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Ontario Premier Doug Ford attends a news conference in Toronto, on June 3, after winning the provincial election.Chris Young/The Canadian Press

Ontario Premier Doug Ford, re-elected with an even-larger majority government in a result that prompted his two main political opponents to resign, says the vote shows that he has broadened the appeal of his Progressive Conservative Party.

Speaking to reporters on Friday morning, he said his party has been transformed under his leadership, noting that it elected three Black MPPs, won seats in non-traditional ridings – including in NDP strongholds in the Windsor area and in Northern Ontario – and earned endorsements from private-sector construction unions.

“The makeup of our party right across the province, the Progressive Conservative Party, we’ve changed the landscape,” Mr. Ford said. " … You look at our party today, versus four years ago, it’s very different.”

Turnout in Thursday’s election hit a record low of 43.55 per cent, but Mr. Ford batted away questions about the strength of his mandate or whether Ontario needs a new electoral system.

Meanwhile, the two opposition parties were already casting about for candidates to replace departing Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath. Both announced they would resign after their parties underperformed in the election.

Mr. Del Duca, who had just this week vowed to stick around no matter the result, said Thursday night that he was relinquishing his post after winning eight seats, only one more than the party was left with after its near wipeout in 2018.

Ms. Horwath’s NDP was reduced to 31 seats and will retain its status as Official Opposition. She announced in an emotional speech that she was stepping down, although many had suggested that this, her fourth election, would be her last.

Two potential candidates for Ms. Horwath’s job said Friday that they would at least consider a run, including Davenport MPP Marit Stiles, speaking to CBC Radio.

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Ottawa Centre MPP Joel Harden, a backbencher on the party’s left flank, has also been mentioned in party circles as a potential candidate. In an interview, he thanked Ms. Horwath for her leadership and would not rule out seeking the job, saying he needed to talk to his family.

Mr. Harden said the party needs to decentralize and send more of the money it uses now for polling and consultants to local riding associations and community groups.

“I think it’s time for us again in all political parties, not just mine, to start thinking about a politics that is bold and imaginative and frankly brings the resources of our political parties back down to the grassroots,” Mr. Harden said.

The diminished NDP caucus met virtually on Friday. Newly elected Toronto Centre NDP standard-bearer Kristyn Wong-Tam, a former city councillor, said an interim leader would be selected within the next couple of weeks.

On the call, Ms. Horwath urged the group to keep fighting and members paid tribute to the outgoing leader, some holding back tears, Ms. Wong-Tam said. The new MPP also said she was not running for leader, as a rookie in the legislature. She said she had hoped to serve with Ms. Horwath, who recruited her and was one of few provincial leaders who understands “urban issues.”

The Liberals will begin the search for a new leader as well. Scarborough MPP Mitzie Hunter, who ran for her party’s leadership in 2020, would not rule out another bid.

One of a handful of Liberals elected Thursday night, winning her riding for the fourth time, Ms. Hunter said she was surprised by Mr. Del Duca’s resignation and hasn’t given much thought to running again for the leadership.

“It is about taking that time,” she said in an interview. “You have to be all-in to run to lead a major political party in Ontario and be prepared for what it takes to do that.”

Michael Coteau, who placed second behind Mr. Del Duca for the leadership in 2020 and is now a federal Liberal MP, said he was not considering another shot at the provincial job – but would not completely rule it out.

“I haven’t thought about that,” he said in an interview. “I’ve got a job in Ottawa to do.”

Mr. Coteau, who helped run the provincial party’s platform-creation process, said Liberals need to rethink their message, and what they stand for. He said Mr. Ford’s PCs had a number of easily digestible selling points for voters, including lower taxes, cutting red tape and building infrastructure.

“It’s a very clear message,” he said. “It’s a very simple equation you are asked to take in.”

The bad news for the Liberal Party was spread across the province, as candidates failed to regain what were once reliable red seats, including in Toronto.

Northern Ontario, too, was a rough patch for the party. In Thunder Bay–Atikokan, the PCs’ Kevin Holland defeated the NDP’s Judith Monteith-Farrell, but the seat had long been Liberal until Bill Mauro, who went on to be the city’s mayor, was defeated in 2018.

In Thunder Bay–Superior North, two-time NDP candidate Lise Vaugeois edged out PC candidate Peng You, a city councillor. This riding had long been held by Liberal MPP Michael Gravelle, first elected in 1995, who announced he wouldn’t seek re-election as he undergoes cancer treatment. His replacement as Liberal candidate, city councillor Shelby Ch’ng, came in third.

Meanwhile, Mr. Ford’s conciliatory tone and appeal to unions could be facing a challenge in the coming weeks. The union representing 55,000 education assistants, custodians and early childhood educators said Friday that it was entering contract talks.

Contracts for all teachers and education workers expire at the end of August. Prior to the pandemic, all four of the main education unions engaged in job action as tensions with the Ford government rose.

Mr. Ford was asked Friday about how high inflation squares with his temporary 1-per-cent wage-cap bill for the public sector. The cap applied in the past round of education talks, but won’t in this round. The Premier committed to “negotiate fairly.”

With reports from Willow Fiddler and Caroline Alphonso

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