UPDATE 2-Liberals win surprise Ontario majority - networks

Fri Jun 13, 2014 12:07am EDT
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(Adds quotes and detail from speeches and seat counts.)

TORONTO, June 12 (Reuters) - Ontario's left-leaning Liberal party has won a fourth straight electoral victory, taking control of the majority of the province's legislature and bucking expectations that at best it would eke out a narrow minority win, Canadian networks projected on Thursday.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, CTV News and Global News all projected a majority government for Premier Kathleen Wynne. She had previously 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, while slaying Ontario's deficit, C$11.3 billion ($10.41 billion) this year, by 2017-18. Speaking to cheering supporters in Toronto on Thursday evening, she said her government would move quickly to pass the budget that had been defeated last month, triggering the vote.

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

Ontario, which accounts for some 40 percent 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 criticized Wynne for supporting the cancellations at the time.

"You have put your trust in us and we will not let you down," Wynne said on Thursday. "We will not take you for granted."

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.   Continued...