Ontario NDP to recommend long-time MPP Peter Tabuns as interim leader: party source

Peter Tabuns answers questions from the media in Toronto on Thursday, February 21, 2013.
Peter Tabuns answers questions from the media in Toronto on Thursday, February 21, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Michelle Siu

For the first time in more than a decade, Ontario’s NDP will have a new face leading the party at Queen’s Park after MPPs selected a interim leader to take over the reins from Andrea Horwath.

A senior NDP source confirmed to Global News the party’s caucus decided to recommend Peter Tabuns, a long time MPP, as interim leader.

Read more: ‘Time for me to pass the torch’: Andrea Horwath stepping down as Ontario NDP leader

While the party still needs to go through the formality of having its provincial executive accept the recommendation from caucus, NDP sources said Tabuns’s selection as caretaker leader is “pretty much a lock” and could be finalized in the next two weeks.

Tabuns, who previously served as NDP critic on energy and climate issues, was chosen over a number of other NDP MPPs who expressed interest in leading the Official Opposition until a new leader is selected.

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Sources said while Bhutila Karpoche, Jennifer French and Peggy Sattler were in the running, the selection process wasn’t a race but rather a caucus decision to make a singular recommendation to party brass to be rubber stamped.

Tabuns selection, however, could come with a major caveat that the veteran MPP remain on the sidelines during an upcoming party leadership race. Sources said while the rules for a leadership contest have yet to be finalized they would “almost certainly” stipulate that the interim leader would be prevented from entering the race.

If confirmed, Tabuns would take over the role of Official Opposition Leader during a pivotal time in provincial politics as Doug Ford prepares to embark on a second term as Premier with a larger caucus and fewer opposition voices in the Ontario legislature.

Tabuns was first elected as the MPP for Toronto-Danforth in 2006, and was re-elected in 2007, 20011, 2014 and 2018.

Andrea Horwath’s future

While Andrea Horwath resigned the leadership on June 2, after an election campaign ended with the NDP retaining the Official Opposition title but with fewer seats, the party told Global News she remains in the position until the interim leader has been selected.

Party sources said Horwath has only expressed that she will remain in caucus as the MPP for Hamilton Centre but hasn’t provided a timeframe for how long.

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A decision on whether Horwath would step away from provincial politics and into a municipal mayoral race could come within the next few weeks, as the deadline for candidates to file nomination papers for the Hamilton municipal council races closes on August 19.

For now, an NDP source said, Horwath will continue to remain a “small ‘L’ leader” within the party’s caucus at Queen’s Park.

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