Ontario Votes 2014

NDP's Andrea Horwath keeps Ontario campaign details under wraps

While Progressive Conservative and Liberal party leaders clash over clearly defined platforms, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath continues to keep much of her party platform under wraps.

Is debate between Liberals and PCs leaving NDP on the sidelines?

As the second week of the campaign comes to a close, some experts say NDP Leader Andrea Horwath needs to provide more details about her campaign plans, or risk having her message lost in the sparring between the Liberals and PCs. (David Donnelly/CBC)

As the end of the campaign's second week draws near, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath is struggling to carve out space for her message in the debate.

Much of the campaign headlines and sound bites have been dominated by the daily back-and-forth sparring between Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak and Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne.

Hudak's wide-ranging and detailed austerity plan — which includes a promise to cut more than 100,000 public sector workers — and Wynne's responses have so far sucked up much of the oxygen in the campaign that sends Ontario voters to the polls on June 12.

On Wednesday, Horwath made an announcement that to some signalled a move to the centre: a plan to appoint a cabinet minister responsible for guarding against government waste with an annual savings target of $600 million.

It was a rare new detail from an NDP leader who has so far kept much of her platform under wraps.

On Thursday, Horwath was talking about increasing the provincial minimum wage and a tax cut for small business owners, both policies she had previously announced.

And with the Tories and Liberals laying their deeply contrasting plans on the line, experts say Horwath — who triggered this election by refusing to support the Liberal budget — risks being left on the sidelines of a two-way debate.

"They seem to be the most disorganized of the three parties in terms of laying out a plan," University of Windsor political science professor Lydia Miljan told CBC News.

"[Horwath] is going to have to tell Ontarians what [the NDP's] policies are and be very clear about what they would consider cutting. So far they've tried to make the ballot issue whether or not we trust the Liberals and they've been avoiding serious policy discussion."

Little room for Horwath to manoeuvre

York University's Ian Roberge says Horwath's strategy may be to look at the campaign as a marathon, not a sprint.

There's many, many days left to this campaign. We're really just starting out- Andrea Horwath

"You may want to make sure that you're keeping some of your best stuff throughout, so you're making daily announcements," he said.

Part of the challenge for the NDP is that the Liberal budget had many items from Horwath's wish list, in what became a failed attempt by Wynne's minority government to earn NDP support. If Horwath pushes for those policies now, Wynne can simply counter by pointing out that those measures were in a budget the NDP chose to reject.

Asked Thursday when more details will emerge from her campaign, Horwath said voters can expect more in the coming days.

"There's many, many days left to this campaign. We're really just starting out," she said.

"We are rolling out a few other ideas over the next couple of days and we will certainly have not only our full platform as a package, but all of the costing as well."

Miljan said the NDP would do well to get the nuts and bolts of their platform in front of the electorate, the sooner the better.

"I don't think they should wait very much longer," she said. "They're not getting a lot of traction by just focusing on scandals... they really have to provide a narrative about the campaign issues and how they're going to solve the problems that Ontario faces."

with files from Genevieve Tomney


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