Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath should quit stalling and say yea or nay to the Ontario budget tabled last week by the minority Liberals. The budget contained numerous generous concessions to the NDP in an effort to garner its support, but Ms. Horwath has delayed giving that support and has even begun making new demands. It may be smart politics for the NDP to play this cynical game, but it leaves taxpayers and corporations in the dark about their future.
Budgets are critical legislation that lay out the fiscal framework for both the government and for the people and businesses that pay taxes. Clarity within the budget bill itself, and a reasonable expectation that the bill will be adopted, are important to a stable economy. We have in the past criticized the Harper government for tabling omnibus budget bills that obfuscate the government’s intentions. And now the Ontario NDP, under Ms. Horwath, are committing a similar, self-serving sin, leaving Ontarians unsure of how to plan or whether they will be going to the polls later this spring.
The budget proposed by the Liberals contains a 15-per-cent cut to car-insurance rates and additional spending on home care, among other concessions designed to win NDP support. But instead of indicating whether she will support the budget, a deadpan Ms. Horwath has been making, she says, phone calls and doing online consultations to get party members’ input. And on Wednesday she added a new demand for a budget accountability office at Queen’s Park similar to the federal government’s parliamentary budget office.
Will there be more demands tomorrow? Has Ms. Horwath exhausted her list of supporters to call and consult on the Internet? Does she even have a mind of her own, a capacity generally considered a requirement for becoming premier? At the most important political moment of her career, Ms. Horwath is demonstrating that she is unfit to lead. She and the NDP need to remember that Ontario elected a Liberal premier, and that exploiting their third-party status to influence the budget can cross over into crass and damaging opportunism if taken too far.