Newspaper article The Canadian Press

NDP's Andrea Horwath Wants to Negotiate Budget Changes, Not Force Election: Horwath Prefers Negotiations to Election

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

NDP's Andrea Horwath Wants to Negotiate Budget Changes, Not Force Election: Horwath Prefers Negotiations to Election

Article excerpt

HAMILTON - Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath walked a fine line Saturday, trying to keep delicate budget negotiations with the Liberal government on track while appeasing wolves in her party howling for another election.

New Democrats were urged Saturday to call Premier Dalton McGuinty's bluff and vote against the budget if the Liberals won't agree to withdraw the threat of a legislated wage freeze.

But Horwath said she's committed to working with the minority government rather than forcing another election.

Horwath attacked the budget for failing to make life more affordable for ordinary families during her keynote speech to the 800 delegates attending the party's convention in Hamilton, using the same themes she's been raising in negotiations with the Liberals to amend the fiscal blueprint to earn NDP support.

"We know that the people of Ontario sent us here with a job to do, which is to work together, to roll up our sleeves and try to get something done here," Horwath told reporters after her speech.

"That's why I'm working to try and make the budget better and I'm going to do everything I can to make it happen, and I'm not going to pre-suppose where that's going to end up at this point."

The NDP want the budget amended to lift the freeze on welfare rates, to put more money into home care and community care and to put a two percentage point surtax on incomes over $500,000.

"We think people who make half a million dollars a year can afford to pay a little more, and people who make less need a break," Horwath told the cheering delegates.

"Are we protecting tax rates for millionaires or working parents who need daycares?"

Horwath said she was still willing to work with the Liberals, even though the party is getting mixed messages from the public about forcing another election.

"A lot of people don't want an election, but many, many think it's worth having one over this budget," she said.

"The ball is now in the government's court."

Ontario Federation of Labour president Sid Ryan told delegates the NDP hold the balance of power in the minority government and the Liberals are "attempting to destroy the collective bargaining process" by threatening in the budget to impose a wage freeze on the public sector. …

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