Ontario Liberal Leader Bonnie Crombie is “seriously” considering running in the riding of Milton to replace a Progressive Conservative cabinet minister who resigned in January.
Parm Gill stepped down as the Minister for Red Tape Reduction and MPP for Milton on Jan. 25, and announced he would be jumping back into federal politics to run as the federal Conservative candidate in the same riding.
The departure creates a rare opening for the newly elected Liberal Leader, who has mused about running for a seat in the Ontario legislature if a sensible one opened up.
“Milton is very close to home for me, so it’s something to consider seriously,” Crombie said in an interview with Global News, adding that she’s still “evaluating” her options.
Crombie, however, could face the full weight of the Progressive Conservative election machine in the by-election.
At the Mississauga Region Board of Trade, Premier Doug Ford made a surprise announcement that the government would pursue a dedicated rail line to guarantee two-way, all-day GO train service to Milton.
The government also penned a letter to the federal government asking Ottawa to pick up half the cost of the new railway construction.
“We need a cost-sharing partnership with the Government of Canada to build a fully separated passenger rail line … estimated at over $6 billion,” Ford told the business crowd.
At the same event, the premier also revealed the government has accepted Metrolinx’s business case to expand the Hurontario LRT north into Brampton and build a transit loop in downtown Mississauga — a region of the 905 that is traditionally viewed as crucial to winning general elections and one where Crombie is believed to have strong support.
The announcement immediately raised suspicions that the transit announcement is linked to the Milton by-election.
“Absolutely no question this is related to the fact that they have a by-election coming up,” said NDP Leader Marit Stiles. “They’re concerned and they should be because people in this province are unhappy with this government.”
According to one poll by Liaison Strategies, Ford’s Progressive Conservatives lead the Ontario Liberals by just eight percentage points — compared to the 17-point lead in the 2022 election — a sign that the government could lose its grip on popular support.
David Valentin, Principal at Liaison, said the dropping support could spell trouble for Ford’s PCs in a Milton by-election.
“When you look at Milton, this is a riding that the Progressive Conservatives won by four per cent in the last election, and by-elections do not reward the incumbent party,” Valentin said. “That would make for quite a good pick-up opportunity for the Liberals.”
That fact isn’t lost on Crombie, as she decides whether to enter the race.
“So Milton has traditionally been a liberal riding,” Crombie said. “I know that we’re very strong there right now, so it’s a very possible riding to consider.”
The premier has six months to call the by-election.