By Mike Pearson, with files from Laura Lennie
While he was thrilled to see his Hamilton NDP colleagues Andrea Horwath and Monique Taylor re-elected, victorious Hamilton East-Stoney Creek MPP Paul Miller was surprised to see a scandal-plagued Liberal government handed a majority by Ontario voters.
"Frankly, I'm shocked," said Miller. "I don't know what the people in Toronto are thinking. They put this government back in after all the abuses. It's just shocking. Obviously the people in Hamilton know what's going on and they sent a strong message to Queen's Park."
"I hope (the Liberals) aren't going to be impossible because the last time they had a majority they were difficult to work with."
Despite a strengthened Liberal mandate, Miller said the NDP will continue to fight for its priorities at Queen's Park.
Miller said poverty, job losses and light rail transit were the biggest issues on the Hamilton campaign trail, as well as assisting small business.
Despite losing the local race to Miller, Liberal candidate Ivan Luksic was thrilled to see his party return to Queen's Park.
"We lost to an NDP brand in Hamilton ... but I'm happy we have a majority Liberal government," Luksic announced to a loud round of applause at Holy Cross Croatian Parish Hall. "I'm disappointed, but not at the team we have here tonight. We took on a powerful machine, but we came closer than last time."
PC Candidate Dave Brown, who finished a distant third in the riding, said he was surprised to see numerous Liberal scandals go unpunished by voters.
"We've been out at the doors talking to people and there's general unrest and dissatisfaction at the polls here in Hamilton East-Stoney Creek. It's surprising to me and disappointing, I have to confess."
Miller, a former 32-year Stelco employee, has previously represented the United Steelworkers union in Ottawa. He also served as a Stoney Creek city councillor prior to amalgamation.
Just before the provincial campaign, the Stoney Creek native touted his party's plans to supplement the pension benefits guarantee fund. Miller argued the Liberal's $1.1-billion decision to cancel gas plants in Mississauga and Oakville could have increased the monthly benefit. The proposed NDP pension plan would have allowed workers to opt out of a company pension plan and enroll in a public sector plan administered by the province.
A proposed Liberal plan called for public pension reform that included equal contributions from employers and employees. The plan's goal was to provide a benefit upon retirement that would replace 15 per cent of a worker's earnings. The Liberal plan was touted by Premier Kathleen Wynne in early May, but the legislation died when an election was triggered.
Miller also campaigned on NDP promises to cut hydro rates, provide rebates to businesses that create jobs and offer a 10 per cent manufacturing credit to companies that hire more employees. Miller suggested the provincial government should pay a portion of a skilled worker’s wage, allowing the employee to gain work experience.
In the 2011 election, Miller bested Liberal contender Mark Cripps by nearly 10,000 votes. He was first elected to the riding in 2007.