Andrea Horwath says it's a "new beginning" for the Ontario NDP, now the province's official Opposition party after Doug Ford's Progressive Conservatives won a majority government.
"As leader of the official Opposition, I will keep fighting for change for the better, and that work starts today," Horwath said Friday at Queen's Park in Toronto. "We have a big job ahead of us. The people of Ontario have asked us to hold Doug Ford accountable for every decision that he makes, and to continue putting forward our hopeful vision for the future of this great province."
Horwath sidestepped a question of whether she was disappointed that the NDP did not win government, as some polls suggested was possible, after leading the NDP through three elections. Of course she had wanted to accomplish a lot, Horwath said, "but we now have another job, and the people of Ontario have asked us to hold this Ford Conservative government to account."
She said she had stayed focused on her campaign throughout and was looking forward to leading the official Opposition.
"I'm excited, I've been given a new opportunity to fight for the people of Ontario," she told reporters. "I think since 1985, this is the largest opposition bench that's been elected to a legislature in our province for some time.
"So what the people of Ontario have shown us is they want a strong opposition to hold Mr. Ford and the Ford Conservatives to account, to do the hard work that we need to do to try to keep that party honest and on track for the people of Ontario."
The Ontario NDP surged to 40 seats Thursday night, nearly double their 2014 wins in 21 ridings. Kathleen Wynne's Liberals, meanwhile, were reduced to just seven seats, falling short of official party status in the legislature. That means no guaranteed debate time, questions or funds for caucus research offices.
Horwath did not weigh in on whether the Liberals should be granted official party status anyway, as has been done for parties that fall short in the past. In 2003, she noted, the NDP were in the same boat until she was elected to the legislature in a byelection.
"That's what the people have decided, is the Liberals have seven seats, and it will be up to Mr. Ford if he wants to change that," Horwath said. "That's what they have in the legislature, and that's what they're going to have to deal with."