Ontario Liberals say over 80,000 members eligible to vote in leadership race

By The Canadian Press and Patricia D'Cunha

The Ontario Liberals say the party has 80,000 members eligible to vote in the upcoming leadership race, the highest number in its history.

The party says it had 44,000 members eligible to vote in the 2013 contest that saw Kathleen Wynne crowned leader and that was down to 38,000 for the 2020 race that Steven Del Duca won.

Interim Liberal Leader John Fraser says it shows momentum, building on two recent byelection wins.

The party is trying again to rebuild following two consecutive electoral defeats that left them without enough seats in the legislature for official party status.

So far, there are five people running, including Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie, Toronto MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, Ottawa MP Yasir Naqvi, Don Valley East MPP Adil Shamji, and Kingston and the Islands MPP Ted Hsu.

Crombie, Naqvi and Shamji made various claims about how many members they were responsible for enlisting, but even without adding numbers from Erskine-Smith and Hsu it adds up to more than 80,000.

The leadership candidates are set to participate in the first official debate on Thursday in Thunder Bay. Four other debates are being held for the candidates, including in Toronto on October 24.

Party members will cast their votes by ranked ballots on November 25-26, and party officials will announce the new leader on December 2.

The leadership campaign was launched following the resignation of Del Duca, who stepped down after the Liberals didn’t secure enough seats in the 2022 provincial election to have official party status in the legislature, for the second campaign in a row. He has since been elected mayor of Vaughan.

Back in March, the party voted for a one-member-one-vote system for selecting their next leader. Proponents say the process is more democratic, and that delegated conventions put too much power in back rooms.

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