7 questions for MPP Catherine Fife, new NDP finance critic

Kitchener-Waterloo MPP Catherine Fife has been named finance critic and treasury board critic for the Ontario New Democrats, two of the most high profile portfolios for an opposition party.
Kitchener-Waterloo NDP MPP Catherine Fife was named the NDP's finance critic on Wednesday. (The Canadian Press)

Kitchener-Waterloo MPP Catherine Fife has been entrusted with a high-profile role for the Ontario NDP after being named the critic for both the finance and treasury board portfolios on Wednesday.

The NDP held a caucus meeting Wednesday to discuss an election in which the party failed to increase its seat total and in which the Liberals secured a majority.

CBC News spoke to Fife after the meeting to get her take on the election, the party's future and the possibility of new leadership.

1. You did gain some non-traditional seats but you lost some NDP strongholds as well. Why do people think that so many seats were lost in this election?

In this election I mean we did pick up seats in Oshawa, in Sudbury and in Windsor West, and those seats were important to us. We came second in 21 ridings across the province, so we showed great growth. It is unfortunate that we did lose three seats in the Toronto area.

One of those races was incredibly close, that was Michael Prue, and there was a different dynamic that was happening in this election in Toronto that we could not control. As I said to many people, Michael Prue, Rosario Marchese and Jonah Schein were amazing MPPs and they're going to continue to serve their communities I’m sure, but they’re going to be very hard to replace.

2. How will the NDP stay relevant in a Liberal majority government?

Well I think our mandate is clear. We have always followed the money very carefully. We’ve made sure the people’s voices of Ontario are heard very strongly at Queen’s Park and that work ethic is not going anywhere. We’ve always punched above our weight and we’re going to continue to do so.

You know, we have a lot of knowledge on our caucus and we have a great ability, I think, to build consensus, to find some common ground and, though ultimately, to hold the Liberals to account. So we’re going to come to work every day and fight hard for the people of this province and that’s what they expect from us.

3. What is the plan to come back from this [election]? Is there discussion about where the NDP goes from here?

I think those are conversations that are emerging as the caucus sort of matures and evolves. Right now we’re focused next week on the swearing in, the throne speech and of course the budget.

So, I think that I look forward to continuing the conversation with you…as the months and years proceed. But I think you’ll see that our commitment to the people of this province will not be questioned because we are going to rebuild relationships and re-engage with the people of this province.

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath defended her decision to force an election this spring. "It's a good thing to give the people their choice," she said Wednesday. "It will always be relevant to stand up to a government that has shown time and time again that they don't keep their promises." (Patrick Morrell/CBC)

4. And how do you plan to do that?

 I mean there’s several different ways. As I mentioned in 21 ridings we came second and so we made…we’ve created new relationships with people in those ridings and we’re going to maintain them.

We’re not going to walk away after the election and I think at Queen’s Park clearly you’re going to hear some ideas come from our party and try to work with the Liberals as time proceeds.

5. There’s a leadership review coming up in November. How confident are you that Ms. Horwath will remain as leader?

Well, I think we’re just going to see how the membership sort of engages in that process. I’ve never actually been part of this process so I’m probably one of the least experienced members to ask about it. But I think that there has been good support for Andrea in the province of Ontario and she’s going to continue to work hard and she’s an admirable leader for the party.

6. Do you think you’ll be leader one day?

I think that’s sort of an awkward question right now for me. Right now I’m learning the finance critic and the critic role for the treasury board. I’m truly committed to following the money and to ensuring that the priorities of the people are heard at Queen’s Park and I think this is a good experience for me going forward.

7. Why is it an awkward question?

Well, I mean because there is a leadership review happening right, and I truly do I really feel that Andrea did a really good job in this election and I think that she has the support of caucus. So, as I said for me, her faith in me to deliver as finance critic is very encouraging for me, and it’s a big responsibility that I’m going to work up to.