New Ontario Liberal leader Crombie looks ahead to 2024

Bonnie Crombie has been thrown into the fire that is Ontario politics, and it will no doubt make 2024 a wild year at Queen's Park. Richard Southern goes one-on-one with the new leader of the Ontario Liberal Party.

By Richard Southern

New Ontario Liberal Leader Bonnie Crombie has a big year ahead as she wraps up her time as mayor of Mississauga on Jan. 12.

CityNews reporter Richard Southern spoke one-on-one with Crombie at Queen’s Park to see what she is looking forward to as she moves into provincial politics.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Richard Southern: Are you going to miss [being Mayor]? I mean, I ask because I don’t want to pre-determine what the voters of Mississauga would do, but there are a lot of experts out there that said, Mrs. Crombie could have had this job for as long as she wanted it. Why are you leaving such a sure thing like that?

Bonnie Crombie: Because someone had to. This government is failing. It’s desperate. It’s not focused on the needs of Ontarians. I ask people all the time is your life more affordable today than it was before Doug Ford? And, of course, it isn’t. You see, they’re not focused on the right priorities. They’re not focused on the fact that more than two million Ontarians don’t have a family doctor. They’re not focused on the fact that our young people, my children, two of whom are engaged to be married, want to buy a house … But we focus on the right priorities, the priorities of Ontarians what they care about, and they care about affordability, public health care, access to medical treatments, and reducing surgical wait times.

RS: What is Doug Ford not doing that you’re going to do?

BC: He’s not doing any of it. His government is walking backwards. He has a government that’s reversing all decisions, starting with the dissolution of Peel, the municipal boundaries, the Greenbelt, and the notwithstanding clause. I could go on and on and on. This government is not moving forward, their government is moving backwards because they don’t do their due diligence and they’re not worried about Ontarians. They’re worried about their rich friends getting richer.

RS: CityNews obtained this KPMG report that showed the dissolution of Peel will cost a ton of money to taxpayers. Did you see a final page with some numbers?

BC: I’ve not seen that report. Have you seen the full report? Have you seen the assumptions in that report? It’s a phantom report, much like the Deloitte Report, which was commissioned to ensure the ongoing existence of the Region of Peel … The reality is when you’re subsidizing two levels of government, there are additional costs. There’s red tape, there’s duplication and there’s waste, and that has been proven. I know that eventually, the dissolution of Peel will save the taxpayers of Brampton, Caledon, and Mississauga a lot of money.

RS: Do you think there’s going to be something to prove in the audit going on right now and that the transition board is working towards that outcome?

BC: They haven’t done their final analysis. My pitch is to let the transition board do their work. Let them prove the case. If there’s a case to be made, then we proceed. You’re doing your homework first.

RS: Do you think the premier backed away from this because you won the Liberal leadership?

BC: I can’t speculate what his motivations are. But what I see is a government desperate, a government flailing and a government walking everything backwards rather than forward.

RS: Let me ask you because there has been plenty of speculation on this front, that at some point the Premier said, “Okay, we’ll dissolve Peel to keep you as Mayor of Mississauga,” and then when you went ahead and broke that promise and became the Liberal leader, you revoked that. Did that happen?

BC: That conversation never occurred. I never had that conversation with the Premier. In fact, I haven’t spoken to the Premier since Hazel McCallion’s funeral when he stood on a stage and promised he would fulfill one of her dying wishes to dissolve the Region of Peel, something she’d been advocating for to Bill Davis when he first created it.

RS: Let’s talk about these attack ads. I’m watching the football games on Sunday and there you are in the Progressive Conservatives’ attack ads. Have you seen these?

BC: I have not seen these ads. I’ve heard enough about them. This is a scandal play. The government is walking backwards, desperately trying to change the channel and trying to distract Ontarians from the real issues. You have to wonder why I am a threat. Is it because I’m a woman? This is always the risk when strong women put their name forward to run for public office. They become exposed to these kinds of false allegations in attack ads.

RS: What’s false in the ads?

BC: All of it is false.

RS: You’re friends with Justin Trudeau?

BC: Well, of course, I’ve served under the Prime Minister.

RS: You’ve increased taxes in Mississauga is another allegation.

BC: Around the rate of inflation like every other year.

RS: You’re pro-carbon tax?

BC: I have never made a statement about the carbon tax or pro-carbon tax, but it’s something I would study further.

RS: You have been hearing, they repeat this allegation, that you have a beachfront home in the Hamptons.

BC: I do not. I have a home on Long Island that is closer to Queens.

RS: This is the Premier that has a cottage in Muskoka, a place in Florida. Is that fair for him to throw that at you when he has multiple properties?

BC: So you have to wonder why they are doing this. You have to wonder why they’re trying to change the channel and distract Ontarians and attack me rather than dealing with the issues that Ontarians are facing today. An affordability crisis, a lack of access to medical care and a family doctor, a public education system that works.

RS: So you’re going to be here at Queen’s Park more after you resign as Mississauga mayor next year.

BC: I will be indeed. I’ll be here at Queen’s Park, but also be spending a lot of time on the road as I had promised … I want to return to all the small towns or rural communities, the agricultural communities, the northern communities that I have come to love and get to know and I want to get to know them better. I want to listen to their needs. All the challenges that we are facing here in the GTA are far more acute in the north. When we think we don’t have access to healthcare, when we have affordability problems, their utility bills are off the charts. So my plan is to continue to let people get to know who I am as a person.

RS: There was a new poll the other day, and certainly, you, as a leader, have helped out the Liberal Party quite a bit in the polls.

BC: I hope that’s the case. As I said, it’s the spark that exists from the leadership race for my election. And you know, the fact that they’re running ads which happened to, by the way, promote me as well.

RS: Has he called you to congratulate you?

BC: He has not.

RS: What do you think 2024 holds for you? You’re at Queen’s Park. What do you think about being in this building by the way?

BC: I am really excited about it. I will now have served at three levels of government. So it’s beautiful to be in this very historic house, this very historic legislature. I know it’s coming up for renovation but I hope I get to spend a lot of time here when I’m not out on the road.

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