Horwath beats Tabuns, Prue for NDP leadership

Andrea Horwath celebrates her Ontario NDP leadership win with Sharleen Stewart, president of the Service Employees International Union, following Horwath’s victory tonight at the New Democrats’ Hamilton convention. Horwath becomes the party’s first female leader.
Andrea Horwath celebrates her Ontario NDP leadership win with Sharleen Stewart, president of the Service Employees International Union, following Horwath’s victory tonight at the New Democrats’ Hamilton convention. Horwath becomes the party’s first female leader.  (Andrea Horwath)

Andrea Horwath became the first female leader of the Ontario NDP on Saturday when she defeated Toronto-Danforth MPP Peter Tabuns on the third ballot at the party’s leadership convention in Hamilton.

Horwath, the MPP for Hamilton Centre, won 6,713 votes in the final round of balloting, giving her 60 per cent of the total vote count. Tabuns took 4,420 votes.

“I look forward to bringing a woman’s perspective to the leadership role,” Horwath said. “I have my own style, which I’ll bring to the table.”

Horwath praised her two leadership rivals from East York, Tabuns and Beaches-East York MPP Michael Prue — and especially Timmins-James Bay MPP Gilles Bisson, the candidate who threw his support behind Horwath when he came in last on the second ballot and was eliminated from the contest.

Prue was eliminated on the first ballot, after gathering just 1,438 votes, or 11 per cent of the field. He threw his support to Bisson.

Bisson, in turn, backed Horwath: “With Andrea, there’s a better chance to grow the party. What’s important at this point is our party has to be unified.”

In her acceptance speech to cheering delegates at the Hamilton Convention Centre, Horwath highlighted the need for her party to connect with ordinary Ontarians.

“We need to spend time on the ground working with real people,” she said. “For the NDP, it’s an opportunity to re-brand ourselves and refresh.”

“Together, we are going to move forward. This is our beginning,” Horwath said. “In 2011, we take back Ontario.”

Horwath paid tribute to Howard Hampton, who is stepping down after three elections.

“Howard has made a great foundation for us to take over Ontario,” she said of the outgoing leader.

The candidates debated last night, and earlier today, before voting began, each candidate had the opportunity to make one last appeal for support.

Horwath entered the hall to drummers, whistles and lights. Supporters shone lights around the room and a samba beat accompanied her Obama-like theme, “It’s Time,” echoing through the hall.

Tabuns emphasized the need for the party to promote environmental as well economic change.

“Ontario is facing a rustbelt in the future,” Tabuns said, noting the current state of Ontario’s manufacturing sector. “The new energy economy is passing us by. We have to link the common crises of our time: the economy and the environment.”

Prue called for a “Buy Ontario” approach: “We can buy furniture made in Canada that we’re now buying at IKEA.”

Brisson highlighted the need for the NDP to focus on winning elections rather than simply contesting them.

“(Let’s) move from the politics of opposition to the politics of proposition,” he said.

For Horwath, the time to prepare for the next campaign begins Monday morning, when she takes her place in the Ontario legislature as NDP leader.

“The election starts tomorrow,” she said.

The New Democrats’ new leadership comes one day after the provincial Conservative leader, John Tory, resigned his post, following his failure to win a byelection for the Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock seat at Queen’s Park.

Filed by Sean Sillers and Rahul Gupta