TORONTO — The vote for Ontario’s next Liberal leader doesn’t happen until March, but one candidate is already thanking his volunteers and congratulating the other candidates.
“Tonight, after carefully evaluating the results, I am truly humbled by the vote of confidence I have received from our party membership,” former cabinet minister Steven Del Duca said in a statement Sunday night.
“The Ontario leadership race has been rigorous, and I want to congratulate my fellow candidates on running impressive and innovative campaigns.”
He scored a crucial win this weekend in the party’s “leadership election meetings.”
Ontario Liberal members don’t elect their leader directly. They vote for delegates to represent constituency associations and Liberal women’s and students clubs instead, and those people get to vote at the leadership convention. There are 2,092 elected delegates and a few hundred “ex-officio delegates,” who get to vote because they are former MPs and MPPs and other party brass.
Of those 2,092 delegates selected this weekend, 1,123 — or about 54 per cent — are associated with Del Duca’s campaign, his spokesperson David Valentin told HuffPost Canada by email Monday.
A candidate needs 51 per cent to win the leadership on the first ballot.
The winner will be up against Progressive Conservative Premier Doug Ford in Ontario’s 2022 election. And despite the historic beating the Liberal party took at the polls in 2018, it actually could have a shot.
One recent poll found that 36 per cent of Ontarians would vote Liberal if the election were held the next day, even though the party hasn’t yet picked its new leader. Just 31 per cent said they’d support Ford’s PCs.
In his statement Sunday, Del Duca took shots at Ford.
“I am running to be Premier of Ontario because my two daughters do not deserve to grow up in an Ontario led by Doug Ford,” he said. “They, and millions of Ontarians, deserve better.”
He was first elected to Ontario’s legislature in 2012. He served as minister of transportation and minister of economic development under former premier Kathleen Wynne.
He lost his seat representing Vaughan to Progressive Conservative Michael Tibollo in 2018.
CLARIFICATION: A previous version of this story stated that Ontario Liberal members don’t get to vote for their leader directly. Members vote for a leadership candidate, to determine how many delegates that candidate will get, and for delegates themselves.