Ontario Liberals set to pick new leader on Saturday

The Ontario Liberal party will be announcing its new leader on Saturday. Richard Southern reports on the race, and new polling data which suggests a potential shakeup on the horizon at Queen's Park.

By Cynthia Mulligan and Meredith Bond

The Ontario Liberals will choose a new leader on Saturday that they hope will bring the party into the future.

Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie has been tagged as the frontrunner in the field of four candidates, including Toronto MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, Ottawa MP Yasir Naqvi, and Kingston and the Islands MPP Ted Hsu.

Both Naqvi and Erskine-Smith have urged supporters to select each other as their number two choice, to stop Crombie from winning the leadership.

Interim Liberal leader John Fraser has been the glue holding the party together after the last two disastrous elections but said it was time to move on.

“I couldn’t steal any more time away from my grandkids and my kids. And I did that because I was interim leader and also caring for my mom for five years. So it was just that’s the decision,” said Fraser. “And I think it’s time for another generation. You have to make space for people … And so I’m very conscious of that. So you don’t want to actually have to try to cling on to something you want to let go and make sure other people have opportunities so they can grow and learn and get better.”

Members voted using a ranked ballot system, ranking two, three or all four candidates, or only listing their top candidate. Points are then awarded on a weighted system, depending on how many people vote in each of the 124 ridings.

“It’s a competitive race. There are four candidates who are working hard. Let’s remember that every riding counts for the same value of 100 points. As we’ve seen in leadership races, nothing’s a done deal,” said Fraser. “They’re all smart, hardworking people, and they all have the ability to grow.”

“We have a great team. And so we really do have great leaders and they’re strong, they’re all getting better at their craft. And we need to provide space to make sure that all those members that we have here can continue to grow and continue to lead.”

An Abacus poll this week found Crombie would give the Liberals, who were decimated in the last two elections, the biggest boost but the party would still remain behind the Progressive Conservatives.

If she becomes leader, the polling suggests the Liberals would go from 23 per cent support to 31 per cent, just behind the PCs at 39 per cent. Most of the support would come from the NDP, who drop to 20 per cent.

It’s not welcome news for the NDP who lost a riding to the Green Party that had been theirs in a byelection Thursday night. NDP leader Marit Stiles maintains she hasn’t focused on the Liberal race for the next leader.

“I’m aware of it, but at the end of the day, we’ve been busy,” said Stiles.

The ballots are set to be hand counted on Dec. 2, with the results being announced later in the day at an event at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

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