Andrea Horwath, Jagmeet Singh team up at Brampton event to keep pushing NDP in polls

With her party surging in the polls, Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath turned to her federal counterpart for an extra boost of support Monday as she continues her push to present herself as a viable alternative ahead of the June election.

NDP now 2nd in polls and gaining on Doug Ford and PCs, but can party sway Liberal voters?

Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh welcomes provincial NDP leader Andrea Horwath to the stage at an NDP rally in Brampton on Monday. (Galit Rodan/Canadian Press)

With her party surging in the polls, Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath turned to her federal counterpart Monday for an extra boost as she continues to present herself as the only alternative to PC Leader Doug Ford in the June election.

With the leaders on shortened schedules for the Victoria Day holiday, Horwath and federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh touted the NDP's message of change and hope for the future at Brampton's Bombay Palace.

In 2011, Singh became the first NDP MPP in Peel Region when he won the riding of Bramalea-Gore-Malton. He was re-elected in 2014 before running for, and winning, the leadership of the federal NDP in 2017.

Horwath, hoping to make further inroads in the area, hammered home her message of support for workers, robust public services and returning Hydro One to public hands.

"Something special is happening in Ontario and it's happening because of all of you," Horwath said to hundreds of cheering supporters.

Singh, a boisterous public speaker, noted the location holds special significance for the party — election victory parties have been held there, and it was where he launched his federal leadership campaign.

"This is the kind of rally I dream about having in Brampton," Singh said. "This is what we've been building for the past seven years."

Can NDP convert Liberal supporters?

Chris Cochrane, an associate professor of political science at the University of Toronto, said the NDP's "main job" in this election is to present itself as a "competent alternative to the Conservatives."

"If she can pick up some of the Liberal exodus, if Liberals come to the realization that they have no hope and if that is in fact the case, I think the NDP will be well-positioned to make a push here beyond what we might expect given their current position in the polls," Cochrane told CBC Toronto.

According to the CBC Ontario Votes 2018 Poll Tracker, the Progressive Conservatives are sitting at about 39.4 per cent support, with the NDP behind at 31 per cent and the Liberals at 23.3 per cent. The Greens are at 4.9 per cent.

Singh "can definitely help" the provincial NDP, Cochrane said Monday, given that the federal and provincial parties have long been "very well-integrated" compared to the Liberals and the PCs.

Singh's job in part will be to mobilize voters to get to the polls, something that plagues the provincial NDP, he said.

"Solving a motivational deficit has been a long-standing challenge for the New Democrats," Cochrane said, noting that the party's base includes some of the people least likely to get to the polls: those who are economically disadvantaged, for example, or who do not have post-secondary education.

Conservatives 'not out of the woods'

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, meanwhile, will not be extending the same support to his provincial counterpart, Kathleen Wynne, a spokesperson for the Ontario Liberal Party confirmed Monday. The spokesperson noted that federal Liberal MPs will help local candidates on the campaign trail, instead.

According to Cochrane, that may benefit Wynne as she seeks to siphon off NDP support. Traditional NDP voters may be disillusioned with Trudeau over issues such as the environment and his unfulfilled promise of electoral reform, he said.

Meanwhile, Conservatives who may consider voting for the Liberals could jump on the prime minister's carbon tax proposal as a reason to withhold support from Wynne.

With two-and-a-half weeks left of the election campaign, the result is anything but guaranteed, Cochrane said.

While Horwath and Wynne say they won't form an alliance to quash a PC victory, their combined support is greater than that of the PC's, Cochrane points out.

"I don't think Conservatives are out of the woods yet," he said.

"If there is a flood one way or the other, from the Liberals to the New Democrats or from the New Democrats to the Liberals, I think life's going to be a lot more difficult for the Conservatives than current poll numbers suggest."