WINDSOR - Andrea Horwath is firing back at fierce criticism from long-time NDP backers over her decision to force an Ontario election, saying she refused to support the Liberals’ left-leaning budget because Liberal “corruption” had to be stopped.
At a campaign stop here Saturday, Horwath responded to the sharp missive, penned by 34 long-time NDP supporters, accusing her of abandoning the party’s socialist values in a bid to win votes.
The letter, revealed Friday, slams her decision to withdraw NDP support of the minority Liberal government and, in the process, scuttle what they call “most progressive budget” in recent Ontario history.
Horwath, however, said a progressive agenda wasn’t acceptable if it meant supporting a scandal-plagued government any longer.
“Progressives around this province know very well that the most important thing is to have an important democracy,” she told reporters after a campaign rally. “You can’t have that if you continue to turn a blind eye to corruption and to cover-ups. That’s what this campaign is all about.”
The Liberal budget included NDP-friendly measures such as increases for Ontario Works recipients and people getting Ontario Disability Support Program benefits, a hike in the Ontario Child Benefit and even a made-in-Ontario pension plan, which had been advocated by the New Democrats.
Still, Horwath said she was acting in the “interest of the province” when she decided to withdraw her party’s support of the minority Liberals after propping them up in 2012 and 2013.
The Liberal cancellation of two gas plants at a cost of more than $1.1 billion and the subsequent cover-ups were no longer tolerable to the New Democrats, she said.
“The people of this province are tired of a corrupt Liberal government. There’s no doubt I had a difficult decision to make a couple of weeks ago when I decided not to support the budget,” Horwath said.
The harshly worded letter from the NDP stalwarts, dated May 23, accuses Horwath of abandoning traditional constituencies such as working people, women and immigrants, adding: “We urge you to change course.”
“From what we can see, you are running to the right of the Liberals in an attempt to win Conservative votes. It is not clear whether you have given up on progressive voters or you are taking them for granted,” states the letter, obtained by the Star.
Among those who signed the letter are high-profile journalist Michele Landsberg (wife of former provincial NDP leader Stephen Lewis), long-time homelessness activist Cathy Crowe, labour rights activist Winnie Ng and Judy Rebick.
On Saturday, NDP candidate Cheri DiNovo, who’s running in Parkdale-High Park, sarcastically tweeted, “Big thanks to the wonderful @cathyacrowe for her endorsement.”
Horwath downplayed the letter as a bit of “democratic” debate within the NDP ranks, adding, “Our party is very vigorous in terms of its debates and its discussion.”
And, in a pointed comment, she said she is concerned about the priorities of “all of the people of Ontario.”
Meanwhile in Toronto, the Liberals took aim at the Progressive Conservative pledge to create one million jobs, calling the promise “flat-out wrong and ridiculous.” Charles Sousa, the finance minister in the Kathleen Wynne government, accused the Tories of bad math, saying their program would result in only a fraction of the jobs promised.
Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak used a stop in Woodbridge to highlight his party’s vow to cut income taxes by 10 per cent after the budget is balanced.