For a fleeting moment earlier this week, it appeared Andrea Horwath had finally set a make-or-break condition for supporting Dwight Duncan’s budget.
With Tuesday’s call to apply an extra tax to anyone making more than $500,000 per year, the Ontario NDP Leader served up the kind of attention-grabber from which it’s difficult to back away – and that, if rejected by Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals, could make for an NDP-friendly wedge issue during a provincial election.
And yet, no sooner had Ms. Horwath gone public with her demand than she was once again reminding journalists that she has no intention of drawing “lines in the sand.” The implication was that she’ll be satisfied if the Liberals instead grant a few other, less showy concessions from the list of requests she’s slowly rolling out.
It was the latest signal that, against the advice of some of the more hawkish members of her party, Ms. Horwath is determined to play the long game.
If she were primarily concerned with the here and now, Ms. Horwath would be leaning toward helping Tim Hudak’s Progressive Conservatives bring down Mr. McGuinty’s minority government.
Doing so would carry less risk for the NDP than for the Tories, who are still going through a behind-the-scenes shakeup that has them a long way from election readiness, and have struggled to convincingly explain why they’d force an election over a right-leaning budget. By contrast, the New Democrats could rely on the same campaign team they did a few months ago, and make a coherent case against austerity measures – from social-assistance freezes to the shutdown of northern transit services – that run contrary to their policies and principles.