'I'm here for the long haul': Andrea Horwath says she'll lead NDP in next election

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath says she's committed to running for premier in the next election, ahead of her leadership review at this weekend's provincial convention in Hamilton.

Horwath unveils Ontario Green New Deal on eve of party convention

Andrea Horwath told reporters she was committed to running for premier next election, so long as the party wants her. (Laura Howells/CBC)

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath says she's "here for the long haul" and committed to running for premier in the next Ontario election, as she released a new climate plan that will form a "central part" of the party's 2022 platform.

"I'm here for the long haul to take us to the next election and run for the premier of the province," Horwath told reporters in Hamilton Thursday.

"Membership willing."

Tackling climate change will be a key focus in Horwath's bid; she released a new climate plan —the "Ontario Green New Democratic Deal" — hours after her speech. Climate change will be a "big focus" at the NDP convention this weekend, which draws delegates from across the province.

Horwath said the world is primed to fight climate change because of "relentless work by young people." Her speech got a standing ovation from the NDP Youth Caucus on Thursday. (Laura Howells/CBC)

In the newly-released plan, the NDP says it will "move as close to zero emissions as is technologically feasible" by 2050 in Ontario, while creating jobs, training workers and supporting existing industries. The NDP says it will reduce emissions by at least 50 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

The party also says it will retrofit five per cent of Ontario's building per year, to reduce emissions from buildings. 

"It's the biggest challenge that we've ever faced," said Horwath, speaking to about 30 young people in the NDP Youth Caucus on Thursday.

"We've run out of room for error. Yet Doug Ford has used public money to crusade against any form of action on climate change."

NDP members Chelsea MacDonald and Sophie Geffros at the NDP Youth Caucus meeting on Thursday.

"The climate crisis is just not his priority. But it's mine," Horwath said Thursday.

Horwath criticized many of Ford's policy decisions during her speech, and praised young people for fighting back.

"I see you. I hear you. All of Ontario sees you and hears you," she said. "You're changing Ontario for the better right now."

Horwath acknowledged the struggles the young generation faces, and how life is becoming increasingly unaffordable. She also thanked young party members for their role in the NDP's current success — and urged them to "fight like hell" to become government in 2022.

Riley McEntee, 19, is from Huntsville. He said he's not sure if he wants (Laura Howells/CBC)

Several audience members were enthusiastic about Horwath and her stance on the environment.

"I don't want a family, because if I bring kids into this world God knows what their lives will be like when they're my age," said Riley McEntee, 19. He travelled from Huntsville, a nearly four-hour drive north.

Sophie Geffras, 24, is on the youth caucus executive.

"My favourite thing about [Horwath] is that she always shows up," said Geffras, recalling Horwath riding the bus with McMaster students during protests against OSAP cuts.

"I've always really appreciated having the Steeltown scrapper on our side."

'We don't have a lot of time left'

Young people in the room cared about a range of issues, including the opioid crisis, affordable housing, pharmacare, funding for developmental disorders, cuts to legal aid, and accessibility. 

Westmount Secondary School student Aiden McIlbaney said he cares strongly about mental health issues, education and the environment.

"We don't have a lot of time left before global warming and climate change become an issue that cannot be resolved," said 16-year-old McIlbaney, who became involved with the NDP about a year ago.

LGTBQ issues are a top priority for Riley McEntee — it was hard to come out as a trans person and face bullying in northern Ontario, he said.

"I never want anyone to go through what I had to go through," he said.

The NDP convention runs from Thursday to Sunday at Hamilton's Convention Centre. Federal leader Jagmeet Singh will give a speech on Sunday morning.