As Ontario’s NDP sees an increase in popularity, the distinctions between it and its Albertan counterpart become clear
While Premier Rachel Notley charmed the East Coast last week to rile up support for the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion, she also flaunted another compelling Alberta export to Ontarians: an NDP government.
Ontario’s legislature is bleeding red. After nearly 15 years of Liberal rule, the ruling majority party has accumulated a hefty share of scandals, policy troubles, and debt to fuel distaste from the electorate.
Three springs ago in Alberta, a decades-old Progressive Conservative dynasty called a snap election based on their iron-clad grip of the legislature. It suddenly and tremendously backfired on Election Day, as the PCs lost 61 of their 70 seats.
Conversely, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne’s path to demise in June’s election was slow and painful until 10 weeks ago, when surging Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown was ousted following allegations of sexual misconduct.
It’s the game-changer akin to Alberta’s leaders debate in 2015, when eventual Premier Rachel Notley scolded her fellow candidates and broke the race wide open.
To maintain their support, the PCs quickly propped up a leadership race that crowned populist favourite Doug Ford as the winner, presenting several issues. Ford is determined to reverse Wynne’s $6.7 billion annual deficit spending, while freezing or cutting government revenues from carbon, corporate and income taxes.
Ford is also Ontario’s Donald Trump, complete with a “drain the swamp” mantra, and a shady relationship with the truth and media. He’s been caught bullying journalists and opponents, exposed as a drug dealer while in high school, and polls have begun to shift.
PC support has dwindled from 42 percent after Brown’s resignation to 36 percent in the latest Forum Research Poll. The biggest gainer in the latest tally was Ontario’s NDP, which jumped from 23 to 26 percent support.
Ontario’s NDP now has a golden chance to shake their third-party status like Alberta’s NDP did in 2015. Aside from that, however, the two NDP parties operate in stark contrast.
Led by Andrea Horwath, a 14-year veteran of provincial politics, and two years Notley’s senior, Ontario’s NDP sway further to the left. They promise universal dental-care, while Notley has merely released a fee guide to combat the highest prices in the country.
Ontario’s NDP advocate for universal pharmacare and to “do better” on a Liberal plan for free preschool child care, all while Notley spews war against a fellow NDP premier weary about Alberta’s oil and gas pipelines.
Notley is treading carefully in a historically conservative province, inching up healthcare spending while expending most of her political capital on minimum wage hikes, diversifying the economy, and introducing a carbon tax to an electorate that rejects global warming stronger than any other in Canada.
Horwath’s spending proposals come when Ontario’s net debt is $300.2 billion, compared to Alberta’s forecasted net debt of $20.2 billion in an era of low oil revenue and the absence of a 13 percent sales tax like Ontario.
Essentially, Ontario’s orange wave appears to look nothing like the one Alberta experienced in 2015. In fact, it seems Horwath could benefit from Notley’s tutelage on responsible spending.