Toronto·Ontario Votes 2022

Ontario election interview: NDP Leader Andrea Horwath

Ontario New Democratic Party Leader Andrea Horwath spoke with CBC's provincial affairs reporter Mike Crawley.

CBC News has requested interviews with the 4 main provincial party leaders contesting the June 2 election

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath speaks with CBC provincial affairs reporter Mike Crawley. (CBC)

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath spoke with CBC's provincial affairs reporter Mike Crawley. CBC News has requested interviews with the leaders of all four major parties fielding a full slate of candidates in the Ontario election.  

Crawley: What would make you a good premier? 

Horwath: Because I've been fighting for families and people all my life. Being the premier would give me a chance to actually win some of those battles for them. That's why I'm doing this, because things have gotten really tough for folks. Life has gotten harder and harder. People can't afford the things that they used to be able to afford. 

We have a housing crisis. We have a health-care system on its knees, a seniors'-care system on its knees. For me, this election is about showing people that you can have a government that actually focuses on the things that matter most to you and that they can actually start fixing those things. 

Crawley: Can you contrast yourself, though, with one of your opponents, Doug Ford? What would make you a better premier than Doug Ford? 

Horwath: Well, I think people have watched for the last four years as Doug Ford has prioritized big-box stores over mom-and-pop small businesses. He's been in it for his buddies, whether that's developers, whether that's Conservative insiders. He seems to be really focused on folks like that while life has become harder for people over the last four years. He made a lot of promises that he didn't keep, and he likes to keep making those promises with election gimmicks and announcements, but we need fundamental change.

Why NDP Leader Andrea Horwath says she would make good premier

5 months ago
Duration 2:00
Horwath told CBC provincial affairs reporter Mike Crawley what she would bring to the position and how that differs from Premier Doug Ford.

We need fundamental efforts made towards fixing the things that make life easier for families. So whether that's making sure their drugs are covered through a prescription drug plan or making sure that they don't have to shell out for dental care that their kids might need or even be able to access mental health care, for example.

These things are all going to help people to save some money. It's going to prevent them from having to pay out of their pocket. Those are lasting changes that will make a difference in terms of people's bottom lines, not just gimmicks and not just being in it for the folks at the top. 

Crawley: I understand here you're talking to a large extent about policies that would contrast you from Doug Ford. I also want you to talk about character. What is it that you bring that's different in the way of character from Doug Ford? 

Horwath: Well, I think our character comes from our life experiences. For me, my life experience is as a working class person, I grew up in Steel Town, in Hamilton, the daughter of an auto worker. That showed me that when things don't go the way that they should be going or the way you think they should be going, then you've got to roll up your sleeves and try to make a change happen.

I've had situations myself as a single parent, even before I had my son when I was in the early parts of my career, where it was hard to to make ends meet, where I was worried about paying the bills, where I actually literally had to go to a grocery store and use my Visa because my paycheque didn't make it to the end of the month. And I know families face those kinds of challenges. I don't think Mr. Ford has faced those kinds of challenges. He comes from a privileged place. Right now, I think this is a time when people need a premier that gets them and has faced some of the struggles that they face as well. 

Horwath speaks during a rally in Toronto late last month to announce her party’s election platform. (Alex Lupul/CBC)

Crawley: Steven Del Duca seems to be trying to contrast himself with you around being ready to be in government because of his experience. How would you contrast yourself with Steven Del Duca? 

Horwath: Well, one of the things we know for sure is that for 15 years the Liberals had a chance to fix the things that are broken, but they contributed to the mess that we have now. They had 15 years to take our seniors' care seriously, and they didn't, which is why long-term care was so vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic as it ripped through there and took so many precious lives. 

We know that they squeezed hospital budgets and put our hospital system into crisis with hallway medicine. They sold off Hydro One and increased our hydro rates. This is not the kind of government that people deserve. They deserve a government that actually fixes a broken health care system and seniors' care system. How can you trust the very guy that broke these things, or the party that was responsible for breaking these things, to fix the same things that they broke?

Things got worse under Doug Ford, no doubt, and COVID had an impact, absolutely. But they had 15 years to deal with some of these things that everyday families should be able to rely on and they didn't. They didn't when they had the chance. 

Horwath unveiled her campaign platform with some of the Ontario NDP's election candidates in the background. (Alex Lupul/CBC)

Crawley: You've now launched your platform. What would you say within that platform is the secret sauce? What is it that lifts this particular NDP campaign and campaign platform above what you've offered to the people of Ontario previously and they've rejected? 

Horwath: Well, I think the most important thing is the combination of understanding that not only do people need the public services that I've talked about, things like a health-care system they can rely on, and things that we have promised in the past that now we're hoping that the federal government can help us realize, which are things like dental care, for example, and pharmacare. These are things that people have not been having access to and having to pay for through their pockets. The affordability of everyday life has really spiralled out of control. 

I think COVID laid bare, in a way that maybe people hadn't seen before, some of the holes in the system, the tragedies that people faced. Although I talked about long-term care pretty much every year since I've been elected here since 2004 or so, I don't think people really saw how bad things were until the Armed Forces came in and pulled the curtain back and we saw people literally losing their lives to dehydration and to malnutrition, malnourishment.

We can't walk away from those things and pretend they didn't happen. We can't unsee the tragedies. We can't unfeel the pain that people went through. 

In early March, Horwath called on the Ford government to reimburse workers and businesses that lost income as a result of the Ottawa convoy protests. (CBC/Radio-Canada)

Our platform speaks not only to those things, but also the recognition that people's dreams are being dashed. Small business owners have had to walk away from their dreams. They're now talking about things like some kind of commercial rent regime where there's some fairness, commercial insurance. These are some of the things that have been a problem in the past, but COVID really highlighted them. 

Similarly, the housing crisis that we have. Homelessness has been a problem in our province for a long time. We became the child poverty capital of Canada under the Liberals. We can't unsee what COVID has done in terms of the encampments in our parks and in our communities. The lack of affordable housing has been a concern for a long time in our province, but it hasn't been as visible as it has been during COVID.

To know that there's a party that's prepared to deal not only with the need for more affordable housing, more social housing, but also help people to realize the dream of home ownership while the housing prices in the private market are spiraling out of control, these are all things that speak to what people are telling us they're concerned about.

Crawley: There does seem to be a deliberate pitch within your platform and some of your messaging about affordability, about cost of living. Putting forward these ideas not as social programs but as a way of making people's lives more affordable, is that a response to Doug Ford saying, "I'm going to put more money in your pocket"? 

Horwath: I think it's more of an acknowledgement, actually that people are having a hard time. That's what we're hearing. Folks are working harder than ever, but their paycheque doesn't cover the bills anymore. We saw a Liberal government that for 15 years kept minimum wage very, very low. We're making a change there. We're saying not only do we know that you need a minimum wage that pays the bills, a job that pays the bills, but you also need the kinds of supports that prevent you from having to shell out in terms of your costs.

I see it more as a response to what people are telling us they're worried about. With the cost of everything going up and inflation eating away at people's earnings, I think people deserve a government that doesn't just throw gimmicks at them and doesn't just throw numbers at them, but actually says we can solve the things that have been broken, broken for a long time and really focus on the things that matter to everyday families. 

Andrea Horwath: 'Your best shot of getting rid of Doug Ford… is a vote for the NDP'

5 months ago
Duration 1:54
The Ontario NDP leader said there’s a lot at stake in this election, and that the NDP being the Doug Ford government’s official opposition puts them in a better position than the Liberal Party to beat the Progressive Conservatives.

Crawley: The knock against the NDP in Ontario for three decades now is that … 

Horwath: Does that mean it's getting tired, that it's been a three-decade knock? 

Crawley: … after the experience in the early '90s, that the voters of Ontario are unlikely to want to give the keys to the province to your party again. What can you say to persuade people otherwise? 

Horwath: I think there's a lot at stake in this campaign and this election. We have an opportunity to really make a difference for people that isn't just going to help folks now, but is actually going to put some fundamental pieces in place that are going to also help the next generation and the generation after that.

At this point in time, people see that there's only one party that is in a position to tackle Doug Ford. All of the polls that we see — and usually you're the one asking me about the polls — but the polls that we see are consistent in so far as people don't want to see Doug Ford having a second term. The majority of people do not want to see Doug Ford as the premier of the province once June 2nd comes. And so the question then is, how do we achieve that?

What I would say to folks is when you look at where things are right now with the NDP being the official opposition and having 40 seats going into this election, and the Liberals at probably the weakest they've been in a very, very long time and going in with only seven seats, I'm really asking people straight up to to acknowledge that your best shot of getting rid of Doug Ford at this time in our history, at this moment in time, not four years from now, but right now, is a vote for the NDP. I'm asking folks to come together and make that decision so we can achieve exactly that. 

Horwath makes an announcement during a rally in Toronto in early April. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

Crawley: There are always a lot of factors that people put into play when they walk in the ballot box and decide who to vote for. But if there is one overarching theme, one actual ballot question in this particular election, what do you think it is? 

Horwath: Well, I would say it's who's going to actually fix the things that matter most to you, because we've seen government after government not do that. We're in a space right now in Ontario where, as I mentioned, there's a lot that's broken, and I think there's a lot more people that recognize the things that are broken. I talked about health care, but we also know that there are problems with education, affordability.

If this past four years has made people worse off — and generally it has, unless you're a buddy of Doug Ford's — and if the last 15 years prior to that didn't actually fix the things that were broken, in fact contributed to these things being broken, there really is only one path forward: for a government that is going to take seriously fixing these basics and making sure that the mess that we've had to deal with is actually cleaned up. 

Crawley: There might be an argument to be made that even Doug Ford and the PCs recognize that. Because if you look at the tone of some of what they've been saying lately, they're referring to how there's been neglect of the system before they were in power, and they're now announcing all of these plans to spend more money on building hospitals and long-term care. So. If they recognize it, why shouldn't the voters trust them to be in power to fix things? 

Horwath:  Well, they've had four years and they've done the opposite. 

The big question of this election, Andrea Horwath says: Who will ‘actually fix’ what’s broken?

5 months ago
Duration 3:26
The NDP leader said a lot is broken in Ontario right now, and the ‘path forward’ is a government that will fix issues in health care, education and affordability.

Crawley: But they had COVID to deal with. 

Horwath: Well, sure, except that when they came into office, they started cutting right away. They started cutting education. They started cutting public health. They started cutting ambulance services. Even during the pandemic, they were cutting education. How does that make any sense? 

Crawley: Maybe, though, they now recognize that that was the wrong tack and that they're now ...

Horwath: What I think is that they're probably desperately trying to convince people not to pay attention to who they really are and instead buy what they're selling now. But what they're selling now is not the history of how Conservatives operate in Ontario, and they were following that pattern. We all remember Mike Harris. We all remember the cuts. We all remember how devastating that was for our province. Sadly, 15 years of Liberal governments in charge didn't fix that.

But the last thing we need now is more of Doug Ford's cuts. He can say anything he wants heading into an election campaign where he's failed Ontarians over the last four years, but we've seen even the promises from his last election haven't been kept. He only kept about 37 per cent of his election promises.

There's that saying about you judge the future behaviour by the past behaviour. We know the Conservatives aren't in it for everyday families, they're not in it for everyday folks, regardless of what they say now, on the eve of an election or on the precipice of an election. We've seen that movie before.

In August 2020, Horwath raised concerns about whether children on school buses were being adequately protected from COVID-19. (Martin Trainor/CBC)

I think this is what makes people cynical about politics. Mike, I really do. And I don't blame them for being cynical. I think my job is to let folks know that when it comes to the NDP, you can have a government that actually does take your priorities seriously and address and deal with the things that are most important. 

Crawley: If you form government, you've got to build a cabinet. In the past, the NDP has struggled to attract candidates and sometimes struggled to attract candidates of sufficient background to be potential cabinet ministers. I know you would have struggled with your existing caucus to find an attorney general because you don't have a lot of lawyers who are MPPs. So what makes your team good enough to be able to support you as premier and tobe a cabinet? 

Horwath: Sure. Well, that's a that's a great question. I'm laughing a little bit. And no offence to lawyers, but if you had a whole cabinet full of lawyers, boy, our province would be in real trouble. 

Crawley: But you do need your attorney general to be a lawyer. 

Horwath: And we do have the one lawyer, but be have a field of candidates that bring all kinds of experience. I think of the person that was the former president of the Canadian Black Chamber of Commerce, for example. We have a number of people that have operated small businesses. We have some folks from the health-care profession, a candidate in Willowdale who's a doctor. We have some folks who have been PSWs, we have lots of folks that have been in the education system, that have worked with children.

Horwath speaks to the media about the Ontario PC government's 2022 budget. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

Not only do we have people with different lived experience, if you will, coming from different employment backgrounds or career backgrounds, but we also have people that truly reflect our province. We have folks from every part of the world that have made Ontario their home. We have great representatives in different parts of our province.

That's one of the things I like about our caucus right now as the official opposition. We have voices that come from urban Ontario, from rural Ontario, from northern Ontario, from remote parts of our province, in terms of Sol Mamakwa, the first First Nations person ever elected to the Ontario Legislature.

Sometimes that means our conversations are longer and more complicated about where we're headed and how we respond to things and of course, when we're government, how we go forward on initiatives. But that depth of conversation and that breadth of experience really makes for better decisions.

Of course, 50 per cent [of NDP candidates were] women this last election in 2018, as well as 2014. And this time we are on track to probably have about 70 per cent of our caucus members, hopefully our government caucus, to be equity-deserving people and that, I think, is extremely important. 

Andrea Horwath on how her parents influenced her

5 months ago
Duration 2:31
The NDP leader spoke about growing up in Hamilton and how a childhood of frugality informs her policies today.

Crawley: I want to close with a more personal question. You mentioned your upbringing and your parents. Tell me a little bit more about them and how did that inform who you are as a person? 

Horwath: I've talked a lot about my dad being an autoworker in Steel Town, which was kind of a funny thing growing up, that we were called Steel Town and my dad was an autoworker. The experience of having to do things without just going to buy them. So, for example, we didn't have a mechanic for our car. My dad did the oil changes. He showed us how to change a filter. He even showed us the spark plugs. He taught myself, my sister and my brothers how to change a tire. It was always about working hard and doing the things that you needed to do to get through life and to build a life.

I'll never forget, I was finishing off my Grade 8, and you have to do your option sheet for Grade 9. And I was at the kitchen table and I'm trying to figure out what I want to do. And my dad said to me, "Honey, take typing. You can always get a job as a secretary." Of course, he ended up being right because computers were on their way in and I had to learn the keyboarding and all of that. But that was advice that was about, "You always have to make sure you can put a roof over your head. And to do that, you have to work hard and you have to be thoughtful." So that was kind of my dad's piece. 

My mom's piece was quite different. Mom stayed home when we were young and raised us. She taught us things like how to do beets and pickles and how to make jam. We would all go as a family and pick strawberries in strawberry season, and it was about how do you make the food that goes on the table and not have to buy the more expensive stuff that's at the grocery store. It was about being frugal, but never complaining that we didn't have enough or that we had a particular lifestyle. We enjoyed our lives. They were humble, but we had what we needed.

Horwath says her character comes from growing up in a working-class family in Hamilton. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

And I worry that now a lot of people are feeling like they're not sure that they're going to be able to have what they need. We have young people that are not even sure that they're ever going to own their own home because they've been priced out of the market. People are making decisions not to have more children because they don't think they can afford to have another child or they certainly can't afford a new house or a new place to rent that's big enough to accommodate a larger family.

We didn't have those worries, but it's because my parents worked hard and paid attention to the things that were important to have a decent life. That's what I learned from them: you've got to roll up your sleeves and work hard to be successful or to be able to build the kind of life that you can feel proud of. 

Crawley: During an election campaign, we see the politician Andrea Horwath, but who is the person? What are you like as a person? 

Horwath: Well, I tend to have, I think, too many off-colour jokes because my team says,"'Never say that in public." In fact, we had one of those moments earlier today. I said something kind of goofy and they're like, "Okay, you have interviews today, don't say that." But I do like to think I have a sense of humour. When I was growing up as a kid, I used to be the one that would try to play the pranks on my aunts and uncles or tell the one-liner jokes. 

Crawley: Were you the class clown? 

Horwath: No, I wasn't the class clown, no. I was very serious in school. But around family, I was always the one to try to prank or crack a joke. But I think that's what helps get you through the tough times, is trying to have a sense of humour and I like to do that. So, for example, okay, now I'm going to do it. Apparently, the NDP is the only party that's actually going to have a traditional campaign bus. So we're the only party bus in town (laughs).

I live a very intense life, as you know, it can be very intense a lot of the time. So I find both my sense of humour and my penchant for Jeopardy! and crime shows on TV are what gets me through sometimes. 

  • This interview transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.