(Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath Could Be the Strongest Leader In Contention For 2018)
With the next provincial election coming into view in Ontario, have the Liberals made a fatal mistake on keeping Kathleen Wynne at the helm? Recent polls put Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown up front, however many don’t know what he stands for besides opposing the current government, and the PC’s base in Ontario are widely viewed as far right Donald Trump supporters, rather than progressives. Could Ontario see a collapse of the right in 2018, and the NDP climb to power under a protest vote against, both the PC’s and Liberals?
The NDP in Ontario under Andrea Horwath have been pretty upfront over the past few years, including putting out some of their platform for the Ontario 2018 election which includes a universal pharmacare plan in Ontario. The major voting demographic in Ontario are the millennials, which far surpass the aging boomer population and are more left leaning in their voting tendencies. Over the past few months the Wynne Liberals have been trying to occupy some of the NDP’s platforms by instituting pharma and dental care for kids in Ontario. They’ve also instituted free tuition for lower income students, and piloted a guaranteed basic income project, all of which come from the left side of the political spectrum to try and win over those votes.
Wynne is banking on a few things to secure her win in 2018. The fact Brown is not a strong leader, and she’ll bring up memories of the health care cuts under Harris, which will be an attempt to move the aging boomer vote towards the Liberals. Brown also has had to deal with issues over infighting for local nominations for the party, and has been tone deaf on a lot of the issues the people of Ontario are faced with until they end up in the media. He often jumps on popular movements far too late, and takes credit for sticking it to the Wynne Liberals. We saw this during the autism movement where Brown in question period for three weeks during the parent’s protests, not once brought up any support for that movement. He recently claimed victory for parents stating that he fought for extra money from the province for autistic kids and won. Over the past year, things have got worse not better for these kids, and we haven’t seen any new money flow from Wynne, instead we’ve seen cuts to support, funding for special needs education cut, and wait lists that have grown substantially from what seemingly looks like a “net zero” approach to pay off 2,100 families waiting for services in June of last year.
Wynne is also banking on making an argument that Ontario can’t afford Horwath, and bring back big bad memories of former premier Bob Rae, which is an argument that is pretty much mute since Wynne is trying to occupy the NDP platform, and to many millennials Rae is a Liberal. Horwath is nicknamed the “Hamilton Scrapper”. Over the past few elections Horwath has had to deal with the ghost of Rae, which has overshadowed a lot of her strengths. Horwath when she sat on Hamilton City Council was a super star in her riding. She fought vigorously for the people and businesses she represented, and got things done. Not just done, but done correctly and fast. If Horwath can shake the ghosts of leaders past, and come out swinging, she’ll be the only leader that will look strong from the three traditional parties on that stage come 2018.
Brown for his part will not just have an image problem because he is tone deaf, but will have a very hard time shaking off Trump when the failure of that movement could come to a head in the US during our provincial election. With a lot of Canadians paying attention to how Russia was involved in developing fake news, and directing fake social media accounts to push the alt-right into the White House, it’s going to be very difficult for Brown to run an effective social media campaign.
For Wynne, this is a change election heading into 2018. With the Liberals in power now for over 14 years, and the people of Ontario reminded almost weekly about mismanagement, its going to be a very uphill battle to sell that change isn’t needed and Ontario needs to stay on its current course. For its part the Liberal Party in Ontario, may have made a grave mistake in leaving Wynne at the helm during a “change” election.
Jason Koblovsky is a freelance political and policy analyst, and syndicated political blogger commenting on Ontario, Canadian and US Politics. He is also a senior writer and contributor to Mind Bending Politics. If you would like to have your Op-Ed featured on Mind Bending Politics, send submissions to jkobopoli at rogers dot com