Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath
Credits: CRAIG ROBERTSON/QMI AGENCY
Political public breakups can be messy... and expensive.
Just ask Mayor Rob Ford when his administration had a very public spat with Karen Stintz, his hand-picked TTC chair, who led the charge to derail his unfunded subway dream.
Or ask Prime Minister Stephen Harper, back when he was leader of the opposition. Failed leadership candidate Belinda Stronach openly defied him and crossed the floor to the Liberals - giving former prime minister Paul Martin a brief reprieve before facing an election.
Premier Dalton McGuinty could have learned a thing or two from those experiences prior to his recent empty threats to hurl Ontario into an unwanted election.
But McGuinty won't be significantly tarnished in the wake of the now-resolved budget drama.
That will be reserved for NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.
She came into the minority government elected last fall holding the balance of power, and was determined to use it to her advantage.
As far as the 2012 budget wranglings went, it's undisputable Horwath made great strides when the Liberal government, in exchange for her party's support, buckled to her "tax the rich" scheme and to rescind previously announced corporate tax cuts.
By those measures, she had done exactly what voters who supported the NDP in the last election, wanted her to do.
So last week, when the premier was hopping mad about the PCs and NDP opposing parts of his budget (for very different reasons), a lot of venom was spit Horwath's way, directly from the premier's office.
Accusations of betrayal and mistrust were peppered throughout McGuinty's hastily-issued statement on the budget showdown:
To wit: "Earlier today, the NDP turned their backs - yet again - on an agreement to pass our budget. They joined forces with the PCs to gut the government's budget bill. The consequences of the NDP's latest backtrack would hurt our economy when what it needs most is stability and certainty. Andrea Horwath and her party have, for the second time, broken their word about passing this budget." Strong words, but hardly over the top.
After all, McGuinty and Horwath had a deal.
Of course, it was a bit amusing for the premier to subsequently ask Horwath for a commitment in writing that the NDP would let the budget pass. We all know where McGuinty stands on written commitments - remember this is the same premier that signed a pledge not to raise our taxes.
But what will hurt Horwath are her own words, which tossed any semblance of credibility she had out the window.
When speaking to reporters after the NDP abstained from the budget vote (they did, however, find the strength to vote for their tax increase on anyone earning more than $500,000 annually), her staff distributed information from the Woman Abuse Research Consortium, suggesting Horwarth had suffered what could be likened to workplace abuse at the hands (or mouths) of the Liberals. Really?
Horwath went on to say this is the type of behaviour that turns people off of politics.
Well, actually no it's not. That's what gets people to tune in, because they want to see the side show.
What turns people off is a disingenuous statement from a female politician about suffering abuse, which belittles women who have actually suffered real physical and emotional abuse.
To gain an appreciation for what her flippant comments really mean, I would suggest Horwath have a serious conversation with Toronto Coun. Frances Nunziata (Ward 11 York South-Weston).
Nunziata endured physical abuse in her former marriage and was subjected to professional abuse as a councillor, and later mayor, in the former City of York, when she exposed a corruption scandal which sent some of her council colleagues to jail.
Besides, where does Horwath think she works?
As an opposition leader, it is her job to pose uncomfortable questions to the government. The lack of answers from government ministers often leads to shouting, banging on desks and sometimes name-calling from opposition MPPs.
By her definition of abuse, McGuinty suffers from work-place abuse every day from the opposition.
Politics is not for the faint of heart, and I don't believe Horwarth is.
In fact, before all of this budget nonsense, though I disagree with her philosophically, I found her to be quite impressive and very likable.
But she seriously miscalculated sounding the abuse alarm and should be held accountable for doing so.