May 9, 2018 10:30 am
Updated: May 31, 2018 11:54 am

COMMENTARY: Andrea Horwath is the new centre of Ontario politics

Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath is pictured in the Ontario Legislature on April 8, 2014.


After 15 years, Ontarians are done with a Liberal government that is more concerned about itself than the mounting challenges faced by Ontarians. But even though Doug Ford’s PCs are currently riding 11 points ahead of Andrea Horwath’s second-place NDP, that gap could be quickly closed, a new IPSOS poll suggests.

And the reason is simple: Andrea Horwath is the new centre of Ontario politics.

Almost all the big problems facing Ontario today were either created or ignored by the Kathleen Wynne Liberals. Tuition, childcare and electricity have skyrocketed. Car insurance is still rising. We have a return to “hallway medicine” after the Liberals cut health care by five per cent per person since 2010.

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A new study from the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions tells Ontarians that literally hundreds of Canadians die and almost 100,000 are sick because they don’t have a drug insurance plan. Kids can’t get into the dentist because contact employment and de-unionization means more parents don’t have union benefits. It’s a crisis the Wynne Liberals ignored — until the eve of an election.

People are deeply disappointed in Wynne. It’s not just because Liberals made everyday life more expensive. They also messed things up — then cynically spent billions trying to cover up their messes. They gave big corporate tax cuts. They sold Hydro One, then fund-raised off the avails of privatization.

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Over the past 15 years, the Liberal Party abandoned Ontarians.

Horwath and her NDP team saw the opening — and they’re taking it. She released a detailed and bold platform focused on improving the affordability of everyday life. Over its 100 pages, Horwath sets out how her New Democrats would address the costs of tuition, dental, medications, electricity, transit and many other problems the Liberals left.

And to secure her ambitious plan, Horwath has promised to reverse some of the Liberals’ corporate tax cuts and raise taxes on income over $220,000. Horwath’s plan is costed, reviewed and signed-off by a former Auditor-General of Canada.

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And voters are gravitating to her, making Horwath the new centre of Ontario politics. It’s not just because she’s now the only leader focused on the central question of politics today — the affordability of everyday life. Horwath is in the centre because she can take from both sides, Liberals and Conservatives, in sufficient numbers to come out on top — stopping what some people wrongly believe is an inevitable Ford win.

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Sure, if the Ford PCs stay at 40 per cent, they’re going to win. But Horwath can change that.

Tuesday’s Global-IPSOS poll confirms that Ontarians are drifting away from the Liberals, putting Horwath’s NDP in second at 29 per cent support.

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On top of these decided supporters are another 30 per cent of Ontarians who have Horwath as their second choice. And critically, 35 per cent of PC supporters (about 14 per cent of all voters) have Horwath as their second choice. Do the math.

If Horwath can swing just five points from Ford’s PCs to her side, she can tie this up — or with some Liberal assists, even push Ford into a second-place election day result.

And the IPSOS numbers suggest Ontarians would be pretty OK with that result.

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When IPSOS asked about preferred electoral outcomes, it’s a tie — 37 per cent say they want an NDP majority or minority, 37 per cent say they want a PC majority or minority. That’s another signal that current PC supporters don’t necessarily all want a Ford PC government.

And there are multiple reasons why current PC supporters might switch to Horwath. It could be Ford’s extreme social conservative candidates. Or his backroom deals with land developers. Or that he hasn’t got the guts to show a costed platform. Or how he won’t explain who’ll be hit by his billions in cuts and privatizations. Or that he wants to spend unknown amounts on more tax cuts.

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There are many reasons to switch — and if Horwath’s NDP focuses on them every day for the next 29 days, they can move five points.

IPSOS, like other polls, has confirmed that this is a change election. Horwath, probably on her last campaign as NDP leader, is clearly shooting for the win — and she knows she has the path. She’s given Ontarians a smart, costed and ambitious plan. NDP voters like Andrea. And she’s the new centre of politics for those Liberal and PC voters looking for a change for the better.

Ford’s strategy may be to hide his policy from voters, pretend Andrea isn’t creeping up, bunker down and try to coast into government. But 30 days is a long time to duck and cover.

Tom Parkin is a former NDP advisor and a political commentator with a social democratic point of view. 

Tom Parkin joins Deb Hutton and Omar Khan on Global News’ regular political panel, appearing on Global Toronto and AM 640 Corus radio throughout the campaign and as part of our election night coverage.

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