Andrea Horwath’s Ontario New Democrats have denied the government their confidence, and, with that, set the wheels in motion for an election on June 12th.
Despite living in a small corner at Queen’s Park, Andrea Horwath is, by some accounts, the most powerful person in Ontario provincial politics. Ever since the current Liberal minority government formed, and Tim Hudak swore an oath to oppose it come hell or high water, Horwath has had the ability to prop up the government or trigger an election at will. So far, she has used her ability wisely, supporting the government as long as it modified its budgets to accommodate the NDP’s desires. Yet every sign suggests that that era is over. Gone is the pragmatic Andrea Horwath who worked for tangible change in Ontario provincial politics. Her replacement, Andrea Horwath, is determined to ruffle some feathers, even if at high cost.
Today, Horwath said she will vote against the Liberal budget because she “has lost confidence in Kathleen Wynne’s ability to deliver.” She suggested that this budget is a “mad dash to escape scandals”, and said that it does not offer “a solid plan for the future.” The voters of Ontario should trust her opinion, especially on the latter charge.
The leader of the NDP knows a solid plan for the future when she sees one. That’s why she can’t support this budget. It just wouldn’t make sense to let the Liberals tax and spend their way to a majority government when their current mandate expires. No—Horwath knows that this is the time to knock them down a few pegs. This is her chance to lead the NDP out of the cellar and up to the altar at Queen’s Park. It is time to let the people know that the NDP is for real. She picked the perfect day to make the announcement: the day the NDP dropped nearly 7 points in the latest poll. Now that’s a solid plan for the future! It demonstrates Andrea Horwath’s commitment to rid herself and her party of the only influence and significance they have enjoyed since the Rae Days.
Maybe she didn’t see the latest poll, or maybe she doesn’t care. In any case, Horwath isn’t taking no for an answer. It’s entirely possible that, contrary to political convention, Horwath’s opposition to the budget is based on principle, not polls. Cue the advocatus diaboli:
There is no way the NDP could support this Liberal budget! It violates all the party’s principles. First, it increases taxes on the rich and super rich, which is a big NDP no-no. Second, it increases the minimum wage, and ties the future minimum wage to inflation. Bob Rae’s comically oversized glasses would crack at the sight of that measure. This budget offers billions for infrastructure projects, including public transit. As if to add insult to injury, it also expands school breakfast and lunch programs, and increases taxes on cigarettes. Tax and spend, tax and spend, tax and spend. No way the NDP would ever support that kind of government!
The more astute reader knows that the Catholic Church no longer uses an advocatus diaboli during the canonization process. Why? If the above paragraph serves as an example, sometimes things are so painfully obvious that there is no need for someone to argue for and against them. Would it have made sense for the NDP to support this budget based on its principles? Probably. Should Andrea Horwath have at least met with Premier Wynne to discuss the budget and any of its shortcomings? Certainly. Does it make political sense for the NDP to topple this government now? Almost certainly not. So what is Andrea Horwath thinking? That is a good question.
At least Ontarians have a little over a month to scratch their heads.