Anyone hoping that a recent plea from provincial NDP leader Andrea Horwath to Toronto City Council to hold off on transit cuts will make a difference is kidding themselves. Or the have a lot more faith in Toronto mayor Rob Ford’s desire to listen to left-wing politicians than I do.
According to Horwath as reported by CBC, “I’m going to ask for the mayor and council to … hit the pause button on conversations about cutting the TTC in order to deal with their budget.” Horwath is hoping that it won’t be necessary for Council to make these cuts, on account of her becoming the next Premier of Ontario on October 6.
“I believe that we have an opportunity now,” Horwath claimed, “with the provincial election coming on October 6, to wait and see. Wait and see who ends up in the premier’s chair.”
Wishful thinking, maybe. But the NDP has pledged to fund 50 per cent of a municipalities’ transit operating costs on condition that a fare freeze be implemented lasting a minimum of four years. The announcement, made at the Ossington subway station in Toronto, is a major effort from the NDP to help shore up their success in the provincial capital. While other municipal populations rely on transit, none come close to matching the 2.487M daily riders who rely on the 2031 buses, 706 rapid transit cars, 248 streetcars, and 129 Wheel-Trans buses that make up the ‘Rocket’ to get around the sprawling mega-city.
The announcement will work well for her candidate’s individual campaigns within Toronto, but the appeal of the pledge may lose some of its momentum as it radiates out from the 416. But as perennially cash-strapped municipalities look for a chance to upload any significant cost to the province, the announcement is sure to be a crowd pleaser.
Meanwhile, Horwath is downplaying any discussion of a possible coalition government with the Liberal or Progressive Conservative Party’s in the event either fails to gain a majority government. But let’s face it – the thought cannot be far from her mind. As reported by Tom Spears in the Ottawa Citizen, “as the provincial Liberals and Conservatives are in a tight race, Horwath could be the power broker in a minority government.”
And she knows it. And her people know it, too. The New Democrats must have at least a handful of apparatchik’s working behind-the-scenes on what the NDP wish-list will be if they hold the balance of power in the next government.
But in public, Horwath must continue to play down such speculation. After all, she is not running to be the leader of Ontario’s third party – she is already the leader of Ontario’s third party.
“I’m not going to pre-suppose where we end up on Oct. 6,” Horwath reported to the Ottawa Citizen. “The voters still have some time to consider who’s going to put them first.”
But if McGuinty or Hudak fail to win a majority of seats, it will be an interesting time in Ontario if Horwath and the New Democrats hold the balance of power. We may yet see some points from the NDP platform emerge in the province, including the promise to fund 50 per cent of municipal transit costs. We may also see efforts to enlarge the feed-in-tariff program for green energy, or a pledge to lessen our dependence on nuclear power.
Either way, a powerful, left-leaning, female voice whispering in the ear of the Premier will be a refreshing change in Ontario, and likely provide an important balance to a centre- or right-wing premier.
Voter apathy and fatigue be damned – October 6 will prove as important an election as any.