Liberal leader candidates agree, focus on rebuilding
All six leadership candidates vying to be top dog of the Ontario Liberal Party were in Creemore last Friday night during a campaign tour of the province.
One theme was apparent: how to rebuild the party?
Candidate Steven Del Duca (Former MPP for Vaughan, 2012-2018) referred to the 75 or so people in the room as “Doug Ford’s worst nightmare.”
“The stakes are incredibly high at this particular moment,” he said. “Only a focused party will be able to beat Ford in 2022. We have to win so… a small town like Creemore can feel like a Liberal Queen’s Park is on their side.”
The provincial Liberals were decimated in the 2018 election against the Doug Ford Conservatives, winning only seven seats and losing official party status.
Candidates also acknowledged that the riding of Simcoe Grey is a Conservative stronghold.
The common goal amongst the candidates was to rebuild the party in order to be a threat to the current regime.
Michael Coteau (MPP for Don Valley East since 2011) said this is a time to re-imagine what it is to be a Liberal in Ontario.
“This is the best opportunity in decades to redefine what it means to be a Liberal,” he said. “It goes beyond the next two years. It goes beyond Doug Ford. It goes beyond the fight. If we get this wrong it will be a long time before we get it right.”
The crowd gathered at the Creemore Legion on Jan. 17 was made up mainly of party insiders with very few members of the local community in attendance. It is party members who will be voting for the leader at the Ontario Liberal Leadership Convention in March.
In Creemore, candidates had 10 minutes each to outline their platforms.
“We need to be a government that invests in the future and it starts with education, said educator Alvin Tedjo (2018 candidate in Oakville North-Burlington).
He said he supports the amalgamation of the Catholic and non-Catholic school boards as a way of avoiding rural school closures and the implementation of basic income.
Professor Kate Graham (2018 candidate in London North Centre), said she would prioritize mental health care, transportation, and bridging the wage gap.
“I want to build a different kind of party. I think we have lost touch,” she said. “We need to turn away from partisanship. It turns people off and keeps women from running in leadership roles.”
Ottawa personal injury lawyer Brenda Hollingsworth outlined her five-point platform including climate change, health care, education, economic innovation and party renewal.
“We should spend time reflecting on the new leader,” said Mitzie Hunter (MPP for Scarborough-Guildwood since 2013). “It needs to be someone who listens to northern, rural and large urban centres and reflects their priorities.”
Liberals will be voting Feb. 9 to elect delegates for the March convention.
Trina Berlo photo: Candidates for leader of the Ontario Liberal Party were in Creemore Friday, Jan. 17: Michael Coteau (from left), Kate Graham, Alvin Tedjo, Brenda Hollingsworth, Steven Del Duca and Mitzie Hunter.