Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath today defended her decision to pull support for the Liberals' budget this spring, a move that triggered the June 12 election in which her party failed to increase its seat total.
"Absolutely not," said Horwath when asked Wednesday if the move was a mistake. "It's a good thing to give the people their choice. 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."
The NDP's share of the popular vote increased slightly, but the party failed to increase its 21-seat total.
Kathleen Wynne's Liberals finished with 58 seats, enough to return to power with a majority and shut the NDP out of future budget discussions. Prior to the election, Horwath's party held the balance of power, forcing Wynne's Liberals to include NDP demands in their budget.
The NDP had a difficult election campaign. The party was slow to release its full platform and a group of prominent NDP supporters criticized what they saw as the party's shift to the right. Other NDP supporters were not happy with Horwath's decision to pull support for a budget many saw as progressive.
Horwath says 'strategic voting' played a role
Horwath appeared to blame some of her party's lacklustre showing on "strategic voting," hinting that many left-leaning Ontarians opted to vote Liberal to block PC Leader Tim Hudak from winning seats. Hudak, whose party lost 10 seats in the election, ran on a campaign with promises to make deep public service cuts.
"People voted out of fear," said Horwath. "They strategically voted to keep Mr. Hudak's plans off the books. Many people believed in our plan, but strategic voting is something that took hold in a great way in this province."
Yesterday a rumour — roundly denied by NDP spokespeople— suggested Horwath would resign today. She was asked about the leadership question and said party members will have their say about leadership at the NDP's annual fall convention.
"Our party always has that review and I look forward to that," said Horwath. "We always have a vigorous debate."
Horwath said she's talked to many New Democrats and they still support her despite the party's disappointing election results.
Horwath said she will now focus on raising questions about the budget the Liberals plan to re-introduce, calling it a "Trojan horse budget" with "a lot of regressive pieces."
"This is not the progressive budget the Liberals have been spinning," said Horwath. "We can't support an austerity budget when voters rejected austerity."
New Democrat Percy Hatfield, who easily reclaimed his seat of Windsor-Tecumseh, says he still supports Horwath "absolutely 100 per cent" and doesn't regret his party's decision to trigger the election.
After this morning's news conference, Horwath is scheduled to have an all-day caucus meeting, where she is again likely to face leadership questions.
Horwath now meeting with caucus. Says party members encouraged her to stay on as leader. Leadership review in Nov at convention #cbcto— Linda Ward (@LindaWardCBC) June 25, 2014