Ontario Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty and Ontario PC leader Tim Hudak have dominated the news throughout the campaign. The male-dominated corporate media has given the Ontario NDP leader scant attention. Here and there, we got flashes of Andrea Horwath. Adjectives and phrases that variously described her include: fearless, passionate, good instincts and rebel. Close to the true top Ontario New Democrat, but not quite.
But that hasn’t stopped Horwath from proving that she’s the best person to lead Canada’s economic and social heartbeat after October 6.
Even as the media held back, throughout this campaign, Horwath consistently distinguished herself as a positive, humane and upbeat candidate. She exuded a genuineness rare in Canadian politics.
But her moment to connect with voters arrived during last week’s televised leadership debate. Horwath’s peformance was solid. She beat her rivals hands down. She distinguished herself from her rivals’ my-way-or-the-highway attitude. She was fully engaged. Need I repeat that she smiled a lot? A genuine, warm smile.
Throughout the debate, Horwath’s demeanor was welcoming.
If they already hadn’t, Ontarians embraced the NDP leader. A Toronto Star-Angus Reid poll taken soon after the debate gave her a 50 percent approval rating. McGuinty and Hudak trailed far behind at 37 percent and 35 percent, respectively.
What did voters suddenly see? A self-made leader, perhaps? A role model for Canadian women, and men who have fully embraced women as leaders? Maybe they saw a woman who unapologetically embraces her womanhood.
There was that moment she called both her rivals “same old suits”. Exactly what a big girl sandwiched between to ego-driven males needs to do.
I’ll suggest someone who comes from a familiar place. In her 20s, Horwath waitressed in a cocktail bar. She put herself through university, earning a labor degree from McMaster University. She worked as a community activist before successfully running for political office in Hamilton in 1997.
But most inspiring is Horwath’s recent political life. She’s the first female leader of the Ontario NDP. She’s a single mom and MPP in one. Now hear talk of Horwath holding the balance of power at Queens Park. A possible upset victory, even.
Andrea Horwath has taken the NDP to a place much further than the pundits predicted at the beginning of the election campaign. Remarkably, she got here without the endorsement of stars. World-renowed environmentalist David Suzuki endorsed McGuinty. Someone in theStephen Harper government endorsed Hudak .
If there is a truer mark of great leadership, please let me know.
As Premier, Andrea Horwath will give Ontarians the leader they deserve: a consensus builder. Cue: her unscripted encounters with voters on the campaign trail. You cannot fail to see where she’ll take Ontario: a place where policies aren’t imposed from on high. A place where the ordinary Ontarian matters.