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Ontario Liberals nominate first candidate as parties prepare for early election

Click to play video: 'Ontario Liberals move closer to election footing'
Ontario Liberals move closer to election footing
Ontario Liberal Leader Bonnie Crombie has triggered a change that puts her party closer to nominating 124 candidates ahead of a potential early election. Global News' Queen's Park Bureau Chief Colin D'Mello explains – Jun 11, 2024

Ontario’s Liberal Party is set to nominate its first candidate, part of a slate of at least 60 candidates it wants to have in place by September, as provincial parties race to prepare for a possible early election campaign.

Premier Doug Ford raised eyebrows, in May, when he refused to commit to the fixed election date — currently scheduled for June 2026 — leading to speculation that the premier might dissolve the Ontario legislature and call a general election in 2025.

While the early election speculation catapulted Ontario’s three main opposition parties into election readiness mode, the Liberals appear to be the first to nominate a candidate.

Ottawa South MPP John Fraser, who twice served as the party’s interim leader, will be the first election candidate to be nominated after the party declared electoral urgency to speed up the timeline of recruitment and selection.

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“Doug Ford has made it clear he’s thinking of calling an early election. Whether it be next spring or this fall, we’re going to be ready,” Liberal leader Bonnie Crombie told Global News in a one-on-one interview at Queen’s Park.

While the rest of the Liberal caucus, eight in total, will likely be nominated in the coming days, Crombie said the “first tranche” of candidates will come from the 2022 election team who have “expressed interest in trying again.”

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Crombie also said she “very well may be” one of the 60 candidates who have identified a riding to run in by the fall and is looking “very closely at two or three ridings in Mississauga.”

When asked whether past MPPs from the McGuinty or Wynne government era would be part of the electoral team, Crombie offered reluctance.

“Many of them have moved on with their lives,” Crombie said. “If they’re interested, I would certainly speak to them and consider them, but many of them are being very helpful.”

Crombie isn’t alone in her election readiness efforts.

NDP Leader Marit Stiles addressed party supporters during a weekend rally in Toronto and announced the start of the candidate recruitment process and the launch of an “equity fund” to assist local elections.

“Bolstered by support from our grassroots donors, these funds will support equity-deserving candidates right across the province and help kickstart their campaigns to win,” Stiles told supporters.

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Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner has also “accelerated” his election planning by opening the nomination process and setting up his campaign structure earlier than scheduled.

“If the premier does decide to take that direction, Greens will be ready,” Schreiner told Global News.

While the Green Party is planning to field 124 candidates for the next general election, Schreiner plans to “strategically target” two or three ridings where his party’s support has been increasing, in a bid to boost his seat count in the Ontario Legislature.

While candidates are key, parties are also focusing on a well-financed election campaign to allow the leader to crisscross the province, advertise and conduct regular polling that will shape campaign strategies.

Sources told Global News the Liberals are planning a fundraising dinner in December that is projected to raise millions of dollars from supporters.

“Certainly two, three million would be ideal,” Crombie told Global News when pressed for an exact fundraising goal.

Ford, meanwhile, is hosting a “leader’s summer kick-off party” in Toronto on Thursday that’s also expected to bring in millions.

Sources told Global News the fundraiser is being held at Rebel nightclub in the Portlands, which has a capacity of 3,700 people.

According the the Ontario PC Party website, tickets to the event are selling at $1,000 per person, potentially netting the party nearly $4 million in donations.

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