Ontario NDP launches 'biggest' campaign in its history

Ontario's New Democrats officially kicked off their campaign on Sunday in Hamilton — and the party is calling it "the biggest campaign" in its history.

New Democrats officially kicked off their campaign in Hamilton on Sunday

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath spoke with reporters Sunday after kicking off what she and her party call the 'the biggest campaign' in its history. (Laura Clementson/CBC)

Ontario's New Democrats launched what the party is calling "the biggest campaign" in its history on Sunday in Hamilton.

The rally at Liuna Station in Hamilton came a little more than a week before the official provincial campaign period starts on May 9.

"It's our biggest campaign because we have the resources that we've not had before in terms of our ability to mount the kind of momentum that you're seeing in the room today," NDP Leader Andrea Horwath told reporters. 

The NDP also nominated Horwath, its leader, as the candidate for the riding of Hamilton Centre.

"I'm honoured to accept your nomination as NDP candidate," Horwath told the crowd.

June's vote marks the third election in which Horwath has led the NDP.

"We are running to win," said the leader. "What Ontario doesn't need is Doug Ford, and what Ontario doesn't want anymore is Kathleen Wynne, that's why we're offering change for the better."

The event featured community leaders, other legislators, and Tom Wilson of Blackie and the Rodeo Kings.

NDP supporter Ogho Ikhalo came from Toronto for the launch. 

"I came because I believe it's time for change in this province. It's been 15 years of more of the same, and it's time to change that," said Ikhalo.

Reiterating platform 

Last week, the NDP released its platform, which includes increased spending on healthcare and childcare, promising free child care for families earning less than $40,000 and a boost to hospital budgets if elected.

She also reminded prospective voters of her promise to bring Hydro One back into public hands. The party said, if elected, it would reduce hydro bills by 30 per cent.

"I will never settle for a system that's hurting so many families," said Horwath. 

Let's knock on more doors than ever before.- NDP Leader Andrea Horwath

Horwath reiterated those promises at Sunday's launch, once again presenting the NDP as an alternative to the Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives. 

"I think it's pretty clear that people are desperate for a change in Ontario, and they've made it very obvious that Kathleen Wynne and the Liberals are not wanted at the helm of government anymore," Horwath told reporters. 

But the party has projected five consecutive deficits to pay for its plan, with a $3.3 billion shortfall in 2018-2019 falling to $1.9 billion by 2022-2023.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath was greeted by a large crowd Sunday in Hamilton to launch what the party is call 'the biggest campaign' in its history. (Laura Clementson/CBC)

Currently, the NDP has 18 MPPs at Queen's Park, a number that Horwath has said she is hoping to increase in the next provincial election.

"Let's knock on more doors than ever before," said Horwath. "We will elect a new premier on June 7."

Standing out

Ontario NDP chief of staff, Michael Balagus, is confident Ontario will have a new premier. 

He told reporters Sunday that he thinks it's pretty safe to say, "that this is a change election. There's going to be a new premier elected."

'Every Ontarian is going to have a chance to meet Andrea Horwath.' - Ontario NDP chief of staff Michael Balagus

Balagus said it's the biggest campaign the party has ever run in the province because it's about forming a government, not an opposition. 

The party plans to do this using a variety of platforms to give voters a chance to get to know Horwath. 

"Every Ontarian is going to have a chance to meet Andrea Horwath before this election is over, and we've never offered that in a campaign before. We've never had the money to do that before," said Balagus.

Balagus said people are responding with donations and volunteering their time, which is aiding the large campaign effort. 

Peter Graefe is an associate professor in McMaster University's department of political science. He says that NDP Leader Andrea Horwath isn't that well known by Ontarians, which will be a challenge for her in this campaign. (Laura Clementson/CBC)

Peter Graefe, an associate professor of political science at McMaster University, says Horwath isn't widely known by voters, which could be both a blessing and a curse for the leader. 

"On the one hand, not being known gives her a chance to reintroduce herself to Ontarians and maybe a framing that's useful against Doug Ford, but on the other hand, people may ask, 'Well how come we haven't really thought about Andrea Horwath before this campaign?" said Graefe. "The fact that she's been around and not been known may be also a sign that people are not that willing to take her into consideration."

Graefe says coming out of the launch what people might see is an attempt to position the NDP as the only alternative to the Conservatives.

"Given the difficulty that Kathleen Wynne has had so far in getting traction, she has a shot at least of standing out and becoming if you like, one of the two lead candidates in this race."

With files from The Canadian Press