The offer that Ontario’s New Democrats will be making to the province’s voters this spring got some definition today. This afternoon, Andrea Horwath rolled out her party’s platform to an audience in Toronto and on Facebook Live.
Referring to the plan as one that “puts people at the heart of government,” Horwath stood in front of MPPs and candidates to highlight key measures on the themes of making life more affordable and improving the quality of public services in the province.
Affordability: The NDP is making a play to parts of its traditional working-class voter base, voters in northern and south-western Ontario, young couples in urban centres struggling with cost of living with measures like:
- Cutting hydro bills by 30% and end time-of-day pricing by bringing Hydro One back into public ownership
- Introducing Canada’s first universal pharmacare program
- Dental care for everyone with benefits from their workplace or health card
- Investing in creating 65,000 new affordable housing units
- Providing free public child care to households earning $40,000 or less, and an average cost of just $12 a day for everyone else
- Eliminating the interest on provincial student loans and pay interest back to those with loans outstanding
Improving services: The platform also signals the NDP’s pitch to a wide swath of voters – including disaffected Liberals and traditional Conservatives – frustrated with the current state of public services in the province with measures like:
- Ending hallway medicine with a 5.3% increase in hospital funding and an additional investment of $19 billion over a decade to create new hospital beds
- Capping kindergarten classes at 26 and invest $16 billion to fix crumbling schools
- Creating 15,000 new long-term care beds over the next five years, combined with a find-and-fix public inquiry into long-term care
- Hiring another 2,200 new mental health care workers and creating another 30,000 supportive housing units
The platform also includes new measures for transit, climate change and indigenous reconciliation to provide 8 weeks of announceables as the campaign criss-crosses truly gets undwerway.
The NDP’s strategic play
In recent elections, NDP strategists might have seen a 97-page platform with ambitious pieces like universal pharmacare, interest free student loans and free child care as an unnecessary, and potentially risky encumbrance.
With the Liberals on the ropes and the Conservatives navigating with an untested and divisive leader, Team Horwath could have opted for a safer course: a light platform designed to lull soft supporters of other parties.
But it’s fair to say the NDP’s thinking has evolved with the political dynamic over the last few elections. They now know their play can’t just be “Wynne is bad. Ford will be worse. Vote for us.” To protect their often anxious base and build upon it, they need to offer something more. For the first time in a long time, New Democrats see their platform as the seventh player on the ice. Not just a necessary artifice of the electoral arts, but an empowering vision that can be used to inspire candidates, volunteers, and voters as has been executed effectively by progressive campaigners like Bernie Sanders and even the federal Trudeau campaign.
In this age of cynicism and rough politics, New Democrats believe that wins go to the side to can give Ontarians something to vote for not just against. Over the next 8 weeks they plan to present an experienced and tested leader with a plan to use the power of the provincial government to truly bring change for the better – for schools, hospitals, transit, and quality of life – to the province.