MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — Ontario Liberals crowned former cabinet minister Steven Del Duca as their new party leader Saturday.
Del Duca had enough delegates to win on the first ballot, but looking forward, the new leader’s task will be a monumental one, he acknowledged.
The new leader takes over from former Premier Kathleen Wynne, who stepped down due to a dismal election result in 2018.
The Liberals were reduced from a majority government to one in third place without official party status in the legislature. They currently hold eight seats and have millions of dollars in debt from the last election.
Del Duca acknowledged in a morning speech to delegates that the party has a lot of hard work ahead.
“Our road ahead as Liberals will not be easy, because we have a ton of work to do,” Del Duca told the convention crowd of about 3,000 people.
“We need to raise millions of dollars. We need to find qualified candidates who reflect Ontario’s incredible diversity. And most importantly, we need to forge a platform of compelling ideas that once again inspires people, lets them know they can trust us to govern — because they trust us to be on their side and to fight for them.”
Del Duca said he wants to fight for public education, health care and against climate change.
Policy announcements Del Duca rolled out during the leadership campaign include incentives for electric vehicle purchases and funding for more charging infrastructure, developing a long-term STEM education strategy, and increasing the money municipalities get from the gas tax.
The other contenders for the Liberal leadership were former cabinet minister Michael Coteau, politics instructor and former London, Ont., public servant Kate Graham, former education minister Mitzie Hunter, former college administrator and public servant Alvin Tedjo, and Ottawa-based lawyer Brenda Hollingsworth.
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Coteau called on the party to draw on its traditional strength, which he said was working together for a common good.
“Today in Ontario we have the opportunity to launch a new Liberal moment,” he told delegates.
“Liberals believe the job of government is to be alert to change and get out in front of it, not be oblivious to change and in denial of it.”
Kate Graham, a newcomer to Ontario politics but one backed by several party heavyweights, said the party needs to focus more on people’s well-being than on polling numbers.
“We can be the party that shows ourselves humbled, that understands that people know their own communities and their own needs better than we do,” she said.
“Acknowledge that we lost touch and to prove that we can truly reconnect and address the things about politics that have rightfully turned people away.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 7, 2020.