Andrea Horwath's speech to Ontario NDP Convention, April 2017

Hello New Democrats!

Bonjour à toutes et à tous !

Sisters and brothers, it’s so good to see you!

You are the heart and soul of our party. Thank-you all for being here!

We have the most dedicated activists and organizers in the NDP. 

We are people who aren’t just ready for change; we are people working hard to make change happen!

We’ve got new members, here at their very first convention. 

And young people from Ontario NDP Youth (ONDY) – And I gotta tell you, our young members are much more than the future of this party! 

They are very much at the core of who we are today!

We have so many sisters and brothers here from the labour movement, from unions that aren’t just our friends and allies; the labour movement is our founding partner. And we stand shoulder-to-shoulder every step of the way!

And, of course, we’ve got our incredible team of elected New Democrats!

Our MPPs, Members of Parliament, and the municipal representatives and school board trustees who are proud members of this party. 

These are women and men who work hard for the people of Ontario! And they’re doing an incredible job. 

We’re here, together, because we share a vision for this province.

A vision built on the values that have driven New Democrats from the very start.

I love this Province and I know Ontario can be a great place to live.

For our own families; and for our neighbours, our co-workers, and all of our children.

We know that a future is possible, for Ontario, without poverty and without discrimination.

A future where no one is denied a good life because of who they are, or where they come from, or how much money their parents make! 

A future with more prosperity for working people, more security for families, and more opportunity for everyone who needs it! 

This is the vision that unites us – and inspires us.

And it’s a vision that we can achieve together.

Today, we are less than fourteen months away from the next election.

But let’s be clear: 

This campaign is already on.

This campaign is well underway.

And New Democrats are in this campaign to win!

Today, I want to talk about the kind of change this province needs.

The kind of change we’re going to offer people over the next fourteen months; and the bold and progressive change that an NDP government is going to deliver in 2018!

It is the great privilege of my life to serve as leader of this party.

And the best part of the job is that I get to meet so many people, from Scarborough to Sudbury to Sioux Lookout, and from so many walks of life.

And everywhere I go people come up to me – and open up to me about what’s happening in their lives.  

I hear their hopes. I hear their frustrations. And I hear the worries that keep folks up at night. 

I think of women like Jane, who I met in Kingston, who told me she was forced to choose between buying groceries or paying for hydro.

Jane bought groceries. 

And her hydro was cut off.

Can you imagine? Can you imagine. In Ontario, in 2017, a woman forced to choose between heating her home in the winter, or feeding herself and her family?

I think of Charlene, a mother of three, up in Sault Ste. Marie. 

She works full time. 

So does her husband.

But now she’s been forced to pick up a part-time job, on top of everything else. 

Her family is working so hard they’ve got no time left to spend together to build their lives and make memories together.

Charlene and her husband are working so hard. And being forced to give up so much.

I think of young people, like Ahmad from Windsor, who study hard, but graduate only to find that good jobs – with benefits and a pension and guaranteed hours – are few and far between. 

Instead of opportunity, Ahmad found a mountain of student debt that piles higher and heavier every year. 

Debt that weighs him down, just as he’s trying to start his life. 

And I think of the people, right here in Toronto, and across the province, who’ve had their rents hiked way beyond their means, because Kathleen Wynne refused, for years, to extend rent protection to everyone. 

When I think of a young person getting a notice that their rent is going up by hundreds of dollars a month.

Or I think of a young family trying to balance it all, only to get a notice under the door, telling them that their apartment – their home – is now suddenly out of their price range. 

Well, that’s just not right, is it?! 

Toronto is an incredibly vibrant city. 

A global city, full of opportunity. But if Toronto is going to live up to its promise, we’ve got to make sure that working folks can afford to live here. And thrive here!

Sisters and brothers, these are the women and men we work for. 

For Charlene. For Jane. For Ahmad.

These are the families we fight for!

These are the students and seniors we stand with!

And let’s never lose sight of who we’re here for! Who we stand with! And what we stand for! 

Nos priorités sont claires.

Nos priorités mettent les gens en premier.

Kathleen Wynne is not working for the people of Ontario. 

More and more, we see who she’s in it for: 

She’s in it for herself and her Liberal party!

The Premier governs like she’s never even opened her own hydro bill!

Like she’s never listened to a single mom that can’t pay for hydro and groceries in the same month. 

Like she’s never spoken to a young person who’s years away from having a good job.  

The kind of job you can raise a family and build a future on. 

The Liberals have spent the past fourteen years making life harder for families. And looking out for themselves.

Kathleen Wynne denied there was a hydro crisis— right up until it became a political crisis for the Liberal Party.

Now, she’s come out with a hydro scheme to try to save Liberal seats. 

But it comes with a price tag. Get ready for this…of up to 40 billion dollars in new costs and new interest payments on the backs of the people of Ontario.

Even now, as her time in office comes to a close Kathleen Wynne is focused on helping herself and the Liberal Party, no matter what it costs the people of Ontario. 

We’ve seen this over and over. 

Instead of protecting health care, Premier Wynne cut our hospitals and laid-off thousands of health care workers. 

Instead of protecting our schools, Premier Wynne turned around and robbed our children’s classrooms of the supports they need. 

Today, there is a critical lack of support in the classroom. 

It’s making it harder for children to learn, harder for teachers and education workers to do their jobs and it’s led to a rise in violence in our schools that put students and educators at risk. 

On top of all that, this Premier is closing down local schools across the province. 

And refusing to listen to parents, who know that we’ve got to keep those schools open. 

Kids in northern and rural communities are being forced to spend as much time on the bus as they spend in the classroom, because their local schools are being shut down. 

That’s just not right! 

If you live in Northern Ontario, if you live in a rural community, if you live in a small town or a village, you deserve so much better from the Premier of this province! 

Our schools and our hospitals are at the heart of every community. Families are counting on public services to be there.

But this Liberal Premier doesn’t get it.

And frankly, neither do the Conservatives. 

The Conservatives have no real solutions to offer… for the problems that working people face. 

Their leader, Patrick Brown, has been a Conservative politician for 17 years. Including nine years as an MP in Stephen Harper’s government.

He’ll do what Conservatives always do.

They help big companies. 

They help the privileged few at the very top. 

And they cut and privatize the public services that all the rest of us are counting on!

Ontario cannot afford to let the Wynne government do more damage. 

And we certainly cannot afford to let the Conservatives take us backwards with deep cuts and even more privatization!

New Democrats, it is up to us.

It’s up to us to take on the problems that working families face. Show them that the NDP is working for them and give people hope again.   Hope that their future will be better than it is today!

I got into politics to help people.

That’s why every one of us is in this room today. 

We’re here to bring change to Ontario. To help Jane and Charlene and Ahmad. 

To ensure that no matter where you live in Ontario, you have a fair chance at building a good life here. 

Well, sisters and brothers, there’s only one way to do it… 

We’ve got to elect a government that works for working people!

Nous devons travailler fort. 

Nous devons gagner. 

Nous devons élire un meilleur gouvernement !

Think about the kind of change that New Democrats have brought to this great country. 

Think about the years before Medicare, when people who needed health care, couldn’t get it unless they had the money to pay for it.

Tommy Douglas saw what was happening. And he knew it didn’t have to be that way.

When he was elected Premier of Saskatchewan, he didn’t wait for someone else to fix it.

He got to work. 

He started with the nation’s first universal hospital insurance. 

Then he extended public health care to doctor’s visits. 

He proved that Medicare would work in his province – and for the entire country!  

New Democrats built public health care… 

Because we believe that health care is a right, not a privilege.

We believe that when you need care, you shouldn’t have to pull out your wallet to get it! 

And we have the courage of our convictions to stand up for our beliefs – and make life better for millions of people! 

This legacy is more than just inspiring for us today.

It is more than just the proud history of what New Democrats have accomplished, with our partners in labour and with activists across this country. 

The story of Tommy Douglas and the creation of Medicare is also the most powerful reminder we have that when New Democrats win elections, we can do great things! 

When New Democrats win, we can change people’s lives for the better! 

And that’s exactly what we’re going to do, right here in Ontario!

We are running to win in 2018. And when we do, here’s what’s going to happen…

When we win, the days of cutting public services and selling-off public assets are going to be a thing of the past!

We will stop the sell-off of Hydro One.

And we will bring Hydro One back into full public ownership! 

Our power system should belong to the people of this province. 

It should work for people like Jane and Charlene, not just for the powerful friends of the Liberal Party!

Our hydro plan sets out an ambitious program – and in that program, making Hydro One public again is Job Number One!

And while we bring Hydro One back into public ownership, we’ll also take action to lower hydro bills by up to 30 percent.

Electricity is not a luxury. So it shouldn’t be priced like one!

With our plan, rural families and businesses will pay the same delivery costs as urban customers. 

Because that’s what’s fair!

We will cap private profits in the electricity sector.

We will end mandatory time of use, so families can cook dinner at dinnertime without being punished.

And we’ll end the ridiculous practice of paying for electricity we don’t need.

I know who I’m here for. 

I know who I’m working for! And it’s not for Kathleen Wynne’s friends in high places! 

It’s for the people of Ontario! It’s for everyday families! 

And with an NDP government, the people of Ontario will pay less for, and own more of, our public hydro! 

As we take action to get peoples’ costs down, we’re also going to focus on raising their wages. 

We have to do both. 

We need a government that supports good jobs. 

The kind of jobs that come with good wages, decent benefits, and the rights that unions have fought so hard to win and every worker deserves to keep. 

Just because the nature of work is changing today, doesn’t mean that the benefits of working have to change – and it certainly doesn’t mean any worker should be stuck living in poverty.

In fact, in a province as rich as ours, there should be no such thing as the “working poor”! Wouldn’t you agree? 

So, when we win, New Democrats will raise the minimum wage to 15 dollars an hour! 

We will crack down on predatory temp agencies, that take advantage of vulnerable workers!  

And we will make sure every worker can take a paid sick day! 

We have to do everything we can to help workers and their families build a real future.

And if there’s one guaranteed ticket into the middle class, if there’s one sure way to help build a better future, we know what it is — it’s called a union card!  

And it’s time more workers have a union card in their wallet! 

And have the rights and respect and solidarity that comes with being a union member! 

For years, Liberals and Conservatives have put up barriers to organizing.  

Well, sisters and brothers, what do you say we tear those barriers down?!

We will introduce card-check certification and first-contract arbitration for every worker in Ontario! 

And we will make it easier for workers to join together… speak up together… and bargain together for a fair deal!

It’s about people … It’s about fairness… And it’s about opportunity.

This is why we’re running. 

This is why we want to win. 

And this is why we are going to work flat-out over the next fourteen months to make it happen! 

We are running to win — to stand up for everyone who needs health care, and build the home care and long-term care services that our aging parents need.

We are running to win — to invest in our classrooms, work with parents and educators, and keep our local schools open!  

We are running to win — to make child care affordable for moms and dads who need it!

We’re running to win — to restore provincial funding for transit operations – here in Toronto for the TTC, and in communities across Ontario! 

We’re running to win — so young people have more opportunities – and we can take real action to end the crisis of student debt! 

Young people in Ontario should have a debt-free start to life! So let’s make it happen!

When we win, we’re not just going to talk about climate change, we’ll take action to fight it, to cut emissions, and make sure that low-income folks and Northern communities don’t pay the highest price! 

Polluters should pay the biggest share! 

And we will work with First Nations and Indigenous peoples to take meaningful steps towards real reconciliation. 

And to make a positive impact in people’s lives. 

There is just no excuse, in the year 2017, for anyone in Ontario to live without clean drinking water, without safe housing, and without proper health care.

No excuse whatsoever. 

It’s simply not acceptable. So let’s change it.

If the federal government keeps dragging its feet and refusing to fix the water crisis, the housing crisis, and the health crisis in First Nations communities, we’re not just going to stand by and watch another generation suffer. 

We will work with First Nations to fix the problems – 

To close the education gap. To ensure clean drinking water. To deliver proper health care and safe housing.

And then we’ll send the bill to Ottawa! 

This is so important.

Whether you live at Red Rock… or in Rexdale. Whether you live on Walpole Island, or on Wellesley Street.

If you live in Ontario, you should have a roof over your head! And the necessities of life that you need!

In a province as wealthy as Ontario, we can eliminate poverty.

We can consign homelessness to history. 

We can build affordable housing, and supportive housing, and co-op housing for every family that needs it!

This is who we are. 

This is why we’re running to win.

New Democrats, this is what we’re going to do!

Nous avons la vision.

Nous avons les valeurs.

Nous sommes prêts au changement !

This afternoon, I am incredibly proud to tell you that our NDP government will also pick up where Tommy Douglas left off. 

And we will take the next step to build universal health care. 

I met a woman a few months ago in Smithville.  

Her name was Richelle.  

We were actually talking about her hydro bill. It’s gone up like everyone else’s.

And then Richelle told me that her hydro costs so much, she’s forced to choose between filling her family’s prescriptions or paying to keep the lights on. 

Richelle shouldn’t have to do that.

No mother should be put in that position. 

Seeing a doctor just doesn’t mean much… if you need a prescription, but can’t afford to fill it. 

But in Ontario today, one in every four people are not taking the medication they need.  

Because they can’t afford it.

That’s millions of people who don’t fill their prescriptions. 

Who cut their pills in half to make the bottle last longer and, all-too-often, end up in the hospital as a result. 

I believe that no one should have to empty their wallets to get the prescriptions they need!

No one should have to rack up their credit cards to get the medicine they’re prescribed!

And no one. No one. should have to go without the prescriptions they need, just because they can’t afford to buy them 

That’s why, today, I’m making a commitment: 

When we win in 2018, we are going to create Canada’s first universal Pharmacare plan right here in Ontario!

It will mean lower costs, less worry, and better health for everyone. 

It will mean fewer emergencies – fewer people in ERs.

It will mean we can save lives. 

Lower costs. Less worry. Better health. Let’s get this done! 

We all know that Canada needs universal and comprehensive national Pharmacare.  

Every Canadian needs it. 

And it’s up to us to start building it. 

Just like Tommy Douglas started in one province and built Medicare step-by-step, we’re going to start building universal Pharmacare right here in Ontario. 

We are running to win so that our NDP government can create Ontario’s first universal Pharmacare program – and so all Ontarians can get the prescription drugs we need!

No matter who you are. No matter where you work. 

No matter how old or how young you are!

On Monday morning at Queen’s Park, I’ll announce the details of our plan to build Pharmacare for everyone, starting with the most commonly-prescribed essential medicines.

We will provide universal drug coverage for all Ontarians.  

And we’ll keep expanding it until the day comes that every Canadian has access to comprehensive national Pharmacare! 

Not only is it affordable, for the sake of Richelle and millions of Ontarians, we can’t afford not to! 

And as our good friend Jack Layton was so fond of saying, we won’t let anyone tell us it can’t be done! 

This is what the next election is all about. 

This is what we’re running to do. 

And this is the bold and progressive change you can expect from a bold and progressive NDP government! 

Sisters and brothers, we have less than fourteen months to make it happen. 

And people are counting on us. 

People today are paying the price for a government that is desperately out of touch with the realities of everyday life. 

Out-of-touch with how the cost of living is hurting folks.

Out-of-touch with what’s happening to workers today. 

Out-of-touch with the mountain of challenges that young people face. 

But we can change that!

Let’s focus on what we’re running to do and the people we are running to help!

The only way that Jane and Charlene and their families will get lower hydro bills by up to 30 percent is if we win the next election! 

The only way that the cashier where you grab your coffee every morning will actually get a 15 dollar minimum wage is if we win the next election! 

And the only way that people working two or three jobs and trying to raise their family, will actually see universal Pharmacare turned into reality is if we – Ontario’s New Democrats – win the next election! 

We don’t have a day to lose.

Let’s reach out and invite folks to join us. 

Let’s share our vision of a better future.

New Democrats, now is our time.

Let’s get out there – and show the people of Ontario that we are working for them!

Merci beaucoup !  Megwich Thank-you very much!