Stephen Harper has a little more than a year to figure out what message he can deliver to Ontario voters after scandals and a promise of a million jobs could not persuade them to turn away from the provincial Liberals and Premier Kathleen Wynne.
There is no doubt that the Liberal majority win on Thursday evening has bolstered the confidence of their federal cousins.
“This election is an historic moment for the province,” Justin Trudeau, the federal Liberal Leader, said in a statement after Ms. Wynne’s victory was announced.
“Ontario needs a partner in Ottawa, not an antagonist,” Mr. Trudeau said. “We Liberals are determined to work with the provincial government to build that positive alternative for Ontarians and all other Canadians.”
The federal vote has not mirrored the Ontario results in recent years. But Mr. Trudeau is undoubtedly hoping the Liberal victory indicates a willingness on the part of Ontario voters to consider his party when the national election is called next year.
Ms. Wynne managed to fashion a win out of a campaign that began with an attack on the federal Conservatives whom she accused of having a “small, narrow, vision of what this country is. …”
Mr. Harper, she said in early May, has hurt Ontario through the federal transfer system, by neglecting the resources that lie undeveloped in the Ring of Fire, and by ignoring a national pension crisis. And she warned voters that Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak could not be trusted to confront Mr. Harper when the two share so many values and ideals.
The Prime Minister himself did not engage with Ms. Wynne. But Harper cabinet ministers, who made a point of not commenting on the provincial campaign in Quebec earlier this year, had no similar reservations about lobbing criticisms back at the Ontario Liberals.
But Mr. Harper congratulated Ms. Wynne and her team on their election victory.
“I look forward to working with Premier Wynne on issues of importance to Ontarians and all Canadians, including promoting jobs, growth and long-term prosperity,” he said in a statement.
Treasury Board President Tony Clement attacked the Ontario Liberals for their economic record, the gas-plants fiasco and the increase in hydro costs across the province. And Finance Minister Joe Oliver said in June, when the Ontario election was in full swing, that the national economy was being weighted down by the deficits in the country’s two largest provinces.
Thomas Mulcair, the federal NDP Leader, campaigned with Andrea Horwath, the Leader of the Ontario New Democrats in Kingston on the night before the vote. Ms. Horwath held her own. But there was nothing in the results to suggest a broad uptick in NDP support.