Andrea Horwath says she knows she hasn't been around her riding much this election, but she's hoping voters will understand.

The leader of the Ontario NDP is vying for a job as premier, which has meant campaigning across the province. She's hoping the people of Hamilton Centre “understand where I'm coming from.”

“We've been to Hamilton a couple of times, but it's tough,” said Horwath. “It's tough to be responsible for the entire province and to be attending events and still getting home.”

Horwath made the comments after the taping of a Cable 14 debate for candidates of Hamilton Centre, which will air on Saturday. Horwath debated Liberal candidate Donna Tiqui-Shebib, Conservative candidate John Vail, Green candidate Peter Ormond and Communist Party candidate Bob Mann.

During the debate, Tiqui-Shebib said voters noticed Horwath's absence.

Donna Tiqui-Shebib and John Vail

Donna Tiqui-Shebib and John Vail prepare for a Cable 14 debate. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

“They haven't seen you in a while,” said Tiqui-Shebib, a local lawyer. “One of the drawbacks of you being leader is you're not in the riding.”

Hamilton is in the unique position of having two provincial party leaders from local ridings. Tim Hudak is MPP for Niagara West-Glanbrook and leader of the Conservative party.

'I was listening to the people of Ontario when I made that decision.'- Andrea Horwath

As for Hudak's local debate record, “that's a choice every leader has to make,” she said.

“At the very least, I think it's important to get to (the Cable 14) debate so the people of Hamilton Centre know I'm still very committed to them.”

Debate topics for Hamilton Centre included light-rail transit (LRT), poverty and the NDP's decision not to support the Liberal's spring budget, which prompted Premier Kathleen Wynne to call the June 12 election.

The budget had plenty of money for poverty and transit, Tiqui-Shebib said. It also included plans for an Ontario pension plan.

“It was the best-written NDP budget a Liberal could have done,” she said.

Horwath said she has no regrets about not supporting the budget.

“I was listening to the people of Ontario when I made that decision,” she said.

“The Liberals threw the moon and the stars into that budget, but Liberals do not keep their promises.”

Horwath cited poverty and LRT as major issues in Hamilton Centre.

The NDP has pledged full funding for an LRT line from McMaster University to Eastgate Square, as have the Green Party. The Liberals have pledged money for “rapid transit” and say whether that's LRT will depend on discussions with city hall. The Conservative government is not in favour of LRT.


Cable 14 debate schedule

Haldimand-Norfolk: Saturday, May 31 at 4 p.m.

Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale: Saturday, May 31 at 5 p.m.

Hamilton Centre: Saturday, May 31 at 6 p.m.

Hamilton East-Stoney Creek: Saturday, May 31 at 7 p.m.

Hamilton Mountain: Saturday, May 31 at 8 p.m.

The debates air once a day until June 9.