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Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty held an open caucus meeting on May 3, allowing reporters to attend, in the wake of the federal Liberals' historic defeat at the hands of the Tories and the NDP. (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail/Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty held an open caucus meeting on May 3, allowing reporters to attend, in the wake of the federal Liberals' historic defeat at the hands of the Tories and the NDP. (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail/Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)

Ontario

Federal results cast shadow over coming provincial elections Add to ...

The historic federal election that vaulted the Conservatives to a majority and the New Democrats to Official Opposition and pushed the Liberals to third place will test the resolve of three of Canada's premiers, all of whom go to the polls in the near future.

The Liberals have virtually fallen off the map in British Columbia. Their foundation in Ontario has crumbled with the loss of seats held for decades. And in Quebec, the New Democrats all but wiped out the Bloc Québécois, reducing the voice of the sovereignty movement in Ottawa to just four seats.

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The election results are bad news for the Liberal premiers of Canada's two largest provinces. The federal Liberals' losses are expected to hurt their provincial cousins in Ontario. In Quebec, the election of only six Conservatives amounts to the first time in recent memory that the province has had such weak representation in a federal majority government.

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, who is seeking a third term next October, is vowing to stay focused on the issues that he says never go out of fashion for families: quality education, access to health care and jobs.

"It's easy to become distracted and obsessive and consumed by movements within the political constellation of the country or inside the province itself," Mr. McGuinty said at a news conference on Tuesday. "But that's not the kind of thing that families obsess about."

He said his government has its finger on the pulse of voters, and will not veer to the left or the right in a bid to woo New Democrat or Conservative supporters. But opposition leaders said the federal Liberals' results show that the party is not paying attention to everyday concerns of voters and is a vision of things to come in the provincial election.

In a tacit admission that the third-place finish for the federal Liberals worries many of his MPPs, Mr. McGuinty took the rare step of inviting reporters into his party's caucus meeting on Tuesday afternoon. For nine minutes, under the glare of television cameras, he delivered a pep talk to the 56 MPPs in attendance about the importance of sticking to the priorities that guided his party to back-to-back majorities.

The federal election results are also giving Quebec Premier Jean Charest cause for concern. But Mr. Charest went on the offensive on Tuesday, warning Conservative Leader Stephen Harper that his government would pay a price if it ignores Quebec. Quebeckers expect Mr. Harper to keep his campaign promise to award the province $2.2-billion in compensation in return for harmonizing its sales tax with the GST in the 1990s.

"Mr. Harper will have no choice but to take into account Quebec's interests," Mr. Charest said. "I know it's strange to say this the day after an election, but everyone in politics knows that there is nothing that comes quicker than the next election."

Quebeckers are expected to go to the polls some time next year.

The outcome of Monday's vote is less dramatic for British Columbia Premier Christy Clark. She won the B.C. Liberal leadership earlier this year, and is vowing to go to voters sooner than the next fixed election date in May, 2013, to win her own mandate.

Ms. Clark's main opponent will be New Democrat Leader Adrian Dix, but at this point, an NDP surge is not expected. The federal Liberals were reduced to two seats from five in British Columbia. Ms. Clark said on Tuesday she relishes the "stability" that will come with a majority government.

"It will mean we're probably less likely to get into another federal election any time soon," she told reporters. "There's stability that comes from that and I am really looking forward to working with all the people that have been elected."



With reports from Rhéal Séguin in Quebec and Ian Bailey in Vancouver

Follow on Twitter: @kahowlett

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