From a field of six candidates, former Ontario cabinet minister Steven Del Duca has been easily elevated to the leadership of the Provincial Liberals. All it took was one round of voting at Saturday’s leadership convention in Mississauga to make Del Duca the main adversary for Premier Doug Ford in 2022’s Provincial Election.
“As new Leader of the Ontario Liberal Party, I want to build an Ontario where genuine opportunity is real for everyone, where both entrepreneurs and workers can thrive, and individual success is only limited by talent, effort, and dedication,” said Del Duca in a statement after this victory.
“Under my leadership, I can promise our members – and all Ontarians – that the Ontario Liberal Party will be relentless in the pursuit of progress and never stop fighting for a better Ontario,” he added.
Del Duca won 58.5 per cent of the votes cast, cementing what was a predictable result for the former Vaughan MPP, and former Minister of Transportation and Minister of Economic Growth and Development. Del Duca’s nearest competitor was Don Valley East MPP Michael Coteau, who secured 17 per cent support.
Kate Graham, Brenda Hollingsworth, Mitzie Hunter and Alvin Tedjo made up the rest of the candidates for Liberal leadership.
It didn’t take long for the knives to come out for Del Duca. The governing Progressive Conservatives began fundraising immediately after the vote saying that Del Duca needed to be “held accountable” for his time in the previous Liberal government.
“Following 15 disastrous years of Liberal waste, scandal and mismanagement, Ontario is back on the right track thanks to the leadership of Doug Ford and our PC government – and in just 18 short months, we’re already delivering on our promise to build a stronger, more prosperous province,” said a PC fundraising email. “But we need your help. Can we count on you to help us hold Del Duca and the Liberals accountable?”
An NDP fundraising email echoed the sentiment saying that Del Duca is “a scandal-plagued, out-of-touch, former Wynne cabinet minister from the right-leaning wing of their party.”
Guelph MPP and Green Party of Ontario leader Mike Schreiner offered some graciousness in congratulating Del Duca for his victory before offering his own critical assessment.
“The Liberals lost the trust of Ontarians because of a string of scandals and backroom deals that put their political interests ahead of the people of Ontario,” Schreiner said in a statement. “Our province needs bold leadership to tackle climate change and address growing social inequality, and I am not sure that someone associated with the old guard of Liberal establishment and embroiled in past controversies can deliver the leadership that Ontario needs.”
A Campaign Research poll in February found that the Liberals and PCs were tied for first place in Ontario with 30 per cent each, followed by 26 per cent for the third place NDP. When the poll compared the parties without leaders, the Liberals jumped to 36 per cent while the PCs remained at 30 and the NDP dipped to 21.
“The reason we lost as badly we did in June 2018 is not because we lost touch with the people inside the building at Queen’s Park. We lost touch with Ontarians,” Del Duca said last December after a Liberal leadership debate in Guelph.
At the time, Del Duca made the case that the party needed an experienced leader ready to take on Ford and the PCs, and with a little over two years until Election Day, the new leader has to get down to work right away.
“Whoever wins, when we come out of that convention, there is no time to pause, reflect, rest, or think about life. We have to hit the ground running on the Monday after the convention and work harder than we’ve ever ever worked before in order to beat Ford,” he said.
Photo Credit: Steven Del Duca canvassing in Guelph during the Federal Election back in September 2019.