Horwath got treated pretty lightly by media last campaign. Reminder from @metromorning there that it'll be tougher for her this time.
— Adam Radwanski (@aradwanski) May 5, 2014
In the run-up to this campaign, I’ve been asked repeatedly by both Liberals and Progressive Conservatives if I think the media will be tougher on Andrea Horwath this campaign than it was during her first campaign at the NDP’s helm.
It’s easy to see where they’re coming from.
In 2011, Ms. Horwath was able to get through the campaign without really being pressed much on the NDP’s policy agenda, which was thinner than that of the other two parties. And she also got away with the occasional eyebrow-raiser – like her odd, subsequently revised account of her son’s trip to the hospital – that probably would have landed the other leaders in more hot water.
Two-and-a-half years ago, though, nobody really thought the NDP had a chance of winning power. And Ms. Horwath was a fresh face, less slick and polished than Dalton McGuinty or Tim Hudak, so she was cut a bit more slack. This time around, the NDP is perceived to be more competitive, and she’s more firmly established – both reasons to expect it won’t be as easy for her to coast by.
That made today’s interview with CBC Radio’s Metro Morning, a highly-rated Toronto broadcast particularly popular among downtown voters the Liberals are trying to pull away from the NDP, interesting for a couple of reasons.
One, although they were hardly brutal, the questions from host Matt Galloway were a little tougher than the sort Ms. Horwath typically got last time. In particular, he repeatedly pressed her to get beyond her talking points on why she blocked an ostensibly “progressive” budget, which at least underscored that her rationale could use a little fleshing out.
Two, the NDP Leader dropped a surprising claim into the middle of the interview: that the Liberals’ budget includes a plan to privatize the TTC. That brought a somewhat flabbergasted response from the host, who covers transit policy quite a bit and seemed never to have heard any such thing.
— Matt Galloway (@mattgallowaycbc) May 5, 2014
Ms. Horwath seemed to be borrowing from an ad campaign, launched by a union local last Friday, that attacks the Liberals for supporting public-private partnerships.
That’s an interesting indication of how, despite having moved the NDP away from much of its traditional turf, she’s making a play for organized-labour support. But this claim is something I don’t recall her ever raising before, and despite her implication in the interview, the budget certainly didn’t go further on “P3s” than government policy previously. And it’s a pretty big leap to hold up the funding model for construction of new transit lines as evidence that the government wants to privatize the entire system.
We’ll find out, in the next few days, how much the NDP Leader gets pressed on this issue and how much coverage it will get. It might be more than it would have been two-and-a-half years ago.