Saturday, March 7, 2009

Horwath Wins Ontario NDP Leadership

Andrea Horwath was elected as the new leader of the Ontario NDP this evening in Hamilton winning on the third ballot.

She succeeds Howard Hampton who has been party leader since 1996.

Although I didn't support Howie in '96 I liked him. He spoke at a conference I helped to organize in Ottawa in 1999. How fast have those ten years passed?

In his three elections as party leader (1999, 2003 and 2007) the NDP won 9, 7 and 10 seats respectively. These bad showings were not all his fault. People simply had bad memories of the NDP government of Bob Rae and weren't about to take another leap of faith with the NDP.

I didn't really know Horwath all that well when I was active with the NDP although I knew of her by virtue of her position on Hamilton City Council. Horwath became an MPP in a by-election in 2004. She is the first woman to lead the Ontario NDP.

Horwath has her work cut out for her in trying to broaden the party's support. However, she has time on her side as the next election won't happen until October 2011. The NDP could do well if a) the economy does not improve b) the governing Liberals under Dalton McGuinty become unpopular c) the Conservatives don't select a viable successor to John Tory and d) the Conservative government of Stephen Harper in Ottawa is also unpopular.

The NDP came to power in Ontario nearly 20 years ago at a time when both the Liberal government in Ontario and the Conservative government in Ottawa were unpopular. Of course, the Liberals under David Peterson had called a snap election that summer of 1990. McGuinty is prevented by statute from entertaining that temptation. And Stephen Harper will never be as despised as Brian Mulroney was in his hey day. Yes, Harper is hated by the Left but Mulroney was hated by everybody.

Don't let anyone tell you Canadian politics is boring.

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