The good people of London North Centre have seen a lot of Andrea Horwath lately.
The New Democrat Leader was there during the first week of the campaign to visit a tech firm, returned last Friday for a rally and came back on Tuesday for stops at a hospital and a coffee shop.
— Andrea Horwath (@AndreaHorwath) May 20, 2014
The purpose of the most recent trip, ostensibly, was to criticize local Liberal MPP Deb Matthews for not doing enough to drive down emergency room wait times as health minister.
But Ms. Horwath’s interest in the seat has as much to do with the NDP’s electoral math as with her desire for a scrap with the government’s second-in-command.
The NDP are making a big push for Southwestern Ontario, an industrial region hit hard by the recession and the decline of the manufacturing industry. The party is hoping to build off its success in three by-elections there over the last two years, betting that its promises of pocketbook relief and its historic base in working class ridings will combine for a local breakthrough.
The party particularly hopes to replicate what happened in London West over the summer: the formerly safe Liberal seat (former cabinet minister Chris Bentley held it by roughly 8,000 votes in 2011) went NDP after the by-election turned into a two-way race with them and the Tories.
So, the NDP have been using one of the tactics that served them well in the by-elections: heavily targeting their resources at the places they think they can win. By the Globe’s count, Ms. Horwath has made about 20 stops in the Southwest since the campaign began – more than the entire rest of the province.
The NDP’s strongest support has generally come in urban ridings, of which there are a dozen or so in the region. Some of these seats also include substantial rural areas, leaving just a handful all-urban seats. One of those is London North Centre.
While Ms. Matthews has won by fairly comfortable margins – in 2011, she held it by over 6,000 votes – Ms. Horwath clearly believes she can be beaten.
If the NDP has a major breakthrough, they are betting places like this are where it will start. Plus, it would be added moral victory to take down someone with Ms. Matthews’s profile.
If you live in London North Centre – or most ridings in the Southwest – expect to see a lot more of Ms. Horwath before the campaign is through.