The race to lead the Ontario Liberal party back from the political wilderness begins in earnest on Monday as the deadline arrives for leadership candidates to declare they’re running.
So far five candidates have joined the contest to succeed Kathleen Wynne as leader, with the eventual aim of trying to unseat Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives in the June 2022 provincial election.
The Liberal party briefly considered changing how to pick their leader, but rejected calls for a membership-wide vote. Instead, the party will stick with selecting delegates to vote in a one-day leadership convention on March 7.
The five leadership candidates already in the running have been criss-crossing the province and working the phones to drum up support along party members. Only those who have become members by next Monday, Dec. 2 will be eligible to vote for delegates to the convention.
The winner will face significant challenges to get the party competitive in time for the 2022 campaign. After governing Ontario for nearly 15 years, the Liberals were decimated in the 2018 election. They salvaged just seven seats, losing the status and caucus funding of a recognized party in the Legislature. Of those seven MPPs, two resigned this year, both from the Ottawa area.
Recent figures from Elections Ontario show donations to the party in 2019 total less than $700,000, a far cry from the $4.3 million in fundraising reported by the Progressive Conservatives.
These are the five Liberals vying for the party leadership.
Steven Del Duca
Steven Del Duca is the former MPP for Vaughan who served as Wynne’s minister of transportation and minister of economic development. Before winning his seat in a 2012 byelection, Del Duca worked for Greg Sorbara, his predecessor in the riding, and as an advisor to former premier Dalton McGuinty. He was previously the director of public affairs for the Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario. Del Duca was defeated in last year’s election along with all other Liberal incumbents in the 905, and became the first candidate to join the leadership race.
Michael Coteau is the MPP for Don Valley East and was first elected in 2011. He served in Wynne’s cabinet for her entire time as premier with posts that included citizenship and immigration, tourism, culture and sport, as well as children and youth services. Before entering provincial politics, Coteau spent eight years as Toronto District School Board trustee. He worked as a community organizer for the United Way, an English as a second language instructor and a literacy activist before getting into politics.
Mitzie Hunter is the MPP for Scarborough-Guildwood and first won her seat in a byelection in 2013. She joined cabinet after Wynne led the Liberals to a majority in 2014, serving as the associate minister of finance, education minister and finally minister of advanced education. Hunter, who has an MBA from the Rotman School of Management, worked as the CEO of the Greater Toronto Civic Action Alliance, chief administrative officer of the Toronto Community Housing Corp., and as a vice-president with Goodwill Industries.
Alvin Tedjo was a 2018 election candidate for the Liberals in the riding of Oakville North – Burlington. Tedjo was director of government relations at Sheridan College. He previously worked as a policy advisor at Queen’s Park, served as the vice-president of the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care and founded an organization called Canadians For Paternity Leave. He announced his leadership bid in May and gained media attention this fall by proposing a policy to dissolve Ontario’s Catholic school system and merge it with the public school boards.
Kate Graham was a 2018 election candidate for the Liberals in the riding of London North Centre. Graham is an academic, holding teaching and research posts at Western University, King’s University College and Huron University College. Her areas of research include local government, urban politics and public policy. She previously worked as the City of London’s director of community and economic innovation. Born and raised in southwestern Ontario, Graham is the only one of the five declared candidates who’s not from the Greater Toronto Area.