In a shocking move predicted by none of the major pollsters (TNT included), Kathleen Wynne won a clear Liberal majority last night, by seats at least. They have a relatively low percentage of the popular vote, but welcome to our electoral system.
Looking at the seat numbers, 59 Liberal, 27 Conservative, 21 NDP, one would think that Wynne has been given a mandate to lead, and the Conservatives punished for false electoral provinces. Key Conservative strongholds, incumbent spots, safe solid PC seats from the past, fell to the Liberals. The hosts on the cable networks gleefully called the election before 10PM, and little changed thereafter. The entire night was a slow descent into red coloured madness.
However, looking at the popular vote percentage yields a very different picture. 38%, 31%, 24% seems very different from that one sided seat count. The NDP gained from their decision to call this election, campaigning to the right of the Liberals and emphasizing their stand against corruption endemic to the McGuinty and Wynne administrations. The Conservatives dipped slightly, which was kind of expected with an entirely unengaging leader and an anti-Hudak coalition responsible for as many as 46% of non-PC voters, according to pre-election polling.
Yet, the 38% of the popular vote for the Liberals is accepting the status quo, a tepid endorsement, while being cautious to not give in too much power. Why does 62% of the electorate voting against the Liberals lead to a Liberal landslide? In what world does that make sense? The wonderful world of first past the post, apparently. We usually say that you need 40% to win a majority, but this election disproves even that low threshold.
In an Ontario of targeted ridings, since a handful of ridings had the potential to decide the outcome of the election, where banking on slim margins was enough, Wynne has managed to win just 7% more votes than her opponents in the right ridings in order to claim a majority. Such is the reality of our democracy, a system called first past the post, where whoever gets the most ridings wins, and wins big.With no rankings, and no run-offs, we’ve seen the consequences better illustrated last night than any other election in recent history. At least we can congratulate the ones who played the system the best, right?
The voter turnout this year was a measely 51.7% of the electorate, which (incredibly) is an improvement since last year, but still the second lowest on record. Between the rain, the World Cup and the totally unlikable leaders, most decided not to bother voting at all. This election, if half of the people who stayed home voted Green, they would have gotten more votes than any other party and formed a minority government.. The same holds for every party on the ballot. That’s how low turnout was. If three quarters of the people who stayed home wrote Rob Ford’s name on the ballot, we would have a Rob Ford majority government (if he was willing).
Instead, the NDP makes a marginal gain in seats, but they lose the balance of power in the legislature, which amounts to a sizeable loss for Horwath and her party. The Progressive Conservatives were punished last night, and their leader, Tim Hudak, has already resigned. At least this means the excitement of Ontario politics isn’t over yet, since we have at least one party leadership race and the suspense of whether Wynne’s Liberals will actually simply present the same budget again even when they have a majority and can pass whatever budget they feel like on that particular day.
Congratulations Kathleen, despite all the problems with the system you were the one who played it best, so two claps for that.
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