Election talk heats up as Ontario legislature resumes sitting

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

There's a bit of a buzz in the air at Queen's Park in Toronto.

The legislature resumed sitting, on Tuesday, after a lengthy winter break with word that NDP leader Andrea Horwath has apparently laid out her conditions for Budget 2014 -- to be introduced sometime within the next couple of months.

According to the Toronto Star, Horwath is suggesting that she'll stop propping-up the minority Liberal government if the budget includes any increases in gas taxes, road tolls or the H.S.T..

"I will not support any new taxes, tolls or fees that hit middle-class families," the NDP leader wrote in a letter to Premier Kathleen Wynne, according to the Star.

"Now, more than ever, we need to respect the families who sent us here. They cannot afford new unfair taxes and fees at this time. It’s time to focus on making their lives a little more affordable, not more expensive.

"People feel their concerns are being ignored. They see the tax dollars they send to Queen’s Park wasted on everything from politically motivated gas plant cancellations — at a cost to taxpayers of about $1.1 billion — to million-dollar bonuses for public sector CEOs who get rewarded for failure with golden parachutes."

In response to the letter, Wynne told reporters that she's not playing "Let's Make a Deal."

"The way that the leader of the NDP frames her letter she doesn't talk about investments in transit, she doesn't talk about the need to have infrastructure built in this province. I’m very aware that the middle class is being squeezed," Wynne said on Tuesday morning, according to the National Post.

"Ms. Horwath does not talk about what she stands for. She only talks about what she will not support."

[ Related: NDP, Tories earn split in Ontario provincial byelections ]

Horwath's tough talk is buoyed by a couple of things.

Firstly, the NDP's byelection victory in Niagara Falls, last week, gives the party some momentum.

Secondly, the polls suggest that the three main party's are in a tight three-way race.

"If a general election were held tomorrow, the Tories would receive 34 per cent of the vote among decided voters, up 3 points since Ipsos Reid’s last provincial poll in late 2013," an Ipsos Reid survey, released on Sunday, noted.

"By comparison, the Liberals have dropped 3 points and now sit at 31 per cent of the total vote – exactly tied with the NDP who are also at 31 pent of the vote (unchanged)."

Liberal insider and Sun News analyst Warren Kinsella says that Horwath's letter to Wynne is a smart move and positions the NDP as the "Pocketbook Party."

"[The NDP] know that the main preoccupation of most voters, these days, is how to make daily life more affordable. So they have essentially usurped what is traditionally a Liberal position, and become the advocates for the middle class," Kinsella wrote on his website.

"With her move last night, I believe Horwath has forced Wynne’s hand: the Liberal leader is not going to get a budget passed. If the Liberal leader wants to frame the debate, she’ll have to go to the Lieutenant-Governor, and dissolve the Legislature."

In an email exchange with Yahoo Canada News, Kinsella continued suggesting that Horwath could win the next election.

"The [Liberals] have been in power for more than a decade - after that much time, voters get sick of you. Hudak, meanwhile, is seen as too radical and reactionary. If you want a reasonable alternative to the Ontario Liberals, Andrea Horwath is it," he said.

"She's the most-liked politician in the province, and has been for months. If she does well in the leader's debate, she is going to be unstoppable, pretty much."

A Premier Andrea Horwath?

We're headed towards some interesting times at Queen's Park.

(Photo courtesy of the Canadian Press)

Are you a politics junkie?
Follow @politicalpoints on Twitter!