Mea Culpa. I apologize. I bet you don't hear apologies that often from my side of the political fence.
I thought Andrea Horwath had the political smarts, toughness and experience to lead her party, the NDP, to its first victory since Bob Rae, the then leader of the Ontario NDP, was surprisingly catapulted into the Premier's office in the mid 1990s.
I am terribly sorry. I was wrong.
I totally overestimated Horwath. I thought she possessed the steel cojones of her fabled Hamilton Tiger Cats. I thought she had the strength to rise above being a mere handmaiden to union bosses, like Sid Ryan. I was wrong.
Last year Horwath was novel. A ballsy, earthy authentic female leader.
Last year I thought Horwath adroitly played the unobtainable maiden as the then Premier Dalton McGuinty ardently tried to woo Horwath with all kinds of political goodies and bonbons. In order to get her on board and support Dalton's budget. Or at least not oppose it and bring down the McGuinty government.
Last year Horwath's negotiating tactics and public actions worked. Last year, her shtick rocked.
This time around. Not so much.
I thought last year, Horwath would use the past 12 months, to build up the NDP political organization, both administratively and on the ground. In order to get ready for a possible election this year.
I thought she would use the time to improve NDP party fundraising, reduce party debt and build up a war chest.
It seems that Horwath has failed in all these objectives.
My NDP sources and friends advise the following. The NDP is far from campaign ready. Its head office and administration are weak. Its political ground game, save for an unhealthy over reliance on union members, is non existent. The NDP finances are weak. Again, the NDP is too dependent upon its narrow base of union supporters. Horwath has failed to reach out to other progressive/ leftist organizations and Ontario voters, in general, who may share the NDP's views and policies.
By the way. What are the NDP policies?
Horwath still wants to go after those evil corporations and make them pay more taxes.
Wow! How original! We have been hearing that same NDP mantra, "Make the Corporations Pay" since the founding of the NDP.
The only other visible NDP policy is Andrea Horwath.
Unfortunately, her brand and the NDP, which is intertwined with the massive ego that is, Andrea, both have been severely tarnished.
Horwath has been masterfully outplayed by Premier Kathleen Wynne.
This time around Horwath was so predictable. Horwath threatened to force an election, unless her demands were met. But her demands were very inconsequential.
A 15 per cent reduction in car premiums. More borrowed funds by the Ontario government for unemployed youth. More borrowed funds or hard-earned taxpayers' money for seniors and home care.
Are these meager requests all the NDP brain trust could come up with? Is this meaningless grab for more taxpayers' money, the raison d'etre of the Ontario NDP?
Where's the beef, Andrea?
This time Premier Wynne and the Liberals were ready for Horwath's predictable maneuverings. They knew she would not settle if her first demands were met. So Wynne brilliantly doubled down, and offered to Horwath, more than what Horwath originally demanded. Knowing Horwath, would want to drag this negotiation on further and continue to try to hog the political spotlight for herself.
Predictably, Horwath was not satisfied, at first. So she asked for more. For more government accountability. For another auditor or ombudsman. The more Horwath dragged out these negotiations. The more she and her party lost credibility. And the more the NDP dropped in the polls.
The more Horwath negotiated, the more it became clear, that Horwath and the NDP were so weak, and so disorganized, that it was highly unlikely Horwath would ever force an election. And the more ridiculous, Horwath and the NDP appeared to the public.
Horwath and the NDP are in a free fall.
No one in Ontario will credit Horwath and the NDP for having Wynne accept her inconsequential policy demands.
But now, by propping up Wynne and the Liberals, the NDP have become complicit in the Liberals' many scandals: OLG, eHealth, Ornge, OLG again. The NDP have become accessories after the fact and the crimes. But accessories, nonetheless.
No wonder Wynne has such a winning smile. Underneath Wynne's calm, flexible, touchy-feely façade, lies one tough, decisive, determined and disciplined political leader. She has completely outplayed Horwath, And she taken back the "soft" left who had drifted to Horwath and the NDP.
I doff my chapeau to you, Premier.
For someone who hates casinos, you gambled with Horwath, bet your political future, and you masterfully stripped Horwath of her mortgage money, her lunch money and her political dignity and credibility.