Why Andrea Horwath has the momentum

Tom Parkin says Andrea Horwath is connecting with disappointed Liberals and unsettled PCs. The Canadian Press file photo

The pundits on the politics shows can’t explain it. The reporters can only watch it. The opinionists only care what they think. The pollsters don’t get it.

This week’s Ipsos poll shows Andrea Horwath’s strong momentum. According to Ipsos, support for her NDP has grown six points in seven days. Now Doug Ford’s PCs are at 40 per cent with Andrea Horwath’s NDP closing in at 35. What is it?

READ MORE: Ontario election: NDP overtakes Liberals as the ‘Anti-Ford’ party, according to Ipsos poll

Some have said this momentum is strategic voting against Doug Ford. Or a coalescing anti-Conservative vote. There’s some truth in that — but that’s not it.

What is happening is people are gravitating to something completely different. This movement doesn’t fit into the old political framing — and that’s why the pundits, pollsters and opinion writers don’t get it. It’s not a replay of some old campaign war story.

What we are watching is a rejection of the rehearsed, talking-points-as-usual, insincere nonsense we get in standard politics, practised by politicians of any brand.

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Andrea Horwath’s analysis saw that rejection. And now it’s a brushfire burning. Horwath listened and realized that people don’t want to settle between bad and worse anymore. They want something completely different.

Click to play video: 'NDP overtakes Liberals as the ‘Anti-Ford’ party: Ipsos poll' NDP overtakes Liberals as the ‘Anti-Ford’ party: Ipsos poll
NDP overtakes Liberals as the ‘Anti-Ford’ party: Ipsos poll – May 15, 2018

WATCH: NDP overtakes Liberals as the ‘Anti-Ford’ party: Ipsos poll

Ontarians voted Progressive Conservative — and got cuts. So we put in the Liberals — and got cuts. And now the PCs say it’s their turn — so they can cut more. We keep bouncing between Liberal and Conservative — and health care keeps getting cut.

It’s no secret that over 15 years, the Liberals either caused or ignored the biggest problems affecting Ontarians — problems discussed around kitchen tables at important moments. Families feel health-care cuts. They worry about the care of their elderly moms and dads. Younger workers are carrying unfair student debts. Union benefits, like drug and dental plans, have disappeared. Wage growth is flat. Debt is high. People are struggling.

So Andrea Horwath offers to try something completely different. And people are responding. She’s receiving support from both disappointed Liberals and unsettled PCs, pushing boundaries and breaking the old partisan alignments.

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It’s clear that disappointed Liberals have solidly moved to Horwath. Of the six regions in the Ipsos poll, the NDP leads in three and the PCs lead in three. Even in the seat-rich Toronto 416, the Liberals have fallen to a distant third, says Ipsos. Horwath’s NDP narrowly leads Ford Nation in Toronto — NDP 38 per cent versus PC 34 per cent.

According to the CBC Poll Tracker, the Liberals will win only two seats — ouch!

COMMENTARY: The verdict is in, and voters don’t want Ford, Omar Khan says

But just as important are the unsettled PCs. They’re what makes Horwath’s momentum different from simple strategic voting. The PCs still sit at 40 per cent, says Ipsos. But on the question of who should be premier, Ford scores four points lower, 36 per cent. Unsettled PCs are part of the reason why Doug Ford has a net -13 approval score.

In contrast, Ipsos says 47 per cent of Ontarians feel Andrea Horwath is the best choice for premier. Her net +35 approval is driving her party’s score up. Unsettled PCs prefer Andrea Horwath for premier. And unsettled PCs probably skew heavily toward working women who don’t see themselves as part of Ford Nation.

Click to play video: 'Decision Ontario: Party leaders react to new Ipsos-Global poll' Decision Ontario: Party leaders react to new Ipsos-Global poll
Decision Ontario: Party leaders react to new Ipsos-Global poll – May 15, 2018

WATCH: Ontario party leaders react to new Ipsos-Global election poll

Horwath is connecting with disappointed Liberals and unsettled PCs by talking about people’s frustrations with the real pressures of everyday life. She’s presented a plan that is strong on fixing health care, adding pharmacare, ensuring kids can get to the dentist, addressing student debt. And she’s saying exactly how she’d pay for it — she even put it in her TV ad. Horwath would add one percentage point to tax on income over $220,000. And a second point on income over $300,000. Plus, she would reverse a fraction of the multiple Liberal corporate tax cuts that are putting so much pressure on our health care today.

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On the other hand, Doug Ford’s bluster and bragging won’t change a thing. His spending cuts and privatizations will just make things worse and more expensive.

Horwath’s insightful analysis and bold platform have broken the logjam — putting her at the new centre of Ontario politics. Disappointed Liberals and unsettled PCs are both gravitating to her.

COMMENTARY: Gotcha questions won’t erode Doug Ford’s support, Deb Hutton says

Centre Ontario doesn’t care about partisan labels, Liberals and Conservatives. Or at least not anymore. Their old parties abandoned them. But their ears perk up when they hear Andrea Horwath speaking — with no teleprompter or talking point notes — about kitchen table moments.

With the Liberals disappearing, all the nonsense and cynical spin about strategic voting, minorities and coalitions goes away. This is now only about just one thing: who will be premier.

Ontarians who want to continue with the politics of bad and worse now have a single candidate. And for those who want something completely different, there’s Andrea Horwath.

On the question of best premier, Andrea Horwath leads with 47 per cent, attracting disappointed Liberals and unsettled PCs. Meanwhile, Doug Ford is driving away a significant group of PC voters. That group may have been willing to vote for Doug Ford as long as the Wynne Liberals were breathing. But these unsettled PCs are now unlocked. They can vote for something completely different.

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

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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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