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Ontario general election, 2003

The province of Ontario, Canada conducted a general election on October 2, 2003, to elect the 103 Members of Provincial Parliament (MPPs) in the Ontario Legislative Assembly. The election was called on September 2 by Premier Ernie Eves after the governing Tories received a jump in the polls after dealing with the 2003 North American blackout.

Table of contents
1 Campaign
2 Results
3 External links


Conduct of the campaign

Many observers considered the campaign notoriously high in mudslinging, even though all sides disavowed this tactic during the televised debate. Both the Liberals and Progressive Conservatives (Tories) indulged, but many of the most notorious incidents came from the Conservative side. One bizarre incident took place on September 12, when a press release from the Tories referred to Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty as an "evil reptilian kitten-eater from another planet", which was roundly condemned as a petty and juvenile insult. In another incident towards the end of the campaign, Premier Eves referred to Mr. McGuinty as having a "pointy head," a remark he later conceded was inappropriate. Many observers have commented that the negative tone apparently backfired, creating more sympathy for the Liberal leader.

Another embarrassing Tory gaffe occurred when Eves couldn't say how much his program would cost. These gaffes were magnified by a generally unsympathetic media which was poorly treated by the Tory campaign team. An important blow to the Tory campaign was a Fraser Institute study which demonstrated that despite Tory promises, Ontario had a fairly severe deficit.

For its part, the Ontario New Democratic Party (NDP) led a theatrical campaign. Leader Howard Hampton made an appearance in front of the Toronto home of millionaire Peter Munk to denounce Eves' tax breaks, claiming that they would save Munk $18 000 a year. He attempted to literally nail Jell-O to a wall to dramatize the elusiveness he accused his opponents of regarding hydro privatization, and used a piece of Swiss cheese, comparing the holey cheese to his opponents' platforms. [1]

Another campaign issue was the treatment of the Green Party of Ontario, which denounced a CRTC decision not to allow it to participate in the leaders' debate.


The campaign was contentious on the issues as well, with both the Liberals and Howard Hampton's New Democrats attacking the Tories' record in office. Various scandals and other unpopular moves reduced public opinion of the Tories going into the race, including the Walkerton water tragedy, the death of Dudley George, the possible sale of Hydro One, the SARS outbreak, the decision to release the 2003 budget at an auto plant instead of the Legislature, the widespread blackout in August, and the Aylmer packing plant tainted meat investigation. [1]. As one Tory insider put it "So many chickens came to roost, its like a remake of The Birds".

One of the most contentious issues was education. All three parties pledged to increase spending by $2 billion, but Premier Eves also pledged to ban teacher strikes, lock-outs, and work-to-rule campaigns during the school year, a move the other parties rejected. Teacher strikes had plagued the previous Progressive Conservative mandate of Mike Harris, whose government had deeply cut education spending.

Tax cuts were also an issue. The Progressive Conservatives proposed a wide range of tax cuts, including a 20-percent cut to personal income taxes and the elimination of education tax paid by seniors, two moves that would have cost $1.3 billion together. The Liberals and New Democrats rejected these cuts as profligate. The Liberals also promised to cancel some pending Tory tax cuts and to eliminate some tax cuts already introduced.


Party Standings
Party Leader Pre-election seats Results
Seats % of votes cast
Ontario Liberal Party (winner) Dalton McGuinty (Premier-elect) 36 72 46.4%
Ontario Progressive Conservative Party Ernie Eves 56 24 34.6%
Ontario New Democratic Party Howard Hampton 9 7 14.7%
Green Party of Ontario Frank de Jong 0 0 2.8%
Ontario Family Coalition Party Giuseppe Gori 0 0 0.8%
Freedom Party of Ontario Paul McKeever 0 0 0.2%
Communist Party of Canada (Ontario) Elizabeth Rowley 0 0
Ontario Libertarian Party Sam Apelbaum 0 0
Ontario Provincial Confederation of Regions Party none (Richard Butson, sole candidate) 0 0 \
Independent/No affiliation 1 0
Vacant 1 0 n/a

A Liberal victory was declared well in advance of the end of ballot-counting. Ernie Eves conceded only ninety minutes into the count. The NDP had a confusing election: On the one hand they won one less than the eight seats needed to keep "official party status," which means getting a share of official Queen's Park staff, money for research, and guaranteed time during Question Period, but on the other hand, they increased their share of the popular vote for the first time since 1990, and may be in a better position than the devastated Tories for the next general election. Regardless, Hampton stated that he would stay on as Leader, saying that the party did not blame him for the poor performance in an election where more voters were apparently more concerned with defeating the Tories by any means necessary than voting for a preferred party.

The Tories were completely shut out of Toronto, where 19 out of 22 ridings were won by the Liberals and the remaining three were carried by the New Democrats. The Tories also managed to win only one seat in northern Ontario. Six Tory cabinet ministers were defeated at the polls, though both Eves and NDP leader Howard Hampton retained their seats.

The 38th Parliament of Ontario opened on November 19th, 2003 at 3 P.M. Eastern Time.

See also Canadian Politics in 2003.

External links

General resources


Parties with seats in the house prior to dissolution

Other parties