The Ontario NDP heads into a convention this weekend, with leader Andrea Horwath facing a revolt on her leadership, given that she brought down the Wynne government over the most progressive budget in decades this spring, then campaigned on populist slogans and lost the balance of power in the Legislature.
The Ontario Conservative Party is in the midst of a leadership race already.
Meanwhile, the Liberals govern Ontario for another four years with a majority.
Desperate times call for win-win solutions.
So, what’s to be done? I think I may have a simple solution to Conservative and NDP leadership woes.
Andrea Horwath as leader of the Conservatives makes sense.
Well, let’s start with her slogan in the recent election. It was “Andrea Horwath makes sense”, a neat paraphrase and wink to Mike Harris’s Common Sense Revolution.
More substantively, Ms Horwath’s populist platform makes for a picture-perfect playbook for a Tory campaign document.
Sure, there would need to be some minor tweaks: Ms Horwath’s proposed Ministry of Savings (which reminds me every time of Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks, for some reason) would never pass muster in Toryland, which wants to shrink the size of cabinet, not increase it. But the notion of cutting $600 million from government every year forever would certainly get a thumbs up from Tory icon Rob Ford, given his dubious boast that he “saved” the city “$1 billion”.
Why even defeated Toronto NDP MPP Michael Prue conceded that Ms Horwath “sounded like Rob Ford”.
Ms Horwath is also already in lockstep with Fordian tax-cut dogma, belatedly calling for a modest increase in the minimum wage — but only after a big cut to small business taxes.
Her proposed 1% increase in corporate taxes is an aberration from her anti-tax stance, and it would have to be jettisoned as Tory leader. That said, Ms Horwath has already shown that she’ll readily throw principles under her orange-and-blue bus: she was in favour of creating an Ontario pension plan before she was against it.
The NDP’s seven-page platform of bullet points didn’t even include the words “poverty” or “climate change”. Prime Minister Harper himself couldn’t have omitted better.
Andrea Horwath pulled the NDP to the right. Party stalwarts and icons of social justice noticed, and criticised her in an open letter. Green Party MP Elizabeth May tore a strip off Ms Horwath in a statement.
The result? The NDP lost three downtown Toronto seats to Premier Wynne’s more progressive party.
The NDP has lost its way under Ms Horwath’s failed leadership.
But it’s not too late to change course: the NDP would do well to return to its roots as a progressive party by firing Ms Horwath at their convention this weekend.
So, Andrea Horwath as Conservative leader makes a lot of sense. She’s road-tested campaigning on a Conservative platform already. And it’s a win-win. The Conservatives get a reasonably folksy, small-government champion, and the NDP gets rid of her, and can return to its progressive roots.
Imagine an NDP that’s truly progressive again, pushing a progressive Liberal premier to do more and to do better.
Andrea Horwath as Ontario Conservative leader just makes sense.
Jonathan Scott worked as a public relations consultant at Key Gordon Communications in Toronto and as a speechwriter for Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne. He is now studying law in the United Kingdom. Follow Jonathan Scott on twitter: @J_Scott_.