Andrea Horwath's speech to Ontario NDP Council

Brothers and sisters, we’ve had a good conversation this morning about the election campaign.

What worked. What we could have done better. The lessons for next time.

In my report today I want to say a few words about this discussion we’ve been having in our party. Then I want to focus in on what we do about it – what we do in the next four years.

Let me begin by saying how incredibly grateful I am to each and every one of our candidates; lets give them a hand – stand up candidates in this room. And to the thousands of people who worked on our campaign; lets give them a hand too – in fact, stand up, folks in this room that worked on campaigns, stand up and let us thank you.

And to all of the Ontarians who voted for us. 

We were represented on those ballots by such amazing candidates. Thank you so much for your work. Our party is incredibly fortunate to have such dedicated campaign workers and volunteers. Thank you so much for your work.

Together, you earned the support of 1.1 million voters – support we are going to keep earning each and every day for the next four years.

Together, we notched up some real accomplishments in this election. We got 23.75% of the vote — the best result our party has scored in 24 years. We elected 21 MPPs – four more than last election, and the most MPPs we’ve elected in a general election since 1990. Our party members put on a campaign that came first in the popular vote in southwestern Ontario, and first in the North.

Smart, committed candidates and activists not only won those 21 seats, we placed second in 21 more. There are the makings of a majority NDP government in those numbers next time, if we learn from this campaign and do better in the next one.

Perhaps most important, more than a few of those 1.1 million Ontarians who voted for us, did so for the very first time. I’m proud of that.

Our members take real pride in the good work by so many that went into this campaign. We can take some comfort – some comfort -- from the results. But — as members have also been saying to me this summer, and as we discussed this morning – there are some real disappointments as well.

We lost three amazing Toronto MPPs. Let’s take a pause to acknowledge the work of Rosario Marchese, Michael Prue and Jonah Schein.

We didn’t kick the Liberals out of office.  And we didn’t win a mandate to govern. And that’s what we are here to do.

And they do deserve to be kicked out of office, those Liberals.

Just look at their recent announcements about homelessness and poverty. Five years ago, the Liberals announced they were going to reduce child poverty by 25 per cent  — by 2014. This year.

The last week, they admitted that they had completely failed to do so. So they said they had learned from the experience. Now they’re announcing they’re going to eliminate homelessness instead.

With no budget; no timeline; and nothing concrete being done.  

The Liberal takeaway from their utter failure to reach the targets they set in their first five-year poverty reduction plan is “let’s not set any targets for our second five year plan, and then nobody can criticize us for not reaching them!”

Our caucus was sent back to Queens’ Park by the people of Ontario to oppose that kind of government. We’ve been sent back to offer a better alternative. Especially since we’re the only functioning opposition party at Queen’s Park for the foreseeable future.

We are going to do our job with passion, and commitment and determination –

and we’re going to fight them on their $2 billion cutbacks to public services, which isn’t Tim Hudak light, friends. $2 billion in cuts is Tim Hudak on speed!

We’re going to hold their feet to the fire when they break their promises because Ontario deserves a better government than that!

But we have some things to learn too.

I have some things to learn as Leader of this party.

I have some things to learn from the past few years, and I want to talk very frankly with you about that today.

Having listened very carefully to hundreds of you since the election, and having thought about it carefully, I think there are some important lessons we have to take out of our recent experience. Some lessons we are going to act on during the next four years.

A first lesson is that every member of our party ­— every New Democrat — should be able to see themselves in our campaigns.  The members of our party need to see their values, their priorities, the things that are most important to them, reflected in what we propose – as well as their day-to-day concerns.

 

A second lesson is that we must reach out as broadly as possible within our party, and to our allies and our movement when crafting both our commitments and our campaigns. This is one of the key directions I’ve given my new Chief of Staff. You can expect to be hearing from him. And you can expect to be hearing a lot from me.

There are a lot of talented people in this party.

So we need to broaden our reach. Specifically, we need to do a much better job of broadening our reach than we did in this campaign.

A third lesson is that we must be clear, each and every day during elections and between elections, about why we want to win. That means talking about the destination we are trying to arrive at, as well as the first steps we want to take to get there.

We need to do a better job than we did in this campaign — to articulate, and to advance our basic principles and our fundamental goals. As well as our first steps.

The basic principles of our party are my heart and soul, just as they are yours. And we must never shy away from talking about them.

We believe in fighting — each and every day — for a more equal society. A much more equal society — economically and socially — that leaves no one behind.

We believe in competing at the high end instead of the low end.

We believe in a strong and active role for government, because there are many things more important than making a buck in the market.

Like, universal, publicly-owned and publicly-administered health care.

Like first-class, world-leading public education from pre-kindergarten to lifelong learning.

Like clean drinking water, clean air, safe food, and safe streets.

We believe in addressing poverty, not just because doing so makes society better for everyone, but because we are our sisters’ keepers, and we do owe all of our fellow citizens our solidarity, our help, and our love.

We believe in respect for First Nations.

We believe that no matter what part of the world we or our ancestors come from, no matter our faith or lack thereof, our race, our ethnicity, our age, our abilities, our gender, our gender identity, our sexual orientation, our level or source of income: we are all equal.

We believe in the right to organize and to be represented by a union — without interference and without fear — so that people can be safe, respected, and well-paid at work.

We believe in a living minimum wage.

We believe in a strong public pension system.

We believe in the future of our rural and resource communities.

We believe in caring for our children and our seniors.

We believe in the right to decent housing.

We believe in investing in our cities, and in public transit.

We believe in protecting our environment.

We believe in an honest, open democracy that governs with integrity and respect.

And we believe these things are practical goals that can be achieved.

Love is better than anger, as a good friend of ours reminded us a few years ago. We are the party of hope. We are the party of optimism. We are the party that is about people coming together to make things better for all.

In a time when the very, very few continue to amass so much for themselves, while everyone else is going into their second decade without a raise, or are falling behind, we have never been more relevant.

What we stand for has never been more important.

Our principles are exactly what this province needs from its government.

Friends, the people of Ontario are practical-minded folks. They want to know how things are going to get done. That is particularly true of people voting for us for the first time.

And let’s be clear — to win, we need to persuade a lot of people to vote for us for the first time.

One of our key political accomplishments of the past five years — the fact that we have more than doubled our caucus — is because we are making good progress persuading people to change their vote, and to vote for change. But like people everywhere, the people of Ontario are also looking to be inspired, to be given new hope and to believe in change.

I’m inspired by what we stand for.

I want to be Premier at the head of a real progressive government in Ontario, that makes a real difference in people’s lives.

I take the lesson from this campaign that there is room in Ontario for a compelling progressive agenda that we talk about with pride, with determination, and without apology.

The Liberals won in large part by jumping on Tim Hudak’s foolish proposals and promising never, ever to implement them.

You know what?

I think there’s a very good chance that implementing those Tory proposals is exactly what Kathleen Wynne is going to do.

She ran on what — on the surface — sounded like our platform.  But I think they’re going to implement the Tory platform, the one below the surface.

But they can be stopped.

The Liberals have a majority, but they don’t have a monopoly.

Democracy is a process that plays out over a whole term of government, not just for a few minutes in a ballot box. If the people of Ontario believe this government misled them, it will lose their support, and it will dig its own grave.

With some help from us.

For that to happen, they need to be opposed in the Legislature by a strong, united, focused and determined opposition, inside and outside Queens’ Park. Which won’t be coming from the Tories. Because they’re going to spending most of the next four years in the repair shop.

The real opposition at Queens’ Park is the New Democratic Party.

The people who will call the Liberals out if they break their commitments to the people of Ontario is us – our party; our caucus team; our activists and organizers right across this province.

That is the job the people of Ontario hired us to do over the next four years.

If we do it well, if we fight wrongheaded privatization and sell-offs, if we fight reckless corporate tax giveaways, if we stand up for public education and public universal health care, if we speak out for people who are poor and homeless and all those who need solidarity and support with a real plan to help people rise from poverty and to move people from the streets to safe and decent homes, if we stand up for those who are being exploited, if we fight for greater equality.

If, in everything we do for the next four years, we make the case that there is so much more we can be, so much more we can do together, so much more to hope for, for our children and the future of this province.

Then we will hold this government accountable.

Then we will defeat it in the next election.

Then we will replace it with the new, strong, hopeful, energetic, progressive government this province so desperately needs.

Delivered by a strong, determined, unified party that knows what it stands for, knows what it wants to do, and knows how to do it.

That’s us – the New Democratic Party of Ontario.

That’s what our members want us to do. That's the job the people of Ontario hired us to do.

So let’s do it, together.

Let’s keep fighting for our principles that are our very hearts and our souls.

Because sisters and brothers: that fight is worth it.

Thank you.