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Wynne makes pitch to keep official party status

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TORONTO—Ontario's outgoing Liberals made a pitch to hold on to official party status Friday as they entered a period of extreme uncertainty in the wake of an election that took them from a majority government to a mere seven seats.

Kathleen Wynne, who stepped down as Liberal leader after the party's dramatic downfall, said she hopes premier-designate Doug Ford will change the rules to grant the designation, which currently requires eight seats in the legislature.

“I think it's important," she said. "I hope that Mr. Ford will agree.”

Ford only said he would talk to his team about the issue in the days and weeks to come.

Being a recognized party in the legislature allows parties to have an office for their leader and access resources such as research assistance, but the threshold required for the designation can be changed by legislators, as has been in the past.

The loss of that status is “one more indignity” to the Liberals as they try to rebuild following a devastating defeat that propelled the Progressive Conservatives to power for the first time in 15 years and elevated the New Democrats to the official Opposition, said Jonathan Malloy, a political science professor at Carleton University.

“They've been laid lower than they've ever been before,” he noted.

"[Their loss] is not the single-worst disaster for a major political party in Canada but it ranks up there.

“I absolutely think the Ontario Liberal party is coming back, I have no doubt about that, but it's going to be a long road for them,” Malloy added.

“They're going to need some time to lick their wounds, to retool, to identify a new leadership.”

The party will face financial challenges, both in and out of the legislature, which the loss of party status will aggravate, Malloy said.

The legislative assembly's internal economy board sets aside funds each year to be distributed among official parties.

It's unlikely the NDP would support loosening the rules around party status considering they were denied a similar reprieve under the Liberals in 2003, Malloy noted.

New Democrats were granted some accommodations at the time, including some funding, and earned party status the following year when leader Andrea Horwath won a byelection.

“I don't really see why the NDP would want to give anything to the Liberals now . . . memories are long in politics,” Malloy said.

Horwath was pressed on the issue Friday and only would say the decision was Ford's to make.

“The people gave the Liberals seven seats, that's what they have in the legislature and that's what they're going to have to deal with,” she remarked.

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