Kathleen Wynne stepping down as Ontario Liberal leader
Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, June 7, 2018 10:45PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, June 7, 2018 11:52PM EDT
TORONTO -- A tearful Kathleen Wynne stepped down as Ontario's Liberal leader Thursday as the party she propelled to a majority government only four years ago was reduced to a skeleton crew, losing official status in the legislature.
Wynne, who had predicted her party's loss a few days ago, said resigning was the right thing to do.
"There is another generation and I am passing the torch to that generation," she told a crowd of supporters at a north Toronto gallery after the Progressive Conservatives won a majority.
"I know that tonight is not the result we were looking for and no one feels that more sharply than I do, but this is not a moment where any of us should linger. We can't stay here," she said.
"I hope that you can feel very proud of what we have done together in the past and absolutely determined to take on the task that lies ahead."
Wynne said her speech was meant as a thank you rather than a concession, since she already admitted last weekend that her party would lose.
But her weekend bombshell was followed by an appeal to elect as many Liberals as possible, a move she said at the time was meant to prevent either of her NDP or Progressive Conservative rivals from achieving a majority.
Party insiders have said Wynne's call was also an 11th-hour effort to hold on to official party status -- eight seats are needed to do so.
This election could mark the first time the provincial Liberals -- in power for the last 15 years -- fall in so short a time from "the pinnacle that is majority government to the abyss," said Dan Rath, a political analyst and co-author of "Not Without Cause: David Peterson's Fall From Grace," which looked at a past Liberal premier.
"I think you have to go back almost a century ... to find a comparable situation in terms of the challenges the party faces," he said, pointing to the Liberals' dramatic decline in the early 1900s and their eventual resurgence in the 1930s under the leadership of Mitch Hepburn.
Rath said the social and cultural shift that propelled Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency in 2016 was also a factor in Ontario's election, where Tory Leader Doug Ford used populist messaging to appeal to voters.
Rath suggested Wynne's plea to save Liberal seats was meant to undermine Andrea Horwath's New Democrats in order to pave the way for a Liberal comeback.
Wynne, who was first elected as a school trustee, has seen her personal popularity ratings drop over her time in government.
She has been criticized for decisions that include a spring budget that plunged the province back into deficit, the partial privatization of Hydro One, and the rate at which hikes to minimum wage are being brought in.