Liberal calls for New Democrats to support them is ‘risky,’ warns NDP Leader Andrea Horwath

Steven Del Duca is playing a “risky” game by encouraging strategic voting for Liberals — one that could seal a majority government for the Progressive Conservatives, warns NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.

“Job No. 1 has to be preventing Doug Ford from getting another term in office — and that’s what the majority of voters or people polled say that they want,” Horwath said during an hour-long meeting with the Star’s editorial board on Tuesday.

“What they’re doing is very risky,” she said of an internal Liberal strategy memo leaked to the Star on Monday.

With polls suggesting her party could lose seats but still outperform the Liberals, Horwath said the best way to block Ford “is a vote for the NDP, and I’m going to continue to talk to Ontarians that their primary goal, their best shot this time is with the NDP.”

She noted six of every 10 voters don’t intend to vote for Ford, “so we have to come together to make that happen.”

Horwath took questions from Star reporters and columnists remotely from her campaign home base in Toronto, where she was spending a sixth day in isolation after mild COVID-19 symptoms reappeared.

“History shows us that, although the Liberals talk a good game when they’re (running for) office, they do not do the things that they claim they’re going to do,” the NDP leader said, pointing out the Grits were reduced to just seven seats in the 124-member legislature in 2018 and couldn’t even field a full slate of candidates this time.

“They don’t live with any values. They just do whatever is great for their insiders, whatever… works for them politically. Everyday people are not the focus. The focus for me is always everyday people,” she said.

The New Democratic chief stressed “we have the best capacity in terms of the number of seats we had going in. We have … the solutions to some of the big problems that people are concerned about — some of the things that COVID has laid bare that need to be fixed.”

She questioned Ford trying to portray himself as a changed person, calling him “a wolf with a different sheep’s clothing on right now.

“The way that he responded to COVID-19 was not a success on many, many, many fronts,” she said, “and we just can’t keep going back to Conservative cuts. It’s not going to help people.”

After testing positive for COVID-19 last Thursday in Ottawa, Horwath canceled a planned northern swing through Thunder Bay and Kenora over the long weekend.

Asked if she was worried about losing momentum with six days off the campaign trail, she said, “I mean, do I wish I didn’t have COVID? Absolutely. Do I wish I could have been out there on the hustings these last five or six days? And it is.

“But it would have been irresponsible to do that, and so that’s why I did the responsible thing until my symptoms are gone and I’m testing negative.”

Howarth insisted “what I’m hearing still from my team is that it’s feeling really great on the ground in those ridings … There is nothing like the thrill and the energy and the adrenalin that you get on the campaign trail, and I can tell you I’m very much looking forward to doing that” on Wednesday.

Campaigning in Brampton on Tuesday morning, Ford played down polls that suggest his PCs will win another majority on June 2.

“I always say the only poll that counts is on election day. We always run like when we’re in last place,” said Ford, cautioning the Tories against complacency or overconfidence.

“I tell our team: ‘Run like we’re in last place, don’t stop door-knocking all the way up to June 2.’ And then the real work begins, God willing.”

But Ford, who, as first disclosed by the Star’s Martin Regg Cohn, canvassed Sunday in Del Duca’s Vaughan-Woodbridge riding, sounded bullish about next week’s election.

“I’ll tell you one thing, I was door-knocking in Vaughan and I have bad news for Mr. Del Duca: He’s losing that riding as sure as I’m talking to you today,” he said, predicting Tory junior cabinet Minister Michael Tibollo will hold the seat.

Del Duca, at a campaign stop near Victoria Park and Danforth avenues, said Ford was engaging in “political gimmickry” while families in the Uxbridge areas struggled after Saturday’s devastating storm.

“At last count, 10 Ontarians tragically lost their lives as a result of the storm … Just imagine where Doug Ford was in the midst of all that, in the midst of that struggle that people in his province are facing,” the Liberal leader said .

“Doug Ford chose to engage in political gimmickry by heading into my riding to knock on doors. I chose instead to go out to the affected area. I’m not running to be a gimmick-driven politician. I’m running to be premier of this province.”

Robert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie


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