Ontario’s NDP leader took her election campaign on Monday to the riding Doug Ford is hoping to capture, slamming the Tory leader’s tax plan on his home turf as recent polls suggest one of the two will be the next premier.
Andrea Horwath, whose New Democrats have been gaining momentum, said Ford has been promising to cut a middle-class tax bracket by 20 per cent, but she contended the pledge will see the richest people benefit the most.
“He’s great with the bumper stickers, with the announcements that sound good, but the minute you peel back a layer you see that his plan is not a plan for the people,” she said.
“We can’t afford Mr. Ford’s plan. It will give tax cuts to the rich, where everyone else is going to pay much, much more to make a go of life.”
Ford has said his proposed tax cut, which would only kick in during the third year of a Tory government, would save those earning between $42,960 and $85,923 annually a maximum of $786 per person. Those on the higher end of the tax bracket would see the largest savings, while those on the lower end would see savings of under $200 a year.
Horwath, standing at a Toronto coffee shop in the heart of so-called Ford Nation, suggested the Progressive Conservative leader would put public services at risk.
“The choice is really stark,” said Horwath, in a phrase reminiscent of one used by Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne early in the campaign to contrast the governing party with the Tories. “With the tax cuts that Mr. Ford is talking about, services are going to get worse. People’s hospitals are going to get worse.”
Ford did not respond directly to Horwath’s attack on Monday, but at a leaders’ debate the night before, he said he was the only party leader with a plan to money in taxpayers’ pockets.
With just 10 days before the election, some recent polls suggest Horwath’s New Democrats have jumped into the lead after making steady gains since the start of the campaign.
The Tories started the race with a sizable lead, but that has evaporated as their campaign has been plagued by controversies, which include allegations Ford was involved in selling bogus party memberships and allegations stolen customer data from a highway toll company may have been used by some candidates to win nomination races.
Campaigning in the riding of Etobicoke North, Horwath said NDP candidates will be competitive all across Ontario.
“What we’re hearing around this province is this growing sense that something different is going to happen this time around,” she said. “I hear it in all ridings that I spend time in.”
Horwath’s event was briefly interrupted by the riding’s Liberal incumbent, Shafiq Qaadri, a backbencher who has represented the area in north Toronto since 2003. Qaadri held up one of his own campaign signs and shouted out as Horwath took questions from reporters.
“I think we both share a common goal, Ms. Horwath, against Mr. Ford,” Qaadri said.
Horwath called his actions “unfortunate.”
“Shafiq, if you don’t mind, I’m going to finish my news conference and then you can have all the time you want to talk to the media, but please don’t interrupt me,” she said. “It’s very rude.”
Qaadri later told reporters he had spotted the NDP bus at a nearby intersection and decided to follow it. He initially didn’t apologize for the intrusion but later, after Wynne had called his behaviour inappropriate, said he was sorry.
“My actions today at the ONDP event were rash and inexcusable,” Qaadri said on Twitter. “For that I would like to offer my sincerest apology to AndreaHorwath.”
Wynne, meanwhile, spent much of her time at a campaign stop in downtown Toronto attacking Horwath’s opposition to the use of back-to-work legislation.
She stood with Glenn Thibeault, who left his job as a federal New Democrat to become a provincial Liberal in a 2015 by-election, to say the NDP puts ideology ahead of practical solutions.
“It does come down to a question of leadership,” Wynne said.
“Without the ability to stop strikes when they’ve gone on too long or they’ve hurt too many people, you’re left with very few choices. You can either leave the province permanently on strike, or you can give away everything that’s been asked for. Andrea Horwath would empty the public purse.”
Wynne said a re-elected Liberal government would recall the legislature right after the election to introduce back-to-work legislation to end a nearly three-month strike at York University. The NDP voted against a similar attempt when the Liberals introduced a bill just before the legislative session ended for the election.
Ford, meanwhile, appeared in Newmarket, Ont., where he was pressed on when the Tories would release a costed platform. He repeated his vow to present the document before the election, but gave no further details.
“We’ve been laying out our plan every single day … we put a dollar figure beside every single announcement that we have,” said Ford.
Ontario heads to the polls June 7.
– With files from Paola Loriggio and Colin Perkel