TORONTO, June 2 (Reuters) - The premier of Canada’s most populous province, Ontario, conceded defeat on Saturday ahead of next week’s election, but called on voters to vote for her party anyway to keep the next government in check.
Kathleen Wynne, who has been premier since 2013 and whose Liberal Party has governed for 15 years, told reporters she will not be premier after the June 7 election.
“This is a hard thing to do,” 64-year-old Wynne told reporters tearfully, while urging party followers to vote for as many Liberals as possible to prevent the other two parties from forming a majority government.
The decision comes as the left-leaning New Democrats have gained ground ahead of provincial voting, according to opinion polls, setting up a two-way race with the right-leaning Progressive Conservatives to take power.
The Liberal Party has been trailing a distant third in recent polls, and Wynne’s popularity has been low.
Pundits have predicted a resounding defeat for the governing party, which could also deal a blow to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s federal Liberals, who are closely allied with their Ontario counterpart.
Ontario is home to a third of Canada’s population of 36 million and is the nation’s economic engine and manufacturing heartland.
The Progressive Conservatives are led by populist Doug Ford, who has been compared to U.S. President Donald Trump, and who has yet to release budget plans. The New Democrats, led by Andrea Horwath, have vowed to extend public funding for prescription medicines and dental care and increase the corporate tax rate for large companies.
An Ipsos opinion poll released on Monday showed Ford’s PCs with 37 percent support, while the New Democrats had 34 percent, and the ruling Liberals 22 percent.
Wynne spent much of the previous weeks issuing dire warnings as to what might happen to the province should her opponents win. She would not endorse either party and would not say whether she will stay on as leader after June 7. (Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny Edited by Bill Berkrot)