CANADA

Ontario Liberals celebrate shock election walkover

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 June, 2014, 4:38am
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 June, 2014, 6:50am

Ontario's left-leaning Liberal party has recorded a fourth straight electoral victory, taking control of the legislature and bucking expectations that at best it would eke out a narrow minority win.

Premier Kathleen Wynne had controlled only a plurality of seats, which meant she needed help from opposition parties to pass key legislation.

Wynne has pledged to ramp up spending to stimulate the economy and to create a provincial pension plan. She also has said she will slay the deficit, now C$11.3 billion (HK$80 billion), by 2017-18.

Speaking to cheering supporters in Toronto, she said her government would move quickly to pass the budget that was defeated last month, triggering the vote.

Only days before the elections in Canada's most populous province, polls had shown a dead heat between Wynne's government and the austerity-minded Progressive Conservatives.

Ontario, which accounts for 40 per cent of Canada's economy and is home to the country's auto and financial industries, has been battling slow growth and big deficits since the 2008 financial crisis. Its debt sits at C$288 billion.

The election is Wynne's first. She succeeded Dalton McGuinty as premier and party leader early last year after he resigned amid a series of scandals, most notably a costly move to cancel the construction of gas-fired power plants in the run-up to the 2011 election. Opponents have criticised Wynne for supporting the cancellations at the time.

Speaking to his supporters, Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak said he would resign as party leader, but stay on as a member of provincial parliament.

Wynne is Canada's first openly gay premier and the first woman to lead the province.