The Ontario NDP, which kept Premier Kathleen Wynne's minority Liberal government afloat on a budget vote last spring, almost certainly won't try to trigger an election this fall, party leader Andrea Horwath says — though that doesn't mean there won't be one.
"You can never prejudge what can happen in a minority parliament," Horwath told reporters at a noon press scrum Saturday. "We know for sure that there's nothing over this fall session that will likely trigger an election unless Ms. Wynne decides to trigger an election herself."
Horwath said her party is nevertheless making sure it's at the ready to fight a campaign, if one is in the offing.
The New Democratic leader spoke to the media in between sessions at her party's provincial council meeting in downtown Toronto.
She said that when the next election comes, the NDP's selling point will be that it's shown that it doesn't just hear out Ontarians' concerns and problems, but tries to solve them.
"Whether that's improvements in child care, whether that's small community and rural hospitals getting some assistance, whether that's stopping corporate tax reductions to try to make our budget work and provide services for folks, whether that's auto insurance rate reductions — I mean, let's face it, we've shown, I think, over the last couple of years that New Democrats know how to listen to people and how to actually get things done on their behalf," Horwath said.
The provincial Liberals, six months after Kathleen Wynne was elected leader following former premier Dalton McGuinty's resignation last fall, were facing the possibility of going down to defeat over their spring budget.
Horwath extracted budget concessions — including a youth jobs program, the promised cut in auto-insurance premiums and an increase in welfare rates — in exchange for the NDP's support, and the vote passed by a margin of 64 to 36.
Premier Wynne hinted this week that a fall election is not her preference but that the next budget could prove a crucial testing ground for her government, which holds 49 of the legislature's 107 seats.
"I have said that I will continue to work in minority parliament and make it work to the best of my ability. We'll see what happens around the spring budget," she told CBC News in an interview.
Just last month, Wynne had warned the opposition parties that if they held up the passage of new legislation, she would be willing to go to the polls promptly. That spurred Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak to say he thought the Liberals were deliberately trying to engineer some kind of crisis that would see them drop the writ.
Horwath also addressed a months-old controversy within her party over the way the NDP candidate was chosen for the Aug. 1 byelection in the Toronto riding of Scarborough-Guildwood.
Some New Democratic faithful — including party stalwart Joy Taylor, who had been with the NDP and its predecessor for nearly seven decades — alleged that people who weren't properly registered party members showed up for the nomination meeting and voted to give the nod to former Toronto city councillor Adam Giambrone.
Taylor eventually quit the party over the process.
Horwath said Saturday that she "would only hope" that NDP members disaffected by the nomination contest will one day return to the fold.
"The work that they do is respected. We don't always agree on everything, but that's why we have these open party delegate debates and we allow people to have at the issues."