With the Progressive Conservatives leading in the polls, despite Doug Ford, and Kathleen Wynne’s unfavourable ratings hitting new highs, Andrea Horwath is making bold moves to stakeout the left side of the electorate and position the Ontario NDP as the best alternative to replace the Liberal Government and stop Doug Ford. As I pointed out previously, Horwath has a huge opportunity in this election. Clearly, she wants to make the most of it.
Last weekend, Horwath announced that the NDP platform will include a dental care component: a universal plan to provide dental care benefits to all Ontarians. The plan will be a hybrid, meaning that every Ontarian will be able to access dental benefits – either through collective insurance or with their health card. The plan will cover 4.5 million Ontarians that have no coverage right now.
Too many Ontarians don’t have a workplace benefits plan that includes dental coverage. One in three workers, in fact. This means that either folks go without dental care because they can’t afford it – or they go to a doctor’s office or the ER for a dental problem. So this solution has the potential to be very popular with voters.
Combined with her Pharmacare plank, the NDP Leader is showing she means business when it comes to the next phase of health care: her basic position is that every Ontarian will be covered when it comes to drug and dental care – regardless of age, income or health status. Tommy Douglas would applaud loudly.
This agenda is ambitious, to say the least. And questions will be raised about the affordability of it all. But then again, Ontarians live in a province where they have a Liberal government that wasted millions in mismanagement on the health care file. Could Wynne’s Hail-Mary Throne Speech pledge that this time, they’ll do better, work? I mean, if the Liberals actually wanted to do all the things they are now saying they want to do on health care, seniors care or child care better, wouldn’t they have done it over the past 15 years? Meanwhile, Premier-in-waiting Doug Ford is already saying he’ll cut billions in services via “efficiencies”, whatever that means. (Not job losses, apparently. Right!)
Horwath still needs to convince voters she’s got what it takes to be premier. Her personal popularity is higher than her party and by now, she’s a well-known commodity to voters. Horwath is untainted by scandals; she’s a familiar face that has been around long enough that her image is now comforting to Ontarians. Pharmacare and dental care will reinforce that image.
Still, Horwath’s move is not without risk. A pledge to tax the wealthy and big corporations to pay for big social programs: it will be easy for her opponents to play up the classic NDP stereotypes, the tax-and-spend socialists with never-ending deficits. The Bob Rae scarecrow is never far!