TORONTO – Former Ontario Liberal cabinet minister Steven Del Duca has launched a leadership bid as the party seeks to recover from last year’s electoral decimation.
Del Duca announced his candidacy for the Liberal leadership Wednesday, saying he will ensure that at least 30 candidates are under the age of 30 and commit to having at least half of the slate of 124 be women.
The 45-year-old held the roles of economic development minister and transportation minister in former premier Kathleen Wynne’s government before losing his Vaughan, Ont., seat last spring when Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives won power.
In a video posted to his website, he credits his parents with instilling in him the values of hard work and tenacity and said the next Liberal leader will need those qualities.
“They taught me and my siblings to never give up and to keep going until the job is done,” he said. “This is the approach that we need to renew the Ontario Liberal Party, to stop Doug Ford and to get our province back on track in 2022.”
Del Duca was one of many Liberals to be defeated in the provincial election, as the party went from a majority government to holding seven seats – not enough for official status in the legislature.
The former cabinet minister said he’s jumping in race, which has not yet officially started, because he’s concerned about how the Progressive Conservative government is handling a wide variety of issues.
“I’m in because I want my kids to grow up in a province where everyone has a fair shot to be their best, where our economy grows because we focus on dignity for workers while supporting entrepreneurship and celebrating success,” he said.
“Where no family ever has to choose between paying their rent or buying the medicine they need, where climate change is tackled head on and where our precious air and water remain clean and where every single hard earned dollar is invested respectfully and responsibly.”
The Liberals held a convention in September to review their decisive defeat at the polls, and party leadership travelled the province in the fall to meet with members and riding associations.
Interim party leader John Fraser has said details surrounding the leadership race will likely be finalized at the Liberal’s annual general meeting in June.
The party will also have to tackle a multimillion-dollar debt accumulated during last year’s election campaign. According to filings with Elections Ontario, the Liberals took on $10 million of debt for the spring vote, with $9.3 million of that amount yet to be paid off.
Other potential candidates are mulling bids or are expected to formally launch campaigns in the coming months.
Former child and youth services minister Michael Coteau, who held on to his Don Valley East seat, has already indicated he will run for the leadership. He said he will have a formal campaign launch later, but has spent the last month and a half organizing.
“I’m running because I believe Ontario is not prepared for the big changes that are here, that are actually taking place in our economy,” he said. “I’m running because of the economic divide that’s taking place and the erosion of the middle class and I’m running to ensure there’s a party that’s ready to take on the challenges that Ontario is going to face…over the next few decades.”
Former education minister Mitzie Hunter said that she is also strongly considering a bid.
And former community safety minister Marie-France Lalonde said she has been approached about running for the leadership.
“There is consideration, but I would say there’s other colleagues and former colleagues and lots of people who are considering,” she said. “I think it’s very important that it’s a healthy, respectful leadership and it will show Ontarians how strong the party is.”