Ontario’s Conservatives failed to win a seat in Vaughan on Thursday, one of the 905 ridings the Tories had been hoping to take from the Liberals.
It’s part of the GTA area that party leaders made repeat visits to in recent weeks, aware of the area’s potential role in sending any party to Queen’s Park.
But it seems the Liberals were able to cling to many of the seats. Early Friday, the Liberals were elected or leading in 32 of 44 ridings in the GTA. The Progressive Conservatives were clinging to seven and the NDP five.
The Conservatives put extensive effort into trying to send their Vaughan candidate, Tony Genco, a former Liberal, to Queen’s Park. He took about 31 per cent of the vote, not enough to beat Liberal incumbent Greg Sorbara, who received 53 per cent.
“Unfortunately for me, it didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to,” Mr. Genco said at a gathering at his campaign office after most of the poll results had trickled in.
Last fall, he lost as a Liberal in the federal by-election that sent Conservative Julian Fantino to Ottawa. Until then, Vaughan and its precursor ridings had been Liberal federally since 1988.
The provincial Tories were hoping to continue the shift right and claim a seat of their own.
Mr. Genco said he won’t be going back to the Liberals. “I’m a Conservative,” he said. “I made that decision.”
In the following days, decisions will need to be made by the Liberals about how they plan to govern the province without a majority government. Early Friday the Liberals were still one seat shy of the 54 needed for a majority.
Mr. Sorbara, who was elected by Vaughan on Thursday for the fourth time since 2001, has played key roles with the party in the past. Recently, he worked as the party’s campaign chair and has held cabinet positions, including finance minister.
On Thursday night, at his after party at a Woodbridge banquet hall, he refused to say whether he’d accept a cabinet position if asked. “That’s not even something I’m going to talk about tonight,” he said.
How the Liberals work with the Conservatives, if there’s a minority, will be up to the premier, he said.
“I’m still hoping we can get over that magic number of 54” he said. “But once parliament sits, parliaments tend to find a way of working well together.”
The provincial Liberals have held the riding since 2001, when Mr. Sorbara won his seat.
A by-election for the riding, then called Vaughan-King-Aurora, was called after Progressive Conservative MPP Al Palladini died from a heart attack. He had been elected there in 1999, after earlier elections in York, and went on to serve in cabinet.
Mr. Sorbora, who had also represented York ridings before, swept the 1999 by-election by claiming more than 60 per cent of the vote. He remained popular in the following provincial elections, receiving more than 56 per cent of votes in 2003 and almost 62 per cent in 2007.