SCOOP: New Dems in disarray
Plus: Fresh polling puts PCs in majority territory, Northern debate postmortem, Tory MPPs got allowances from party coffers, Miller sues, Lecce's mea culpa
ABOVE THE FOLD
THE 9:01 CLUB — Several grassroots New Democrats say they’re gearing up to throw out longtime Leader ANDREA HORWATH if she doesn’t deliver on June 2.
Queen’s Park Observer spoke with seven NDP sources — including current and former members, staff and organizers — who say there’s an organized grassroots push in the works to pressure Horwath to step down if she fails to form government, or worse, loses the Official Opposition status they managed to secure with 40 seats in 2018. The sources were granted anonymity in order to speak candidly and because they fear repercussions.
Horwath has consistently scored high marks during her party’s leadership reviews — earning 85 per cent support earlier this year — and she’s relatively popular among the public, coming in second to PC Leader DOUG FORD in a recent Ipsos survey that suggests 32 per cent of voters think she’s the best contender for the province’s top job.
But not everyone is happy with Horwath — who’s making her fourth electoral kick at the can — and some are already preparing for what comes next, should she fail to beat the PCs and Liberals.
“There would be pressure on her to step aside,” said one NDPer.
Some aired concerns over the handling of controversial nomination contests. That includes initially standing by STEVE PARISH, the now-former candidate for Ajax, who was eventually booted for failing to adequately denounce a move to name a street after a Nazi officer when he was mayor. Horwath was also blamed for fuelling “more questions than answers” on the ouster of Hamilton East—Stoney Creek rep PAUL MILLER — who’s officially suing the party (More on that below) — by initially refusing to provide the reasoning. There were also negative headlines over the controversial blacklisting of young contender SAM KAPLUN in Eglinton—Lawrence — ditto the resignation of a riding association president, EMMA CUNNINGHAM, who claimed there’s been a string of antisemitic incidents in the party.
“Some decisions rubbed people the wrong way,” added another source.
The drama has also played out publicly. When KEVIN YARDE lost a rare nomination challenge in Brampton North, it prompted his Black caucus-mates to speak out. Tweeted JILL ANDREW (Toronto—St. Paul’s): “That’s the ‘tricky’ thing about committing to leadership rooted in anti-oppression and anti-racism. You’ve actually got to commit to the work and to the **PEOPLE*** who you ask to believe in you and be on the journey with you.”
Others raised eyebrows over the campaign strategy — which includes an aggressive push for non-NDP ridings, thanks in part to a hefty cash arsenal — and the fact that the Liberals are either overtaking them in recent polls, or they’re virtually neck-and-neck. (Read on for the latest standings)
The sources laid those concerns at Horwath’s feet.
“My local [NDP] candidate is great,” said one member. But it’s been “disappointment after disappointment — and that falls on the leader.”
The party isn’t sweating any insurgents in the ranks. “There are more than 30,000 New Democrats plus hundreds of thousands of Ontarians working together, and working hard, to defeat Doug Ford and elect an NDP government led by Andrea Horwath — so we can finally have a government working for everyday people instead of Ford’s buddies,” the campaign said in an email statement. “We invite everyone to join us in that goal.”
This isn’t the first time Horwath has faced criticism from her own NDP family. Back in 2014, a prominent group of New Democrats had accused her of “running to the right of the Liberals in an attempt to win Conservative votes.”
Nor is it the first time a leader has been challenged by the party faithful. CHRISTY CLARK, former captain of the B.C. Liberals, faced her own 8:01 movement — which had planned to push her out one minute after polls closed if she lost the 2013 election. But Clark defied detractors — winning a come-from-behind majority.
POLL WATCH — Another poll suggests the PCs are sitting pretty after the first full week on the campaign trail — especially among drivers and homeowners.
By the numbers: Abacus Data is out with fresh numbers this morning that suggest the Tories are on track to win another majority, with 38 per cent support, while 29 per cent backed the Liberals and 22 per cent would cast their ballots for the NDP. The Greens are holding steady at five per cent support, while other parties earned seven per cent of the vote.
Who’s who: FORD’s driver-friendly promises seem to be resonating — his party holds a 14-point lead over the Grits among vehicle owners. Among those who don’t own a car, the PCs trailed in third. Ditto homeowners. “In in the GTHA (including Metro Toronto), the PCs lead by 6 among those who own their home but trail the Liberals by 13 among renters. Outside of the GTHA, the PCs lead by 35-points over the Liberals.”
The big indicator: It may be early days in the campaign, but the desire-for-change metric hasn’t budged, hovering at 48 per cent. That’s far lower than the number of people who said they wanted to see a change in government the week before the then-governing Grits were walloped in 2018.
Popularity contest: Roughly the same number of people view Ford and HORWATH positively and negatively, while Liberal Leader STEVEN DEL DUCA remains relatively unknown, with more haters. Thirty-eight per cent of respondents said they view Ford positively, the same number of people who hold a negative view; 30 per cent see Horwath in a positive light versus 32 per cent who have a negative impression; 23 per cent see Del Duca positively, compared to 31 per cent who see him negatively. “Beyond their images, when asked which leader would make the best Premier, Doug Ford easily wins, leading Ms. Horwath by 16-points and Mr. Del Duca by 19.”
A way in: Per pollster DAVID COLETTO, two things need to happen in order for the Opposition rivals to threaten a PC win: desire-for-change voters need to consolidate around either the Liberals or NDP — “right now, neither is winning the ‘change’ primary” — or more voters need to want to shake up the powers-that-be.
“If nothing changes in the opinion environment between now and early June, the PCs should win another majority. But the data also shows a path forward for either the NDP or the Liberals,” Coletto says. “Neither has a clear advantage among those people who deeply want to see the PCs and Doug Ford replaced. Both leaders, for different reasons, remain blank slates for millions of Ontarians who either don’t know them (Del Duca) or don’t have strong views (Horwath). Strong performances in the debates or a mistake by the PCs could create an opportunity to consolidate the anti-PC forces.”
Meanwhile, it’s a good week for the Grits. Per Nanos Research, “the Liberals appear to be gaining ground in terms of their leader’s appeal.” More juicy tidbits from CP24: “While 29 per cent of respondents…listed PC Leader Doug Ford as their preferred choice for premier, 24.1 per cent listed Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca, 20.3 per cent listed NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and four per cent listed Green Leader Mike Schreiner. That’s more than a seven-point gain for Del Duca, who sat at 17 per cent support when the last survey was conducted on May 2. Since then Ford dropped nearly one point and Horwath dropped 2.5 points.”
WHERE THE LEADERS ARE AT — 9 a.m.: Del Duca is in Etobicoke for a health care announcement. He then heads to Vaughan and Ajax.
— 9:30 a.m.: Horwath hits up the 905, announcing a “plan to put money back in drivers’ pockets” in Brampton. She then heads to Waterdown and Oxford county.
— 9:30 a.m.: Green Leader MIKE SCHREINER’s EV convoy stops in Sudbury, Guelph and Barrie, with “a major announcement on climate, jobs and affordability.”
The PCs didn’t release an itinerary for Ford.
— POSTMORTEM: For the first time during the campaign, all four leaders were on the debate stage in North Bay to talk transit, housing, highways, and the pandemic response. Sparks flew between Ford and Del Duca, with Horwath interjecting when she could to slam the PC and Liberal records — earning the loudest applause. Del Duca was jeered when he mentioned his promise to restore Northlander train service, something his own party cancelled in 2012. Ford also promised to restore service in 2018 but that hasn’t happened yet. More highlights from the Canadian Press.
— LECCE’S MEA CULPA: “STEPHEN LECCE, one of Doug Ford’s highest profile cabinet ministers, is apologizing in the midst of the Ontario election campaign for his involvement in a so-called ‘slave auction’ fundraiser 15 years ago. Lecce participated in a 2006 Sigma Chi event dubbed a ‘slave auction’ while a leader of the fraternity’s chapter at Western University, the left-leaning PressProgress website reported Tuesday night. A few hours after the story appeared, Lecce issued a two-line statement apologizing ‘unreservedly’ and not denying his participation. ‘The event from 2006 was inappropriate and in no way reflects who I am as a person, which is why I unreservedly apologize.’” The CBC has the story.
— DIPPING INTO PARTY COFFERS: From Global News: “Eight Ontario Progressive Conservative MPPs received allowances from their riding associations over the past four years for a variety of expenses including child care, entertainment and vehicle costs, raising new questions about how the party spends donations and taxpayer subsidies. After the issue was first raised by the Ontario NDP, Global News combed through publicly available Elections Ontario data looking into the expenses incurred by all 124 sitting MPPs and discovered tens of thousands of payments made to select politicians between 2018 and 2021 that fell outside of the routine expenses claimed by riding associations.”
— MILLER TIME: “Paul Miller is suing the NDP and Andrea Horwath for $1.3 million for kicking him out. The NDP ousted Miller just 11 weeks before the provincial election because he was allegedly part of an anti-muslim Facebook group. Miller said he was discriminated against on the grounds of age as well as, marital and family status.” CHCH reports.
— CANDIDATE CONTROVERSY: “Following an exclusive report in the Toronto Sun, Sudbury-area high school student, AIDAN KALLIOINEN, has been told he will not be permitted to run as a candidate for the Ontario Liberals in Sault Ste. Marie in the June 2 election.” The scoop: “Kallioinen referred to himself in online chats as ‘SlapMineN___MC’ and had participated in discussions where participants joked about people ‘dying of AIDS.’ The Sun has not verified whether Kallioinen was one of the participants joking. The former Liberal candidate was chosen over NAOMI SAYERS, an experienced and respected Indigenous lawyer.”
— SPOTTED: Federal NDP Leader JAGMEET SINGH campaigning in Peterborough—Kawartha…Ontario Party captain DEREK SLOAN suspended from Twitter.
⏳ COUNTDOWN: T-minus 22 days until Election Day…1 day until candidate nominations close…5 days until the provincewide leaders’ debate.