Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Horwath Campaigns on 'Change for the Better' as Wynne, Ford Dominate Headlines

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Horwath Campaigns on 'Change for the Better' as Wynne, Ford Dominate Headlines

Article excerpt

Horwath's election pitch: 'change for the better'

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TORONTO - The third time may well prove to be a charm for Andrea Horwath, who both pundits and polls suggest has the most to gain in Ontario's spring election.

Horwath's New Democrats, long relegated to third-party status in the provincial legislature, are emerging as an alternative to the deeply unpopular Liberals, who have been in power since 2003.

Experts give much of the credit to the 55-year-old party leader, who they say has positioned herself as an effective foil to both the staunch populism of Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford and the familiar talking points of Premier Kathleen Wynne.

For her part, Horwath said her approach in the June 7 election will be to put herself and her personality on full display.

Horwath said the pledges at the heart of the NDP election platform grew from personal experiences on factory floors, in legal clinics and during years of motherhood.

"I think people deserve to know what makes their leaders tick," she said in a recent telephone interview from Thunder Bay, Ont. "We've had a premier that said she was one thing and then turned out to be something else. We have somebody in Mr. Ford who's trying to hide from who he is and not let people know exactly what it is he has in store...It's incumbent upon us to say to people, 'it doesn't have to be that way.'"

The platform on which Horwath has pinned her hopes is firmly rooted in traditional NDP ideology.

The document, dubbed "Change for the Better," touts free dental and pharmacare for all and promises free child care for families earning less than $40,000 a year. Other cornerstone pledges include more money for hospitals, higher taxes for those earning $220,000 a year or more, the return of the partially privatized Hydro One to public ownership, and a 30 per cent cut to electricity rates.

Horwath said the priorities laid out in the platform harken back to her childhood in Stoney Creek, Ont., a suburb of Hamilton where she grew up in a family with strong ties to the manufacturing sector.

Her father Andrew became an auto worker at a nearby Ford plant after immigrating from Slovakia and marrying her mother, Diane. The comfortable income and secure benefits they enjoyed provided stability for her and her three siblings, Horwath said.

Over time, however, she said she's seen that security erode to the point where her son can't count on supports her parents took for granted.

When Horwath moved on to a role as a community development worker at a legal clinic, she said her interactions with everyone from single parents to new immigrants reinforced her belief in social justice.

Many of the NDP campaign pledges have echoes in the Liberal party's most recent budget, a document Horwath dismisses as a late effort to pander to voters who've been largely ignored in the past 15 years. …

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