PHOTOS: Andrea Horwath, leader of the Ontario NDP. Below: Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, sometime Ontario Progressive Conservative Party leader Patrick Brown, the late Jim Prentice when he was PC premier of Alberta, and former Ontario PC leader Tim Hudak. (All photos except those of Mr. Prentice and Ms. Notley are from the Wikimedia Commons. Those two are mine.)

Andrea Horwath’s New Democrats are going to win the Ontario provincial election on June 7.

I know this because I’m from Alberta and we’ve been through this perfect storm already.

In the early spring of 2015, Alberta’s provincial election was looming. Polling suggested Alberta voters were growing tired of the Progressive Conservative Dynasty – by then led by banker and former Conservative MP Jim Prentice.

But since we’d all learned from our mamas that Alberta was “the most conservative province in Canada,” and since the PCs had been in power for close to 44 years, change was hard to imagine.

In mid-March, Mr. Prentice, his caucus expanded by 10 Wildrose MLAs who had recently defected to his side, was projected to win a 64-seat majority.

Pundits, praying for a horserace, started to predict the even-further-to-the-right Wildrose Party holdouts might make a breakthrough, and, for a spell, Alberta voters seemed to go along with that notion.

Twenty-six days before the election, polling analyst Eric Grenier’s usually reliable poll aggregation site cautiously predicted a Wildrose victory with as many as 48 seats. “That makes them the only party in the projection with a likely range surpassing the 44-seat mark needed for a majority government,” he wrote.

The New Democrats might form the Opposition, Mr. Grenier suggested, with the PCs coming third.

Mr. Prentice seemed unfazed, though, serenely campaigning under the slogan “Choose Alberta’s Future.”

Well, we all know what happened on May 5. Alberta’s New Democrats, led by the charismatic and obviously capable Rachel Notley, were picked by voters to lead Alberta into a future no one quite expected.

Voters apparently concluded they’d not only had enough of the Progressive Conservatives, they’d had enough of conservatives altogether.

Why did this happen? Well, nobody really knows, but it seems likely the Alberta electorate, more sophisticated than they were ever given credit for by all the usual suspects, were righteously sick of the Tories but uninterested in an even more extreme version of the same thing.

Ms. Notley was a familiar face in a new role, obviously capable, and genuinely progressive – as were a great many Albertans, it turned out, just like voters in Ontario.

Some voters may have soon experienced buyer’s regret, but they gave Ms. Notley a 54-seat majority and history was made, especially since the NDP Caucus had only four members on the day Mr. Prentice dropped the writ.

Now it is the spring of 2018 and Ontario is about 10 weeks away from its next provincial election. The situation is not exactly the same as it was in Alberta in the spring of 2015, but the similarities are striking.

The government of Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne has grown long in the tooth, touched by scandal and voter fatigue. She has been in power since 2013. The Ontario Liberal Party has run the province without a break since 2003.

The prevailing narrative of pundits leading into the previous Ontario election, in 2014, was that voters were sick of the Liberals and would pick the PCs.

But Tim Hudak, who had become leader of the PC Opposition in 2009, came out as an anti-union obsessive, determined to turn the province into a Republican right-to-work state. This and other things apparently caused sufficient disquiet among Ontario voters for Ms. Wynne to hang on for another term in 2014.

Mr. Hudak then quit. After a spell under an interim leader, party members elected Patrick Brown, a federal conservative MP from Barrie, in May 2015.

In the past few weeks, things have gotten very interesting under Mr. Brown’s leadership.

For those of you in Western Canada who haven’t been paying attention to Ontario political developments with your jaw hanging open, in just the past few days, Mr. Brown has been accused by two women of sexually inappropriate behaviour, forced to resign his position as leader after rebellions by his staff and caucus, sued CTV for defamation over their coverage of the accusations, declared himself to have been cleared of the accusations, been permitted to run to replace himself as leader, is being investigated by the provincial Integrity Commissioner for not declaring all sources of income, is being investigated by the police for alleged forgery and fraud, and announced he intends to drop out of the race he just dropped into.

It is, in other words, an absolute gong show, hard to keep up with, and, probably, everything will change again today!

The province’s voters are doubtless still sick of Ms. Wynne’s Liberals, but the PC Opposition is leaderless, in a state of open rebellion, and quite obviously incapable of safely operating a hot dog stand, let alone Canada’s most populous province.

Oh, and Caroline Mulroney, the daughter of old Basso Profundo himself, is running for the party’s leadership.

For the moment, it not clear what Ontario voters are going to do.

Political commentator Warren Kinsella, a Liberal, gloomily reported on his blog yesterday that the Ontario PCs are still competitive. Mind you, that conclusion was based on polls taken before the latest parade of clown cars headed up Toronto’s University Avenue toward the Ontario Legislature, honking their horns as men in fright wigs on tiny motorcycles buzzed around them.

Mr. Kinsella certainly knows the Ontario political scene better that I do. He lives there, after all, and I haven’t for 30 years.

I have lived in Alberta, though, so here’s what I think is going to happen:

Ms. Horwath, the MPP (as Ontario pretentiously calls its MLAs) for Hamilton Centre who has run the NDP caucus at Queens Park (as Ontario pretentiously calls its Legislature) for nearly a decade without messing up dramatically enough for it to be noticed out here on the Prairies, will canter into power, just as Ms. Notley did.

She’s a single mom, a responsible job if ever there was one. She’s a former Hamilton City Councillor. She’s been an MPP since 2004. She’s run literacy programs for unions. She’s made a cause of social housing and injured workers’ rights. She was honoured with the Woman of the Year in Public Affairs in 1999 the Hamilton Status of Women Committee. She knows how to act like a grownup.

You get the picture.

Ms. Horwath is going to look to a lot of voters like she’s got what it takes to be premier. She’s by definition not a right-wing loon who’s going to act like an ideological bull and smash all the china. (Ontario’s been there under Conservative golfer and premier Mike Harris. Nobody wants the T-shirt.)

She’s untainted by the scandals associated with the Wynne government. But she ticks most of the other boxes for stuff Ontarians liked about Ms. Wynne.

Like Ms. Notley, she’s a familiar face seeking a new role, obviously capable, and genuinely progressive.

So why not vote for her?

Of course, people closer to the scene are going to have a thousand and one reasons why I’m wrong.

The polls Mr. Kinsella noted, for example, show the Liberals and the NDP in a statistical tie, each with lower support than the PCs. But that will change as election day nears and progressive votes shift toward the party most likely to keep dangerous clowns out of power.

We Albertans have already seen this movie and, no matter what the Opposition claims, the ending’s still pretty good.

So Andrea Horwath is going to win on June 7, just like Rachel Notley did on May 5, 2015. Remember where you heard it first, Alberta!

Join the Conversation


  1. I agree. This has all the makings of an unexpected change campaign. However a lot will rest on the leader’s debate(s?), as it did in Alberta, and up to this point Ms. Horwath hasn’t shown the charismatic chops that Rachel Notley displayed. Horwath needs to figure out her core message, and fast, and find a way to start selling it that resonates with the average Ontarioan… Ontarianite… Ontartan?

  2. Won’t happen. Too many Ontarians still hold a grudge against the NDP for what happened two decades ago, when they held power. Seems the PC party and the Liberals can get away with scandal after scandal but the NDP, who have stayed relatively scandal free are seen as the anti Christ.

    It’s sad because, of the three party leaders, Horwath is the only one who has offered any sort of platform and budget.

    1. With respect, I think this is baloney. Jerry Dias maybe, and … anyone else? C’mon, it’s been a quarter of a century since the “Rae Days.” The only people who care about that expression are the conservative base, and they don’t know what it actually means. A new generation of voters has come along and, miraculously, after all that guff about how young people don’t vote … they’re voting. They’re not still mad at the NDP. Many of them hadn’t been born when the NDP was in power in Ontario. DJC

  3. It would be interesting to know the degree of support Ontario’s public and private sector unions have for Horwath’s NDP these days. In 1990 when Bob Rae won the election and eventually formed government (in another election shocker) public sector unions were very supportive and prominent at rallies/candidate town halls and aided substantially in getting out the NDP vote in 1990.

    After the disastrous relationship Rae courted with public sector unions during his term as premier, I’m pretty sure any anti-NDP feelings by unions would have dissipated by now, since 23 years have elapsed since Rae left office. The last time (and only time) the NDP were elected to rule the province voters in Ontario were fed up with Liberal arrogance heading into the election of 1990 and were looking for change. Parroting a Jim Prentice move, then premier David Peterson called a snap election after only three years of being in power. So, Climenhaga could actually be on to something here. How sweet would that be? Answer: Can you spell A-W-E-S-O-M-E?,_1990

    1. Mr Molnar, I am with you, but to think that it only takes 25 years to forget something like Rae Days is kinda funny. It has been, what, 40-50 years since Trudeau gave the West the finger and I have yet to find a conservative in Alberta who doesn’t mention it before breakfast. Sure hope you are right about Ontario, but Andrea Horvath needs a little fire and brimstone in her speeches. Even my brother-in-law, a retired teacher in Ontario and a staunch NDP now will not stop with the Rae Days thing.

  4. When I look at the reign of the Ontario Liberal’s by the numbers it just blows my mind. Since the Liberals came to power in Oct. 2003 they have added roughly $170 billion to Ontario’s debt. Median wage growth in Ontario from 2005-2015 according to Statscan was 3.9%, I believe the worst in Canada during this time period. The average consumers electricity bill more than double from $40 a month in 2006 to $83 a month in 2017. I have a hard time believing that the average Ontario resident wants a government further to the left than Kathleen Wynne, that being the NDP. It will be interesting to watch. One interesting note, the $170 billion of debt added by the Ontario Liberal’s over 14 years works out to $12640 per person. In Alberta going by the NDP’s budget numbers, by the end of the 2018-2019 budget cycle, the NDP will have accumulated $60.73 billion dollars of debt which works out to be $14092 dollars per person. This means the Alberta NDP will have accumulated more debt per person in 4 years than the Ontario Liberal’s did in 14. Be careful what you wish for Ontario!!!

    1. Farmer Brian the doubling of Ontario’s electricity bills is very small. I have a farm with electricity and only use
      it very occasionally. My bill went from $30.00 a month in 2000 to over $100.00 a month in 2004 thanks to Ralph Klein and his electricity privatization model. And Alberta has an infrasture deficit thanks to Ralph Klein who didn’t build any schools, hospitals or roads during his time as Premier and we are paying for it now. Alberta’s population has grown by over one million since Ralph and some schools have no room for students and hold classes in their gymnasiums because there is a huge lack of space. The current Alberta government has built more new schools than any Alberta government built since 1913. Are you starting to get the picture Framer Brian, Ralph Klein built the biggest infrasture deficit ever seen in any Canadian Province just to pay down Alberta’s debt and then giving each Albertan $400.00 in Ralph Bucks so here we are now trying to deal with his infrasture deficit. I’d like to hear your solution and how you would deal with this infrasture deficit.

      1. So I am curious Farmer Dave, have you ever actually looked at how much money was spent on infrastructure over the years under different Premiers? There is no doubt from 1994-1997 Ralph Klein reduced program spending. In the 1996-1997 budget year capital spending was $1.2 billion, the lowest point during his tenure. By 2001-2002 this was back up to $3.8 billion. It dipped back to $1.5 billion in 2002-2003 due to low oil prices. It was back up to $3 billion the next year, $4 billion in 2004-2005 and continued on a steep incline until it peeked at $8 billion in 2008-2009. It then trended downwards to $5.3 billion by 2012-2013. Looks to me that spending on infrastructure while curtailed for a few years did occur under Ralph Klein. I think the biggest problem Ralph created was a low tax high opportunity jurisdiction that attracted workers from all over Canada and Alberta’s population grew at a high rate from 2007-2012. Should the government have anticipated this growth? They probably should have, that was probably their biggest mistake was underestimating how successful their policies were going to be. Enjoy your day

        1. Framer Brian, you are partially correct however much of the money you indicate went to infrasture for friends such as the ones who operated the Government owned Kananaskis Golf Course, see article below.

          And natural gas prices were through the roof and Alberta was swimming in money, prices were $13.42 per million Btu and today it is $2.70. The highway of death #63 to Fort McMurray (oil sands) could have been twinned 15 to 20 years prior if Ralph and the PC’s spent Alberta’s money wisely.


          Plummeting oil prices have spurred the provincial government to indefinitely delay a new cancer centre and warn of challenging times ahead, but a controversial $18-million rebuild of a flood-ravaged Kananaskis golf course will continue as planned.

          All but four holes at the 36-hole, government-owned, privately-operated Kananaskis Country Golf Course were damaged when raging waters ripped through the fairways and greens during the 2013 flood.

          In a July announcement, slammed by environmentalists and flood-impacted area homeowners, the PC government said it was committing $18 million to rebuild the popular course, though officials admitted there’s no guarantee the new course won’t be destroyed again by flooding

      1. Actually Expat this is a topic that always baffled me. Every year under Stephen Harper the spending of the federal government increased. Yet the left always complains on how he cut government spending. One of the biggest mistakes he made in my opinion was reducing the GST. While 5% is nicer for calculation purposes than 7%, 7% was already accepted by the populace and this certainly increased the size of the government’s deficits. And to answer your question I was just as unhappy with the deficits under Harper as I am the deficits under Trudeau. Enjoy your day

  5. Well, I dunno. I live in Toronto, in a riding that has been reliably Liberal or NDP forever, so my vote won’t affect who replaces the Liberals.

    But I’m afraid it will be the Conservatives. The NDP has been utterly unexciting and unheard-from for years, and Horwath is neither a Rae nor a Notley. We’ll end up with either (hopefully) Elliott or (frightfully) Ford. Gah.

    (And what do you mean, “pretentiously”? The legislature is in a park called Queen’s Park, and we can’t call it after the city it’s in like everybody else, because that would mean admitting Toronto is our capital.)

  6. I don’t know all the ins and outs of Ontario politics either, but have been following it a bit over the last year. It sure has become interesting lately! I’m not going to go out on a limb and predict their election result in a few months, but I agree there are interesting similarities and parallels to Alberta in 2015. First, there is a governing party that has served quite a while that everyone frankly seems tired of. Second, an official opposition that is more conservative, with no leader, in some disarray and although apparently still leading in the polls has managed to consistently snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in previous elections.

    However, there are some important differences. First, Ontario is not a one party state, all three main parties have governed in the past, in living memory for many voters. Second, the Ontario Liberals did not do what the Alberta PC’s did and put a new leader with no experience in provincial politics in. They have decided to stick with the leader everyone knows, but most voters do not seem to like. Also, the NDP leader is already fairly well known having run in previous elections.

    All that being said, I wouldn’t at all be surprised if the Ontario NDP does win the upcoming election. It would be a terrible sign for Federal Conservatives, who are hoping on winning provincially in both Ontario and Alberta as stepping stones to regain power Federally. In any event, it is certainly too soon for them to count their chickens.

  7. I tend to agree with journalist Paul Wells in general and his “First Law of Canadian Politics” (out of 4 laws) is that “for any given situation, Canadian politics will tend toward the least exciting possible outcome.” Notley’s NDP win is one of the rare outliers.

    The Ontario PCs are polling ahead of the Liberals and have even increased their lead after the Brown Embroglio landed upon us. (Forum Feb 19: PC 49, Lib 24, NDP 19, Undecided 31)
    PC support increased from 42% in January to 49% on February 19. Once the Ontario election campaign gets going with a new PC leader the Brown mess will drop away from view.

    Sorry Dave. I think the Conservatives will form the next Ontario government and the Liberals will be the Official Opposition. The NDP will be squeezed out by Conservatives on one side and by progressives who will vote Liberal to try to prevent a PC win.

  8. Don’t know. If I lived in Ontari I would not vote Liberal and I could not vote Conservative. It is a challenge. Combine that sentiment with the incredibly low voter turnout in the last few Ontaio provincial elections. As low as 48 percent I am led to believe.

    I had a similar challenge in Alberta. I decided that I could not give my vote to a Party that did not deserve that vote. Not again. It was visceral. Surprisingly the world did not come to an end as some predicted. It turned out rather well in fact.

  9. The NDP did win in Alberta. They won big. An absolute majority. Although I typically voted Conservative, the Prentice Conservatives were handed a very well deserved defeat and humiliation..

    I do not see any change in the Party despite their thrashing. if anything, they are even less appealing to me. They are simply not adding any value to the pubic discourse.

  10. Based on what happened this evening I think your conclusion may have merit.

    What a bunch of bozos. I can just imagine the infighting that will happen when, and if, a new leader is proclaimed. It is a dog’s breakfast. Sad, sad reflection on the ‘big blue machine’ that hummed along when we lived in the Province. I feel sorry for those luckless taxpayers.

    And Jason Kenney was their keynote speaker!

  11. Horwath appears to be Missing In Action – I have heard and seen nothing from her during this entire CONServative fiasco! She should have been front page news everyday, pumping her party platform!!

  12. The NDP won in Alberta in 2015 because they promised to make somebody else pay for the drop in oil prices and a new unicorn in every garage.

    Plus, the conservative vote was split.

    Plus, the government union vote, which had been keeping the PC’s in power instead of the Wild Rose switched to the NDP.

    So Alberta went from a big government “Conservative” government to an even bigger big government “lollipops and unicorns” collection.

    And honestly they got what they voted for, Alberta slide 4 year closer to third world status in a direct line.

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