Andrea Horwath's Speech to March Provincial Council

Good morning New Democrats. Bonjour mes chères amis.How is everyone today? I’ve got to say, there is no greater feeling than walking into this room and seeing all of your familiar faces. Je suis fière d’etre ici avec vous.

I am excited to be here today, because, friends, I am proud to be a New Democrat. I am proud because of who we are and what we stand for as a party.

Watching a thousand New Democrats last convention, stand to support and applaud Susan Gapka as she told her story of standing up to prejudice.

Seeing Bill, Joyce and Arn in Sudbury drive all the way from London to Sudbury to help people with disabilities access the polls and exercise their right to vote.

Watching Tom Mulcair and our federal caucus’ principled stand for the right of all Canadians to privacy and freedom and for speaking up against attempts to incite hatred and intolerance.

Seeing so many individual and collective acts of courage and principle from New Democrats every day. I am proud of us, I am proud to be a New Democrat and I am very proud to be your Leader.

I want to take a moment to recognize that a member of our family is moving on. For more than six years, two general elections, ten byelections and three years of minority government, Darlene Lawson has been a rock at the helm of our Party. For six years she worked in the background taking care of all of the details that ensured that everything that we have accomplished together could happen. Doubling our membership, doubling our seat count, , overseeing some of the largest fundraising campaigns in our party’s history – None of this happens without a strong, skilled and capable provincial secretary.

The job of Provincial Secretary is largely a thankless job, but today, on behalf of every New Democrat across this province, I want to say an enormous thank you Darlene, for everything you have done for me and for our Party. I love you sister.

Since I last addressed you, we have had a byelection, and I want us all to take a moment to recognize the extraordinary work that so many people did. Although we didn’t get the result we had hoped for, we worked hard for the people of Sudbury, and I think we can all be very proud of the campaign we ran. We weren’t afraid to speak out against Liberal corruption, but we also ran a campaign that talked about the issues that the people of Sudbury were worried about: Healthcare, jobs, childcare, housing, the cost of hydro and the affordability of everyday life.

And I am particularly proud of our candidate – and now the co-chair of our women’s committee – Suzanne Shawbonquit. She’s a formidable woman, and I know that she will continue to do great things.

I’m proud of the campaign we ran, but I, like many of you, am appalled by the behavior of the Liberal Party. We all know that Liberals are content to pay lip service to local democracy. We know they like dangling public appointment in return for political favours. We know this is how the Liberals work. So New Democrats have been speaking up, demanding answers, and calling on those people currently under investigation to step aside. 

Why do we believe that it is important for New Democrats to speak up? Because democracy matters, integrity matters, and because the Premier of a province ought to lead by example rather than being the driving force behind the increasing cynicism and anger people have toward politics.

It matters because the people of Ontario should be assured that their government does not think it’s above the law!

I believe that elected people, especially the Premier, have a responsibility to protect and strengthen our democracy. This premier and this Liberal Party are now the subject of four police investigations. Four. Kathleen Wynne promised that under her leadership things would be different; corruption, arrogance and entitlement would be a thing of the past in the Ontario Liberal Party. They aren’t. Kathleen Wynne is no different and the Ontario Liberal Party will never change.

I’m proud that New Democrats run for office, not because of promises of power or the perks of office, but because we believe in public service. Earlier this week the Former Parliamentarians paid tribute to Stephen Lewis and it was an honour to recognize a proud New Democrat who has devoted his life to public service.

I’m proud that New Democrats believe that government is not about taking care of your friends but about making life better not only for the people you represent, but for people everywhere.

Ontarians deserve a government with integrity.

We deserve a government that people can be proud of.

We deserve a government that is focused on serving the needs of the people we represent.

I firmly believe that a New Democratic government will be that government.

And so the Ontario NDP caucus has been hard at work.

We have been demanding action against predatory payday loan companies.

We have been demanding answers about the broken social assistance computer system.

We have been fighting against precarious work and exploitative unpaid internships.

We have been fighting against cuts to healthcare and dental care for low income kids.

We have been fighting against cuts to education and the closures of our schools.

But we’ve been doing more than just opposing.

We have been speaking up for improvements to the safety of workers on the job...

We have been speaking up for a strategy to finally tackle the scourge of racism by calling for an Anti-Racism Directorate.

We have been speaking up for LGBTQ youth who need greater protections.

We have been speaking up for struggling families and businesses who can’t pay their hydro bills.

And we have been speaking up for moms and dads who need $15 a day licensed childcare.

We have been busy, and we have been getting results.

Thanks to New Democrats, Ontarians now have a Financial Accountability Office that’s almost up and running. This will be valuable tool to better hold the Liberals to account for the reckless manner with which they have been spending and wasting money that ought to be used to expand childcare, improve health care, and better fund post secondary education so that the hard working members of CUPE 3902 and 3903 can get back to work at their universities.

Make no mistake, my friends, this Liberal government is wasting our public dollars.

The Auditor General's report made it clear that the point that New Democrats have been making about Liberal waste is unarguably correct!

Let me be clear – we do not believe that government is inherently wasteful, but we know that this Liberal government is wasteful.

They’ve wasted hundreds of millions of dollars on a SAMS system that doesn't work. That frustrates and stresses workers and leaves vulnerable Ontarians in the lurch.

Another billion on E-health.

820 million to divest the ONTC.

A billion dollars on Ornge.

Another billion on Smart Meters and a billion and change to cancel the gas plants.

Two and a half billion dollars’ worth of corporate tax giveaways.

That’s close to $7 billion, but that’s not the half of it,

A further 8 billion dollars on this Liberal Government’s P3 giveaways.

8 billion dollars. Wasted. On P3s alone.

Most people can't really grasp a number like 8 billion, but everyone in this room knows what 8 billion dollars could do for Ontarians. This money could be used for familty health teams, for more doctors and nurses, it is money that could be used to save emergency rooms and obstetrics wards from closing in small communities and rural and Northern Ontario.

This is public money for classrooms, for childcare, for transit and infrastructure. It is money for public housing and support for injured, disabled and unemployed workers. It is money for seniors and long term care.

Billions of dollars. Gone.

And now this government has the nerve to tell Ontarians – middle class and struggling Ontarians – that they need to tighten their belts, do with a little less yet again.

We can and must do better. Nous pouvons et devons faire mieux and New Democrats will do better.

In the last election, the people of Ontario made it clear that they rejected a conservative austerity agenda. But rather than act on that mandate, this Liberal government has pushed as aggressive an austerity agenda as this province has ever seen.

The 2014 budget cut 6% out of nearly every ministry. Now the public services that Ontarians rely on are threatened and we are about to lose tens of thousands of good-paying middle class jobs.

The 2014 budget cut healthcare. Now we have ERs and obstetric wards closing, we are losing hospital beds and wards all across the province, and we have nurses either getting fired or out on the picket line.

The 2014 budget cut half a billion dollars out of education. Now we see school closures in cities and towns all across the province.

The 2014 budget cut childcare spaces in 18 communities in Ontario. Now we have growing waitlists and shortages of affordable childcare.

The 2014 budget cut transportation infrastructure across the North where the Liberals have already done so much damage. Now we see closures of more Northern bus stations.

That 2014 budget cut affordable housing and slashed 86 million dollars out of Toronto's social housing programs.

The 2014 budget set the stage for massive privatization and the sell-off of our public assets. Now we have the Clark Panel giving the Premier political cover to privatize hydro distribution and delivery and giving her cover to hold a fire sale of Ontario’s public assets in a desperate, one-off attempt to scrounge together some money.

Make no mistake, it may be Clark’s name on the report, but Wynne, Matthews and Sousa’s fingerprints will be all over the plan.

And here is the new Liberal logic for selling Hydro One. You are going to want to write this down. According to Kathleen Wynne you cannot have public transit without selling off public energy assets. The only way to build subways in Toronto or highways in the North is to privatize hydro.

What utter nonsense.

The 2014 budget did all of these things but nowhere in that budget did this Liberal Government address tax fairness or consider rolling back generous corporate giveaways.

Nowhere in that budget did this Liberal Government address the rising cost of living for middle class and struggling families.

Nowhere did this Liberal government address the explosion of precarious work and the fact that Ontario has some of the worst economic inequality in the country.

Nowhere did this Liberal government do anything to address the 8 billion dollars it wasted on P3 giveaways to wealthy construction consortia.

If that was the most progressive budget in Ontario's history, friends, then I can think of no better reason for the people of Ontario to elect a New Democratic government in 2018.

If this is big 'L' liberalism in Ontario, then who needs a conservative party. It is Tim Hudak's dream but realized by Kathleen Wynne.

People didn’t vote for this. But, sadly, the worst is still to come.

News agencies have predicted the 2015 Liberal Budget will mean the 'Deepest cuts since Mike Harris'. We know the Liberals are going to make it look like they are finally “getting tough on the deficit”. You see, friends, the Liberals have a bit of a perception problem. They are worried that after twelve years of scandals, misguided priorities and waste that, shockingly, Ontarians don't see them as good on the economy.

Imagine that.

So now they are going to try and scramble to balance the books and all signs point to a budget that will continue down a path that has been failing Ontarians.

The Liberals will introduce deeper cuts to health care, education, and the public services that Ontarians rely on.

The Liberals will try to sell our public assets.

They will offer more no-strings-attached corporate tax breaks to the wealthiest corporations.

They will shift more good-paying jobs from the public sector to WalMart.

They will continue to increases fees on health care, public services and transit.

They will continue to favour their Liberal friends and Liberal insiders.

And they will continue down a reckless path to privatize Ontario’s hydro system.

Friends, does that sound like what Ontarians voted for?

Does that sound like progressive Leadership?

It does not.

You cannot cut your way to prosperity. You do not sell your future, but that is exactly what Kathleen Wynne is planning to do.

Now, she will come forward with some goodies, some distractions in an attempt to divert attention, and make no mistake that is what it will be, it will not be good public policy but rather a cynical political manoeuver. We cannot allow ourselves to be distracted by token gestures, shining pennies like beer at the supermarket, music festivals and sex ed – sex, drugs and rock and roll is not what makes good public policy, especially when its cynically used as a diversion tactic.

Now I want to be perfectly clear that we, New Democrats, believe it’s long past time the Health curriculum was updated.  But by shoving it out the door in a desperate attempt to take attention off the bribery scandal in Sudbury, it not only diminishes the importance of this curriculum‎, it diminishes yet again an increasingly cynical premier who said she was going to do things differently.

We cannot allow ourselves to settle for a budget that will be balanced on the backs of the middle class and struggling Ontarians.

We are going to have a fight on our hands. Make no mistake about it, my friends. The real work starts now.

Three and a half years will pass very quickly and we need to be ready. We know that when we take the time to engage with people they see that our priorities are their priorities and they see that we will stand up for those priorities. We’ve all seen it time and time again: when we invest the time and resources to reach out to people – they will vote NDP.

I need you to go back to your ridings and organize. We need to build strong riding associations. We need to work together to stop the cuts. We need to work together to stop the sale of hydro one. We all need to engage with the people in our communities.

I believe that Ontario is a great province, but I know it can be so much more. But Ontario is not going to get there with the Liberal status quo. And we’re not going to get there with the conservatives.

Only an NDP government will get us there.

We know that we can make our communities stronger in a way that the other parties can't. Because we have different priorities.

We believe in investing in transit, not just in Toronto but in the whole province and that includes restoring transit infrastructure to the North.

We believe in investing in front line health care, and protecting small and rural hospitals, because people deserve care where and when they need it.

We believe that our schools are the hearts of our communities and they are so much more than just a line item on a budget sheet.

We believe in building a society where all people can learn, live and work free from discrimination and prejudice.

We believe that we can provide affordable childcare for the children of this province.

We believe that all people in Ontario deserve to live and work and retire with dignity.

We believe that we can grow our economy in a way that is sustainable and doesn’t come at the expense of our environment.

We believe in supporting our entrepreneurial neighbours so that their businesses can support our communities and hire our family members.

We believe that everyone has the right to decent housing.

We believe in close working relationships with First Nations and Metis peoples built on trust and respect.

We believe in good union jobs and every worker’s right to return home safe at the end of the shift.

We believe in a strong Northern Ontario.

We believe that Ontario manufacturing can and should thrive.

We believe that addressing income inequality and poverty is a social and economic necessity.

Those are our priorities, and I’m damn proud of it.

We will have a lot of work to do to make these priorities a reality. Nous avons beaucoup a faire.But I know that we are up to it.

We can make a more prosperous, humane and just Ontario.

And this is wherr it all starts, my friends.

Il commence ici.

It is in rooms like these that great things happen.

Now let’s all go out there and make it reality.