Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath wouldn’t say if she’ll stay on in her post if she fails to become premier, telling reporters on Tuesday she will wait for voters to make their decision in this week’s election before she makes hers on her political future.
“Once they make their decision, then that will determine what goes forward in terms of me personally,” she told reporters at a campaign stop in Ottawa, vowing to “keep fighting for people” whatever the result of Thursday’s vote.
Ms. Horwath, in her fourth election as NDP Leader, is expected to face calls to step aside if the party doesn’t win government or improve on the 40 seats it won in 2018, when it became the Official Opposition after a Liberal collapse that left that party with just seven seats.
All published polls since this year’s election campaign began have suggested Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford is in the lead, leaving Ms. Horwath and Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca so far jostling for second place.
Both opposition leaders have repeatedly insisted theirs is the only party that can stop Mr. Ford from forming a second majority government. And while the pair have said in the past that neither of them would prop up a PC minority in the legislature, they have shown little inclination toward co-operation on the campaign trail.
In the riding of Ottawa-West Nepean on Tuesday morning, Ms. Horwath attacked the Liberals’ record on health care during their 15 years in power. She urged Ontarians who want to defeat Mr. Ford to vote for the NDP, repeating pledges to hire 30,000 nurses and 10,000 personal support workers.
“Because much of what has been broken was broken by the Liberals, we can’t trust that they’re going to fix it,” Ms. Horwath said.
She appeared alongside local NDP candidates Chandra Pasma, who placed a close second to the PC candidate in Ottawa West-Nepean in 2018, and Joel Harden, who is seeking re-election in Ottawa Centre.
Speaking to reporters in Oakville on Tuesday morning, Mr. Del Duca, who is facing a tough fight for his own seat in Vaughan-Woodbridge, said voting for his party was the only way to stop Mr. Ford.
“The momentum is really crystal clear at this moment. And people are now telling me, I don’t even have to talk to them, they see me, they recognize the hairstyle, and they say right away, ‘We know the way to stop Doug Ford’s cuts and chaos is to vote Liberal.’”
He also said the Ford government was “prioritizing private hospitals” and had a “secret agenda” to privatize health care and other services. He cited comments made by Health Minister Christine Elliott in February when she said the government planned to restart some of the surgeries delayed by the pandemic and that existing private hospitals would also resume procedures.
But the PC government has made no changes or proposed amendments to the legislation that governs the small number of specialized private hospitals in the province. PC Party spokeswoman Ivana Yelich said Tuesday that health officials have been looking at ways to use any extra capacity in the system, including at private hospitals, to catch up on procedures delayed by COVID-19.
In 2017, when Mr. Del Duca was in cabinet, the then-Liberal government proposed scrapping the Private Hospitals Act, which caps the number of private hospitals in the province, but withdrew the legislation after an outcry from health care unions and advocates. He said Tuesday a Liberal government would spend $1-billion over two years on public hospitals to clear the province’s surgical backlog.
Meanwhile, the Ford campaign was mostly silent Tuesday. The Progressive Conservatives have run what political strategists call a cautious “front-runner campaign” with few new announcements and more limited access to Mr. Ford for reporters, compared with the other leaders.
However, Mr. Ford failed to show up altogether for what his campaign said was supposed to be photo opportunity only in St. Catharines on Tuesday morning. He appeared at an event in the riding of Niagara Centre later in the day, where he was also not scheduled to take questions from reporters. The PC Party also cancelled a rally in Ajax, east of Toronto, planned for Tuesday night, inviting those set to attend it to one on Wednesday in Toronto’s Etobicoke area instead.
PC Party spokespeople did not respond to requests for comment on this before deadline.
Green Leader Mike Schreiner campaigned Tuesday once again in Parry Sound-Muskoka with local candidate Matt Richter. The Greens believe they have a shot at adding a second MPP in this riding after the Liberal candidate there was dropped by his party.
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