You’re a newbie leader of a third-place political party, so your game plan for the first week of your first-ever provincial campaign as head honcho should be simple enough: Get out and get noticed, and get your supporters riled up enough to canvass on your behalf.
Things are a little more complicated for New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath: She’s campaigning in the shadow of a historic success for the NDP on the federal front, and with the memory of the architect of that victory looming over her.
She’s also on a populist course that eschews some of the NDP’s left-leaning policies in favour of appealing to Ontario voters’ hearts through their pocketbooks. That’s led to some suggestions the party’s lost or bears too close a resemblance to the Progressive Conservatives; she argues it’s just returning to its labour-union roots.
Ms. Horwath stated right off the bat she was more than a little nervous about the campaign. And a few times, a look of the “What am I doing here?” variety crosses her face.
And then there’s the Jack Layton factor. It’s clear much of the good will is due to people’s affection for the late federal leader – one young man at a Friday prayer service in a Brampton mosque wanted to have his photo taken with Ms. Horwath because he thought she was Mr. Layton’s replacement. Ms. Horwath invokes Mr. Layton herself.
An NDP vote is an NDP vote, regardless of its motivation. But in the coming weeks, Ms. Horwath will probably try to win people on her merits alone.