OTTAWA/TORONTO, June 2 (Reuters) – Ontario Premier Doug Ford claimed a sweeping election victory in Canada’s most populous province on Thursday, as media projected a second term for his right-leaning Progressive Conservative party with an enhanced majority.
The Progressive Conservatives were on track to win at least 83 of the provincial legislature’s 124 seats, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp projected. The party held 67 in the last legislature.
“What a night. And what a result. Together we have done the impossible. We have made history,” Ford told exuberant supporters in his home constituency as they chanted “Four more years!”
“Tonight’s victory, it isn’t about me. It isn’t about the party. … This victory belongs to each and every one of you.”
Ford’s win came after he weathered criticism over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the province’s strained health care system. He campaigned on the back of a promise to increase spending despite a massive existing debt load.
The leaders of the Progressive Conservatives’ main opponents, the left-leaning New Democratic Party (NDP) and the Liberals, both announced they would step down Thursday night.
Liberal leader Steven Del Duca was projected to lose in his own constituency.
The result came quickly despite some election-day hiccups. Elections Ontario extended voting for up to two hours in some polls in 19 different electoral districts after delays to the start of voting.
Ford’s Progressive Conservatives swept to power in 2018 after 15 years of Liberal rule.
Ontario, home to just under 40% of Canada’s 38.2 million people, is Canada’s manufacturing heartland. It is also one of the world’s largest sub-sovereign borrowers, with publicly held debt currently standing at C$418.7 billion ($330.8 billion).