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Mark my words, Andrea Horwath is going to win Ontario

Image: Joey Coleman/Flickr

Happy Victoria Day! I'm feeling good about my prediction that the next Premier of Ontario will be Andrea Horwath.

When I made that prediction back on February 27, scads of commenters on social media and quite a few on my blog and at rabble said I was crazy.

This being a blog that leans toward the progressive side of the political equation, most commentators were very nice about the way they wrote off my opinion. The prevailing sentiment was: I wish you were right, Dave, but you just don't understand how things are here in Ontario.

"Sorry Dave," said a typical commenter, politely. "I think the Conservatives will form the next Ontario government and the Liberals will be the Official Opposition. The NDP will be squeezed out by Conservatives on one side and by progressives who will vote Liberal to try to prevent a PC win."

Nevertheless, I argued that Horwath's Ontario New Democrats would win the June 7 Ontario election based on this observation: "I know this because I'm from Alberta and we've been through this perfect storm already."

I enumerated the circumstances that led to the election of Rachel Notley's NDP on May 5, 2015: A long-in-the-tooth Progressive Conservative government Alberta voters had decided needed a rest; pollsters and pundits who insisted the only party that could win was the far-right opposition Wildrose, which had an ideology that made most Albertan voters' skin crawl; and a credible and experienced leader at the helm of the NDP.

"We all know what happened on May 5," I wrote. "Alberta's New Democrats, led by the charismatic and obviously capable Rachel Notley, were picked by voters to lead Alberta into a future no one quite expected"

"Notley was a familiar face in a new role … genuinely progressive -- as were a great many Albertans, it turned out, just like voters in Ontario." You can read how I set out my argument in more detail here

Meanwhile, back in Ontario in February, voters were sick of the Liberals, the Progressive Conservatives were in a state of chaos as their leader disappeared into a pit created by a #MeToo scandal, and Horwath was suddenly looking like a very credible alternative, if not one that anyone yet expected to win.

I concluded that Horwath, the MPP for Hamilton-Centre, had enjoyed a long run in the Ontario Legislature without any major disasters, ergo …

  • She would look to a lot of voters like she's got what it takes to be premier, and certainly not like a right-wing ideologue who would start smashing the crockery.
  • She's untainted by the scandals associated with the Liberal Government yet ticks many of the other boxes for stuff Ontarians like about Premier Kathleen Wynne.
  • Like Premier Notley, she's a familiar face seeking a new role, obviously capable, and genuinely progressive.

What's happened since then? Well, the principal development is that, having lost their leader, the Ontario PCs replaced him with Doug Ford, the less-likeable brother of the late drug-addled Toronto mayor, Rob Ford.

Doug Ford was once a lacklustre Toronto city councillor and (according to a never-retracted article in the Globe and Mail) a former hashish pusher. Obviously seeing a political strategy that worked elsewhere, Ford made it his business to imitate the style and campaign of U.S. President Donald Trump. As for Trump's attitudes, Doug Ford seems to have come by those on his own.

Moreover, Ford's PC campaign has been dogged by reports of stolen data misused by his candidates, broken election financing laws and accusations of ballot box stuffing in PC nomination races.

All of which, if you ask me, made the Premier Horwath scenario I described in February much more likely.

Subsequently, Horwath emerged as the clear winner in the televised Ontario leaders' debate.

Yesterday, she admitted that the NDP made a $1.4-billion error in its campaign fiscal plan, which has now been corrected. Her opponents may try to play this as a disaster for her, but Albertans will recall that in 2015 Premier. Notley's campaign financial plan included a similar, much larger error. As Notley said at the time -- a remark echoed by Horwath yesterday -- "the measure of leadership is how you deal with it when mistakes are made, and our decision was to advise people right away."

Ontario's Punditry Industrial Complex, led by the Ford Nation cheerleaders at the National Post, naturally continues to insist Ford and his unprogressive Progressive Conservatives will win on June 7. You can almost hear them chanting, "there is no alternative."

There is an alternative, of course. It is Horwath and the NDP. Recent polling suggests that as the election nears, Ontarians are behaving as predicted in this blog in February.

"An anybody-but-Ford movement is percolating as the June 7 election draws closer, with Kathleen Wynne's Liberals at the biggest risk of being left behind," the Toronto Star reported last week. According to the Pollara public opinion survey cited by the Star, 78 per cent of Ontario Liberal voters are prepared to back New Democrat candidates to keep the Ford PCs out of power.

Both Ford and Wynne started slagging Horwath and the NDP the instant that poll appeared.

But the CBC's poll tracker, updated yesterday, said: "Though the PCs are still well ahead, Doug Ford's numbers have been trending downwards in the first stage of the campaign … The momentum appears to be with the New Democrats and largely against the Liberals."

On Friday, Global News headline read, "Experts say outcome of Ontario election no longer 'absolutely' certain." CTV added, "Ontario PCs leading in polls across the province, but NDP narrowing the gap."

The same day, pollster Innovative Research Group said "the NDP is poised to overtake the PCs by either winning a larger share of the left-wing value clusters, increasing their share of economically alienated voters or replacing the Liberals as the party best able to stop the PCs."

By yesterday, the traditionally Liberal Star was saying, "For Ontario voters, Andrea Horwath may be 'just right'." Asked MacLean's Magazine: "Just how far can Andrea Horwath go?"

Published polls so far in May show the Ontario PCs between 35 and 42 per cent, the NDP between 28 and 35 per cent, and the Liberals between 22 to 26 per cent.

You know you're really onto something when the National Post, fearless champion of the Canadian overdog, tells its readers "NDP surge in polls no guarantee it's a true contender." Yeah, right. To put that the way the Post really intends, presumably: "Just stay home progressive people, or if you have to vote, hose it away on the Liberals."

Naw, it's too late for that. I wrote my story on Februrary 27, and I'm stickin' with my conclusion:

"Andrea Horwath is going to win on June 7, just like Rachel Notley did on May 5, 2015. Remember where you heard it first."

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

Image: Joey Coleman/Flickr

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