw their overall number of votes decline notably from 2018. Many voters chose “None of the Above” as their preferred option – or were sufficiently content with the status quo and were unmotivated to vote.
NEW FACES AT QUEENS PARK
Those are the big stories, but in banquet halls, restaurants, community centres and church basements across Ontario, triumphant candidates celebrated victories with their teams last night … and this morning, these same candidates are sleepily driving around their ridings, picking up signs and cleaning up the debris from the campaign – the glamour of politics.
Here are some of the new faces at Queen’s Park that we think you’ll be seeing more of in the coming four years. This is not an exhaustive list – just the names of some individuals that have caught our eye and that could shape the political landscape in the years to come.
The big winner of the night, of course, is the PC Party, with 17 new MPPs elected to the legislature, representing both stalwart PC ridings as well as those that haven’t elected a PC representative in well over a generation. While there are too many to include here, some notables include:
George Pirie – (Timmins): The former Mayor of Timmins unseated Gilles Bisson, the NDP MPP for this riding since 1990. Yes, you read that correctly – a respected 32-year incumbent who has been an institution at Queens Park for over three decades, and who entered the campaign without notable baggage – was defeated quite resoundingly. Mr. Pirie secured 65% of the vote, more than doubling the vote of Mr. Bisson. Astounding.
Mr. Pirie comes to the job with an impressive resumé. He was a popular (obviously!) mayor of Timmins and before that was President and CEO of Placer Dome Canada, Breakwater Resources and San Gold Inc. With construction of critical infrastructure to the Ring of Fire – and unlocking the accompanying employment opportunities – a signature priority for the re-elected government, could Pirie be a future Minister of Natural Resources? He would be an obvious choice.
Neil Lumsden – (Hamilton East-Stoney Creek): This is another long-time NDP seat flipped by the Tories, which is itself an interesting story that both immediate and deeper reverberations for the NDP. Mr. Lumsden’s personal story is our focus today: he’s a CFL Hall-of-Famer and 3-time Grey Cup champion with the then-named Edmonton Eskimos. Yet his Hamilton sports bona fides run deeper: he was GM of the 1999 Grey Cup Champion Hamilton Tiger Cats, and his son Jesse was a highly-touted CFL player and former Olympian who played his signature years in a Ti-Cats jersey. With the City of Hamilton bidding to host the 2030 Commonwealth Games and an ironclad sports pedigree, could Mr. Lumsden be a future Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries?
Charmaine Williams – (Brampton Centre): Ms. Williams was a Brampton City Councillor, but her professional resumé is not typical of a path to politics. She is a certified Multi-Systemic Therapist, behavioural consultant and counsellor who has worked in the domestic abuse and children’s mental health space for almost 20 years. Also, as a woman of colour representing a GTA riding, she represents a diversity that is welcome in the Ontario legislature. The social services file has been a sore-spot for the Ford government in the last four years. We predict Ms. Williams may have a considerable influence on this file going forward.
John Jordan – (Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston): Mr. Jordan has over 30 years’ experience as a senior healthcare executive, most recently as CEO of ConnectWell Community Health in Lanark. His official biography touts his experience in building out primary health care, mental health and addictions supports in his community. This experience in rural health care will be very valuable around the PC caucus table, and Mr. Jordan could become a key advisor to whoever takes the job at the critical Ministry of Health. With a little more political experience, he may even one day be a candidate for Minister of Health himself.
Natalie Pierre – (Burlington): Ms. Pierre is a political novice, but comes with an interesting background in human resource management, most recently in charge of talent acquisition for Sheridan College. With labour issues, worker shortages and the race for talent being prominent issues in the coming years, Ms. Pierre’s experience will be quite valuable in the PC caucus.
Anthony Leardi – (Essex): Mr. Leardi is lawyer and former Deputy-Mayor of Amherstberg who was elected in traditional NDP territory. As a lawyer with criminal law experience, he is a relative rarity among MPPs.
This front-line justice system experience will be valuable as important, though often-overlooked, questions of capacity and access to justice are considered in the coming years.
Rick Byers – (Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound): Mr. Byers has been eager to serve in elected office for years. He has run as the PC Party of Canada candidate in Oakville in 2000, as the Conservative Party of Canada candidate in Oakville in 2004, and as the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario candidate in Oakville in 2007. After three defeats, he moved out of Oakville and settled in Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound. When popular incumbent Bill Walker stepped down last year, Rick saw his chance and won handily.
Rick’s resumé outside of politics is impressive: Rick has been a senior finance executive with BMO and Borealis Infrastructure. He’s been a Board Member with Metrolinx, the provincial transit agency, and the Canadian Council for Public Private Partnerships. Rick has deep expertise in infrastructure financing. Considering the entire PC Party platform was built around a pledge to “Get it Done” with nearly $200 billion in infrastructure investments, having someone like Mr. Byers who understands these complex deals in the caucus will be a real asset.
Kristyn Wong-Tam – (Toronto Centre): The popular and high-profile Toronto City Councillor left City Council to seek the job as MPP for Toronto Centre. Now, as a rookie MPP just 12 hours into the job, Wong-Tam is already being asked whether she has designs on leadership of the Ontario NDP. Could she be the next Jack Layton, who moved from Toronto Council to leadership?
Chandra Pasma – (Ottawa West-Nepean): Chandra has been an organizer and researcher for CUPE and active in the anti-poverty movement in the Ottawa area. This riding was not only the sole seat picked up from the PCs by NDP, but the only PC incumbent defeated province-wide, giving Ms. Pasma a unique status. As a public-sector union organizer, she will have a prominent voice in the NDP caucus on behalf of the public-sector union constituency, which will be galvanized in the face of mounting inflation, a re-elected Ford majority and impending contract negotiations.
Even with just 8 seats, there are four new Liberal caucus being welcomed this morning, all four with strong resumes that will help rejuvenate the party’s small caucus as it embarks on some difficult soul-searching while trying to maintain effective opposition. They include:
Ted Hsu – (Kingston and the Islands): Ted was a highly-touted former Member of Parliament for the riding who surprised many when he stepped down prior to the 2015 election to focus on his young family. With his children now in their early teens, he took a turn at provincial politics this election. As a fresh face with legislative political experience, he will be looked upon for leadership in the Liberal caucus.
A Princeton PhD in physics with a strong environmental background who is a much better communicator than most scientists, Hsu will be one to watch. Don’t forget: in 2013 he was named Parliamentarian of the Year by Maclean’s, in particular for his excellent constituent service as then-MP.
Stephanie Bowman – (Don Valley West): Stephanie held off PC candidate and former Toronto Police Chief, Mark Saunders, to win this seat formerly held by Premier Kathleen Wynne. She has an impressive resumé: former Board member of the Bank of Canada, senior executive with Scotiabank, partner at Ernst & Young, and extensive community volunteer work. With all that experience, we expect Ms. Bowman could become a formidable MPP, critic and opponent to the Ford government in the coming years.
Bobbi Ann Brady – (Haldimand-Norfolk): Long-time Haldimand-Norfolk MPP, Toby Barrett – first elected in 1995 – announced in March that he was not going to seek re-election. He wanted his long-time constituency assistant, Ms. Brady, to be his successor. The Ontario PC Party brass wanted Haldimand Mayor, Ken Hewitt, to be their candidate and nominated him. Mr. Barrett – once a loyalist to Doug Ford – got organized and managed a spirited campaign for his friend Ms. Brady, who won election last night by over 2,000 votes. She will sit as an independent in the Ontario legislature. While is a rare occurrence for an independent to be elected, we expect she will support the government agenda on many, if not most, occasions.
The interesting thing to note is that the overriding local issue that got Ms. Brady (and Mr. Barrett) so exercised, was a proposed housing development for nearly 40,000 residents on industrial lands near Nanticoke, by developer Empire Communities. Hewitt was a proponent of the development, with Brady and Barrett vociferously opposing. Given the agenda of the Ford government to “Get it Done” with new housing development across Ontario, is this a cautionary tale, perhaps?
These are just some of the names that caught our eye in the early hours since the election. There are many more and we mean no offense by not including all of the particularly impressive crop of new MPPs who will be sitting in the Legislature in the coming years. It’s an exciting time with a lot of new faces and returning veterans looking to get started and, as Premier Ford says often: “Get it done.”
To learn more about the new Ontario government, don’t hesitate to reach out to any of our Counsel Public Affairs consultants.
Senior Vice President