Is Ontario Heading for an Orange Crush?

For years Andrea Horwath has often ranked as the most popular provincial leader in public opinion polls. Our recent H+K Perspectives poll, released earlier this week, ranked Horwath’s trustworthiness as the highest amongst the party leaders. However, this often leads to the traditional “yeah, buts”:

“Yeah, but the party can’t win.”

“Yeah, but strategic voting.”

“Yeah, but Bob Rae.”

Since the start of the campaign, the polling trend lines—including this week’s EKOS and Forum polls— have shown that these “yeah, buts” are increasingly diminishing in effectiveness. Support for Andrea Horwath and the NDP has been on a dramatic uptrend. This has been at the expense of both Liberals and Conservatives.

Is this the Ontario version of the Orange Crush?

Overall, the NDP are running a campaign that is “authentically Andrea” in the same way that Jack Layton’s 2011 campaign was “authentically Jack”. She is clearly comfortable with herself, confident in her team, her platform, and truly believes that the NDP is “in it to win it.” She isn’t afraid to be vulnerable or to address any mistakes along the way.

Horwath surprised many observers right out of the gate by her performances in the first two debates. She created an energy on stage that was impossible to ignore. She appeared knowledgeable and with a point of view. She was engaging with her opponents and connecting with audiences – all without the aid of any notes. She sent a clear signal that she is ready take on the personalities and the policies of this complex province.

If the ballot question is what kind of change do voters want from their next government, the NDP believes that Horwath and her 100-page platform offers Ontarians “Change for the Better”. The detailed platform offers a wide range of programs that appeal to the various groups within Horwath’s own party, and it appeals to a broader coalition of voters across the province.

A Horwath Government?

Whether she has hit her public opinion “ceiling” or not is still unknown. The polling trends are showing that Ontarians seem to be actively considering the possibility of electing Andrea Horwath as Premier.

“Yeah, but.” At the Toronto Star editorial board, Horwath was informed that a Tourism minister in the Rae government—long before her time—hadn’t been on an airplane. It led to the inevitable question: would a Horwath government have the depth to be effective?

The answer is unequivocally yes!

Horwath brings with her some serious bench strength both from a staff perspective and with her potential caucus. Since fall 2014, her staff have been led by Chief of Staff and Campaign Director, Michael Balagus. Balagus brings to bear his considerable governing experience working for Manitoba Premiers Gary Doer and Greg Selinger.

From a potential cabinet perspective, Horwath has a team of experienced, well-respected MPPs from which she could draw upon including France Gélinas, Catherine Fife, and John Vanthof. She also has a plethora of quality candidates from which she could choose to put in cabinet immediately or develop over the course of a potential mandate. Candidates with municipal experience, small business owners, teachers, and others with a wide range of lived experiences. They may not all have prototypical political resumes; however, in my experience, those politicians make some of the best parliamentarians.

At this stage few things about this election are a certainty, except that June 7th will bring with it changes to the composition of Queen’s Park. Who will ultimately lead that change and in what configuration? That remains up to the voters.

What we do know is that Andrea Horwath and the NDP are ready for a chance to govern.

Kim Wright is an H+K Vice President. She is long-time NDP strategist, spending over 25 years engaged at all three levels of government. She was an adviser to former Ontario NDP Leader Howard Hampton. She has spent nearly 15 years developing and executing municipal public affairs programs on a wide array of issues including infrastructure, transit, taxation, public health, and development.