That’s all that kept Premier Dalton McGuinty from winning an historic third straight Liberal majority last night.
The Liberal leader’s last chance might have come and gone in Perth-Wellington, where Tory newcomer Randy Pettapiece beat Liberal Environment Minister John Wilknson in a close race.
The loss was symbolic.
All across rural Ontario, voters angry at McGuinty’s green energy policy – which translated into wind turbines in their back yards – blew out the Liberals and ushered in the Conservatives.
“Look at the seats he’s lost in Ontario – it’s clear rural Ontario is rejecting his dictatorial rule through the Green Energy Act,” said John Laforet, president of Winds Concern Ontario.
The turbines also blew Liberal Agriculture Minister Carol Mitchell out the door in Huron-Bruce.
“Wind turbine development has jumped into a paramount position,” said rookie Conservative candidate Lisa Thompson, who took down the two-term Liberal MPP.
The close race left Ontario voters with an uncertain political landscape, but at least one observer doesn’t think much will change.
“Dalton McGuinty will still be premier, and when provincial parliament reconvenes he’ll govern with the minority,” said Nelson Wiseman, a political scientist at the University of Toronto.
“I don’t think he’ll make a deal with anybody, because I don’t think anybody wants another election and they are so close to a majority that people will feel the election was stolen from the Liberals if they were defeated.”
In the 10-riding London region, Conservatives won seven races, the Liberals two and the NDP one. Teresa Armstrong’s win in London-Fanshawe was the first for the NDP in the city since 1995.
For several months before the election, polls suggested Tim Hudak’s Tories were in the lead and the Liberals in trouble.
But after the first week, the two parties were in a dead heat.
The race began slowly, with little voter interest and some stumbling by the leaders.
Hudak may have solidified support from the far right by raising the issue of “foreign workers” taking jobs from Ontarians under a McGuinty plan to give tax credits to employers hiring skilled immigrants, but the words reminded urban voters of the divisive days of Mike Harris.
McGuinty was criticized in turn for an aggressive defence that compared the Tories to the U.S. Tea Party movement.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath was simply unknown.
As summer waned, the campaign began to focus on important questions: How can Ontario get more jobs? How sick is our health care system?
A QMI Agency-Leger Marketing poll released before the last week of the campaign concluded job creation and the economy was the issue that would most effect voters, with 31% agreeing it was their top concern, followed by health care and taxes (tied at 22%).
When faced with a choice, voters will pick economic health over the environment, suggested political scientist Cameron Anderson at the University of Western Ontario, co-director of the school’s political behaviour research group.
McGuinty was trying to tie the two together with a green jobs strategy the Liberals say would deliver 50,000 clean energy jobs.
The Tories vowed to scrap the green plan in favour of tax cuts for corporations, cutting red tape and the creation of 200,000 apprenticeship positions.
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