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Canada

BLIZZARD: Hey hey, ho ho… Andrea Horwath has to go

The art of politics is knowing when to go.

A strong argument says if former premier Kathleen Wynne had quit as Liberal leader 18 months before last year’s election, the party could have gone on to win the vote with a fresh face at the helm — or at least salvage more seats.

Which brings us to Andrea Horwath.

This spring will be the 10th anniversary of Horwath becoming NDP leader. The Hamilton MPP has led them into three general elections.

The question for provincial lefties now is do they want her to lead them into a fourth? The answer, surely, is no.

The June election was Horwath’s to lose. True to form, she fumbled it — again. She went into the election with strong polling numbers. At one point, she was in a statistical dead heat with Doug Ford’s Tories.

Ontario PC leader Doug Ford reacts after winning the Ontario Provincial election to become the new premier in Toronto, on Thursday, June 7, 2018. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)

Dubbed the Steeltown Scrapper, Horwath always polls high as the most likeable leader.

Yes, Horwath brought the NDP from third party to Official Opposition. But politics isn’t about coming in second. You’re in it to win it.

Horwath stumbled in several key areas she had direct control over.

Throughout the campaign, revelations leaked out about candidates who held radical views.

One was opposed to wearing a poppy on Remembrance Day. Another had a Facebook meme of Adolf Hitler and compared Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan to “war criminals”. Yet another was pictured holding a sign saying, “F—- Police”.

The laundry list of NDP wannabes with spotty records of wacky protests and weird beliefs goes on and on. Instead of tossing them out, as a strong leader should, Horwath stood by them.

NDP candidate in Brampton East Gurratan Singh carrying a protest placard during a 2006 demonstration in Toronto

Fair enough, the NDP is the party of dissent. But if you’re presenting yourself as a credible candidate for premier, you have to show you can put together a solid cabinet.

Ford’s poll numbers soared after a news conference he had with Christine Elliott, Caroline Mulroney, Lisa MacLeod and others who made him more likeable.

Horwath surrounded herself with candidates who alienated voters in droves.

Her stand against back-to-work legislation for striking York University staff was irresponsible. It underlined how out of touch Horwath and her party are with average folk — especially young students you’d think would be her core vote. It underscored an NDP government would be in the thrall of their  union backers.

What sealed Horwath’s fate was her dreadful performance in the televised debate. She had the polling momentum going into it. Instead of presenting herself as a premier-in-waiting with gravitas, she kept interrupting and sounded like a small child trying to get the grown-ups’ attention at the dinner table.

The only thing saving her now is that there’s no heir apparent. No one’s waiting in the wings to take her job. That’s odd, because government was certainly within the NDP grasp in the June vote.

The only other high profile leftie who could step in is someone like feisty Unifor rabble-rouser Jerry Dias, whose firebrand —  if pointless — opposition to the closure of the GM plant in Oshawa has given him broad appeal and a high profile.

Jerry Dias, the national president for Unifor, the national union representing auto workers, addresses a rally within view of General Motors headquarters, Friday, Jan. 11, 2019, in Windsor, Ont. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

What will he do when the plant closes? A run for office would seem a logical progression. At least he has the fire in his belly that it takes to win an election. I’m not sure Horwath has that.

If Horwath couldn’t win last June,  she’ll never win. Traditionally, New Democrats view themselves as the party of Opposition. If they want to keep that role, they’ll keep Horwath.

If the NDP actually wants to govern, they’ll move on.

Three strikes and you’re out.

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