With Ford announcing last week he was leaving Toronto to get help people could be forgiven for thinking the political news cycle was up for a well earned break. Deep down we all knew a video of a drunken Ford peeing in the ivy at Wrigley Field could be waiting in our future, but we hoped for some peace none the less. Enter Andrea Horwath and the NDP.
Horwath announced Friday the NDP would not support the budget Premier Wynne and the Liberals released earlier in the week. This triggered an election as PC leader Tim Hudak had already announced he wouldn’t support the budget before it was released. One wonders if Tim’s crystal ball is so good why it couldn’t have given him a heads up about Rob Ford’s hobbies but I digress. Let’s talk about Horwath’s choice instead.
Andrea Horwath and the NDP held the balance of power for most of the Liberals’ minority government. If the Liberals tabled a motion that the sky was blue Hudak would vote against it, so it was always up to Horwath how long the Liberals would continue to govern. A position she has used well in the past by negotiating concessions from the Liberals in exchange for her support. In previous budgets, Horwath made deals for increased income taxes on salaries over $500,000 and a pledge to cut auto insurance premiums. Which is why it was curious that this budget was the one she chose to pull the plug on the Liberals over.
This budget called for investments in transit, infrastructure, hospital, and school construction. It called for an increased minimum wage indexed to inflation, nutritional programs for school kids, and the establishment of an Ontario pension plan. Short of calling it the “NDP is Super Awesome Budget” I’m not sure what else the NDP was looking for.
It seems I’m not the only one. Ontario Federation of Labour President Sid Ryan, as well as unions like CUPE, UNIFOR, and the Ontario Nurses Association all wanted Horwath to support this budget. Politicians are often accused of preaching to the choir, in this case it’s the choir Horwath didn’t want to listen to. Looking at that list, maybe even the congregation.
I took to twitter and asked how Horwath’s base might react to the rejection of a budget the NDP could well have written. Noted transit blogger Steve Munro gave about as clear an answer as you could ask for. Data is still not the plural of anecdote so I’m not going to mistake what either Steve or the various unions said as evidence of anything. The NDP had better hope they’re not.
Seat projections aside, with initial polls showing the PC’s in front there is a real chance NDP leaning voters could move to the Liberals. Even die hard dippers might be inclined to do so in ridings where a split between the Liberals and the NDP could help put Hudak in charge at Queen’s Park. While Wynne may not be serving their cup of tea, I suspect they’d prefer drinking hers to Hudak’s hemlock.
Horwath and the NDP were eventually going to vote against the Liberals and bring down the government. The question is, was the budget she chose to do it over one her base would have preferred she support? Ticking off your base is one way for a party to start an election. I’m not sure it’s a good way to win one though.