07/03/2013 07:01 EDT | Updated 09/02/2013 05:12 EDT

Opposition critical of timing of 5 Ontario byelections

Ontario will see five byelections take place just before the August long weekend, a decision that opposition parties say has been made to maximize the government’s chances of holding onto the vacant seats.

A government news release issued Wednesday afternoon confirmed the byelections would take place on Aug. 1.

Progressive Conservative critic Lisa MacLeod suggested that the Liberals have decided to hold the byelections because they presume the public will be more engaged in their summer activities than by what is happening at Queen's Park.

"We know that on the long weekend, when most families across Ontario are prepared to take that extra day to spend with their family, Ms. Wynne has decided that she would like to subvert democracy," MacLeod told reporters on Wednesday.

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath had a similar view on the timing of the byelections.

"This is the same old kind of thing that we expect from the Liberals, when they arrange things so that they’re most opportunistic for themselves," Horwath said Wednesday.

Five members of the government have left Queen’s Park this year, which has led to vacancies in Windsor, London, Ottawa and two Toronto ridings.

Those departures have left the governing Liberals with just 48 seats in the legislature, compared to 36 held by the Progressive Conservatives and 18 by the New Democrats.

That means that even if the Liberals manage to retain the open seats in the legislature, they will still remain a minority government.

MacLeod said the fact that the byelections are occurring in ridings most recently held by Liberal MPPs is an advantage for the government.

The forthcoming byelections are the first to occur since Wynne became premier earlier this year.