Standing in front of a statue of a bicycle-riding Jack Layton to rather unsubtly push back against claims that she’s abandoned her party’s roots, Andrea Horwath did not sound like someone overly eager to work with either of the other parties in another minority legislature. She wanted to be “100 per cent clear,” she said, that she had no intention of supporting Tim Hudak’s government-slashing plan; nor did she intend to support “corrupt Liberals.”
Considering the likelihood that another minority legislature is exactly what we’re headed for, with Ms. Horwath’s NDP again the third party, such talk is likely to spur speculation that the next government will be extremely short-lived.
The reality, though, is that however nasty this campaign might be getting in its final leg – and however much Ms. Horwath and others seem to be backing themselves into corners – a couple of factors make it unlikely that the province’s politicians will imminently be back on the campaign trail.
One is the possibility of leadership changes. It’s widely expected that if the Liberals win back government, Mr. Hudak will step aside. It’s less of a sure thing that Kathleen Wynne will exit if the Liberals lose, but there’s at least a chance of that. And either way, if the NDP doesn’t make gains, Andrea Horwath could be on her way out as well. If any of the parties is in the midst of a leadership contest, it will be highly reluctant to force another election - giving whoever is in office at least a bit of leeway.
The other, based on watching this campaign, is that the parties would be very hard-pressed financially to fight another election battle shortly thereafter.
That applies, in particular, to the New Democrats. We won’t know until after the election is done how much was raised and spent, but it certainly looks like they’ve been very short on cash even this time around. While they often get outspent by the other two parties, it’s been more noticeable than usual – particularly when it comes to television advertising, which is one of the better barometers.
That may have something to do with unions, annoyed by the NDP’s decision to defeat a left-leaning budget and chance Mr. Hudak’s Tories getting elected, putting away their chequebooks and being reluctant to back up loans. It may also point to lackluster grassroots fundraising. Whatever the case, if the NDP is struggling to pay for this campaign, it’s hard to see how it could pay for anything resembling a competitive effort months later.
Whichever of the Liberal or Tories winds up in opposition could be challenged on the financial front. Both those parties have much better fundraising operations than the NDP, but the corporate cash they both partly rely on is hard to drum up quickly when you’re not in government.
Sooner or later, like pretty much every minority legislature, this one would become unsustainable. But for all the tough talk now, there would be incentive to keep it going for a good while.