NDP’s Andrea Horwath plans to ‘pass the torch’ after Tory tsunami

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Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath plans to step down from the helm of the party she has led for 13 years.

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Horwath’s departure was widely anticipated if the party had another disappointing election result. And that’s what happened Thursday night.

The party lost close to a dozen seats in Thursday’s provincial election, effectively spelled the beginning of the end of Horwath’s tenure. The Progressive Conservatives under Premier Doug Ford claimed their second straight majority.

Prior to voting day, Horwath had been vague on her future if the NDP didn’t win, but she did hint that a loss would mean the 2022 contest would be her last election.

“Tonight it’s time for me to pass the torch, to pass the baton,” an emotional Horwath said Thursday night, as supporters chanted “Andrea! Andrew! Andrew!”

Horwath spoke for close to 10 minutes, outlining the party’s performance and thanking volunteers and campaign staff.

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At the party in her hometown Hamilton Convention Center, a muted crowd celebrated what there was to celebrate. They remain the official opposition and the Liberals look stuck in the wilderness for the time being.

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Ontario NDP party president Dr. Janelle Brady put on a brave face and said the party was “proud” of Horwath’s campaign.

“We are so proud of the campaign she ran this election campaign,” Brady said to cheering party members.

On the campaign trail, Horwath outlined her vision for a kinder, gentler Ontario with big financial boosts for mental health, education and health care. But the sleepy election never really resonated with the public.

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Before the election call, the NDP had 39 seats in the legislature after Horwath and party insiders booted Hamilton East-Stoney Creek MPP Paul Miller to the curb, who then sat as an independent. When it was announced that Miller had lost, a cheer went up in the room.

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At press time, the NDP had been elected or was leading in 29 seats.

But it was tough sledding for Horwath.

Even a number of trade unions abandoned their traditional home with the NDP and decided to march arm-in-arm with Premier Doug Ford.

While Horwath easily won her own Hamilton Center riding, one party insider underscored the split between downtown Toronto elites obsessed with identity politics and the party’s traditional blue-collar backers who are more concerned with pocketbook issues.

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One long time party insider awning The Toronto Sun that the beginning of the end for Horwath was not Thursday night’s disappointing results but the last provincial election in 2018.

In that contest, Horwath faced unpopular Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne and an untested former Toronto city councilor named Doug Ford, whose surname came with some baggage.

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But while the NDP became the official opposition, victory was there for the taking party insiders believed.

“The last election she should have won but Andrea ran a weak campaign and was killed by strategic voting from voters who didn’t want the Tories to win,” the NDP source said. “The Liberal brand is pretty strong and even by winning, we lost.”

In the current election campaign, the insider said, Horwath faced a different Ford, a much harder politician to paint as a right-wing ideologue.

“Last election, he was Mean Doogler. Now he’s the Everyone’s Friend Doogler,” the source said. “I have changed from a mean deficit fighter to the man with the checkbook. COVID changed the man.”

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