I am not looking for a change of leader -- at least not yet. But my support for Andrea is conditional.
The condition is she and the NDP not be in denial about the last campaign. It was not okay. The fact the party did not get fewer seats than previously does not take away that it was a huge missed opportunity and the status quo is not acceptable. Next time it will be harder. I expect the PCs to have a better leader (can you do worse?) and there will be no opportunity to campaign against McGuinty. The NDP leader should indicate that she knows what went wrong and will take steps to correct it.
Specific issues that I think ought to be considered may not be the same ones others would identify but no matter what something needs to be looked at.
The failure in communications was significant. The ballot question when the campaign started was the Liberal record as expected. By the end of the campaign the ballot question was Hudak's proposals (and the answer was not what the PC party wanted to hear). At no time did the NDP even get close to influencing the ballot question. Without influence on the question you won't do well.
To use an analogy the NDP called the meeting and could have tried to set an agenda but simply failed to table one.
My top 10 issues are the following:
1) The party was not prepared and looked it. Things were late. The campaign was, as expected, short and she was out of the front-runner race before releasing a platform. The communications were awful.
2) The idea of running against the Liberals based on "corruption" was a bust and needs to be recognized as such. You don't ever go from third to first based only on ethical lapses of the party in power. That is hard to do even from second place. Too much of the communications focussed on this single message. There were opportunites to advance specifics about the NDP proposals given up to repeat allegations about corruption that had already been heard and were repeated in an empty general way.
3) To go from third to first you need to do more than assert platitudes about your plan. You have to have details and a compelling narrative for that plan. Simply saying it makes sense and the others are corrupt is not good enough. (The choice of the word "sense" was silly. Looked like a retread form the Harris campaign. To use a statement so bland that it could have come from Conservatives gives you an idea of a wasted slogan.) A better slogan could have been "What kind of Ontario do you want?" This could have been both an offence on the PC platform, an acknowledgement of Liberal failings and an inspiration for the NDP campaign. It also would have framed a more NDP-friendly ballot question.
4) The party does have to keep a focus on the most vulnerable and should not bury that in an effort to reach the "middle income class." Through poor communication the party left many who did not sign the infamous letter wondering if the NDP was doing enough for people not fortunate enough to claim to be "middle." I don’t agree that you have to stop talking about core values and policies in order to add support for the middle class. The NDP should build coalitions not narrowcast a campaign.
5) The party did have some good planks like the approach to business credits for job creation. Unfortunately the party did not do a good job of prioritizing the communications of platform pieces -- particularly ones that could differentiate the NDP from the others.
6) The NDP did not seem to have any kind of viable campaign strategy. Week one: The party could have stated at the outset that they wanted to talk about why they brought down the Liberals and focused for just one week covering the scandals and being specific about any concerns the party had with the Liberal budget and that it would announce a plan for Ontario in the second week. Instead they lacked specifics about what they opposed and did not explain the reasons for bringing down the government. I think if they had laid out a reasonable explanation for why now and what was wrong with the budget it might have been accepted but they never did.
7) In the second week they should have begun to slow down on commentary about the Liberals and really sell that platform. Instead, the party released a plan late and did not communicate it effectively. Most of the time I saw Andrea I tried to count key messages and found it difficult to sort what I thought she considered was key, what was secondary, what was trivial. The specifics were scattered and the main delivery was empty platitudes or railing on about the perception of corruption. No good case was made for the NDP plan. She did not explain in detail how the plan would help citizens. See above-- she never got out of the first week and spent the rest of the campaign not completing the first week objectives.
8) When Andrea spoke she sounded like either she was not very bright or thought the voters were not very bright. She has done better before. Speeches and focus was awful with too much emptiness. Only 50% vote and those are people who are more informed and don’t want to waste time listening to empty crap. Looks like she spent too much time trying to engage people who are not engaged and forgot to speak to the people who were -- those who expected more from her.
9) What were they thinking after the "common sense" campaign of Mike Harris still ringing in people's ears as reminded by Hudak? "Makes sense" was a vacuous statement that only reminded people of how little was being said and how much it sounded like any political party -- even Harris. Horwath's personal touch looked phony when it was watered down to safe repeats of well-worn meaningless tripe.
10) Don't pretend that you can dismiss criticisms from people who are no longer members like those who signed the infamous letter without a rebuttal. Ignoring the media about that letter was a mistake. It served to leave many concluding that the NDP had lost its way -- or at least its voice. There are some things you can ignore and some things you respond to. They got it wrong on this. There were too many people who read that letter and did not dismiss it as disgruntled cranks. Many outside the bubble felt there was something there and an answer was in order. In fact I think a polite response pointing to what the NDP was offering could have been very effective. Why would you ever give up an opportunity to talk about your platform? "No comment" does not win votes.
Anyway. Rather than just a judgement on Horwath who is at least partly responsible, I'd rather start with a discussion on these things. I am fine with Horwath leading that discussion but if she is unwilling to then she needs to get out of the way.