Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath will firm up her demands for accountability measures in the provincial budget Wednesday as the political manoeuvring over the province’s fiscal plan begins in earnest.
Ms. Horwath will not announce whether she will back the budget or not, sources said. Rather, she is expected to lay out the things the Liberals will have to do to convince her party the government will keep its spending promises.
With the Liberals holding a minority of seats in the legislature and the Progressive Conservatives angling to vote down the government, Premier Kathleen Wynne must win Ms. Horwath’s support to push through the budget and avoid a spring election.
To that end, Ms. Wynne loaded the spending plan with NDP-friendly measures, including a 15-per-cent cut to auto-insurance premiums and more money for home care. But Ms. Horwath has said this is not enough – she wants firm guarantees that these policies will actually meet her party’s goals, such as a mechanism to ensure insurance premiums are brought down within a year.
The two sides have not yet held any formal meetings, sources said, and a sit-down between the two leaders has not yet been arranged.
Ms. Wynne has made overtures to Ms. Horwath and said Tuesday she was eager for the NDP to give her a “concrete proposal” on what should be in the budget.
“I’ve got an open door and she’s welcome to meet with me at any point,” Ms. Wynne said.
But Ms. Horwath has said she will present her demands publicly before negotiations take place.
NDPers say they want to avoid a repeat of last year, where the two sides made a budget deal behind closed doors and came away with different understandings of their arrangement. The Liberals said the NDP had agreed to pass the budget with a handful of tweaks; the NDP, however, said it had reserved the right to make changes at committee.
Ms. Horwath has also demanded the government take steps to ensure it never again wastes hundreds of millions of dollars, as it did when it cancelled two gas-fired power plants. She said Tuesday she would weigh this when deciding whether to back the budget.
“Absolutely it factors in, because people deserve much, much better than this,” she said. “They deserve their precious tax dollars to be respected, to be used wisely and prudently and also to know their government is prepared to be transparent and accountable.”