Leadership race key to party renewal, interim Ontario Liberal leader says


HAMILTON — Ontario Liberals gathered in Hamilton this weekend to, in part, vote on how to select the party’s next leader, kickstarting a process the interim leader says will be key to renewal. The race to replace former leader Steven Del Duca has not yet officially started, though three contenders are openly exploring bids. First, party members have to decide whether to forge ahead with a delegated convention, in which delegates represent groups of members, or switch to a one-member-one-vote system.Ahead of that vote, set for later Saturday, Interim Liberal Leader John Fraser told the approximately 1,500 members gathered at the annual general meeting that it’s all about framing how the leadership race will be run.“A leadership race is important, not just because you’re going to elect a new leader,” he said in a speech. Story continues below advertisement “It’s about the journey. Done right, that journey takes us to every corner of this province. It makes us work where we need to work. We invite new members. We listen to Ontarians where they live about the things that are most important to them, and we have a healthy debate about ideas and aspirations.” Trending Now Doing that groundwork, Fraser said, will hand the new leader a party with a stronger foundation and put them in a better position to fight the next election in 2026.There is no date yet for the Liberal leadership contest, but one of the first orders of business for a new party executive selected at the weekend AGM will be to set the rules and timelines for that race.At least three people are openly exploring bids — MP Nate Erskine-Smith, MP and former Ontario cabinet minister Yasir Naqvi, and current provincial caucus member and former MP Ted Hsu.The party’s fortunes fell sharply in the 2018 election, during which the Liberals went from a majority government to lacking enough seats to secure official party status in the legislature.The devastating loss caused much soul-searching, but the following year members voted down a proposal to modernize their leadership voting and switch from delegated conventions, which have largely fallen out of favour elsewhere, to a one-member-one-vote system. Story continues below advertisement But after the 2022 election produced a nearly identical result for the Liberals, the stage may be set for the party to adopt direct voting.Fraser said the AGM is the largest in 20 years and he senses a lot of excitement, particularly among young members.“That’s important in what we’re doing, which is a renewal and continuing to build up our party,” he said.“So that’s the thing that gives me hope, gives me energy, that sense of belief, that belief that we can do things that will improve the lives of Ontarians.” &copy 2023 The Canadian Press

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