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Top NDP staff members leaving Queen’s Park after Andrea Horwath’s resignation

The exodus of top aides from Andrea Horwath’s office is on following her election night resignation as NDP leader after losing several blue-collar ridings.

Sources said Tuesday that three senior staff members gave notice of their pending departures, including principal secretary Karla Webber-Gallagher.

“That’s not unusual,” said a senior NDP source, noting turnover of this nature is common after a leader quits.

Also departing are Jared Walker, director of digital communications and speech writing, and community engagement director Jennifer Yin Barrett.

Earlier this month, chief of staff and campaign director Michael Balagus said he will be stepping down effective Sept. 15. Sam Pane, press secretary to Horwath, left for a new opportunity shortly after the June 2 election that saw the NDP reduced to 31 seats from 40 in the 2018 vote.

While the party lost three ridings in Brampton, two in Windsor and one each in Hamilton and Timmins to Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives, it gained one in Ottawa and held a number of Toronto ridings that many observers expected to fall back into the Liberal fold.

The lost seats include former deputy leader Sara Singh in Brampton Centre and 32-year veteran Gilles Bisson in Timmins. NDP margins of victory in several blue-collar ridings were narrowed by the Progressive Conservatives.

Despite the reduced number of MPPs, the New Democrats remain the Official Opposition as Ford prepares to name a new cabinet on Friday, setting the stage for a summer sitting of the legislature to pass a budget.

In the meantime, the NDP provincial council votes next Tuesday on an interim leader with the caucus recommending veteran MPP Peter Tabuns (Toronto-Danforth), a former city councillor who once headed Greenpeace Canada.

The party could also set parameters for a leadership contest that will determine a full-time replacement for Horwath, who signalled Monday that she may run for mayor of Hamilton in Ontario’s Oct. 24 municipal elections after incumbent Fred Eisenberger announced he would not seek re-election.

“I’m not ready to make any announcements,” said Horwath, a former Hamilton city councillor who has been the MPP for Hamilton Centre since 2004. “But I can tell you that my heart is always in Hamilton.”

Several New Democrat MPPs have signalled interest in seeking the leadership, including Joel Harden (Ottawa Centre), Marit Stiles (Davenport), Catherine Fife (Waterloo) and Wayne Gates (Niagara Falls).


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