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Round up: Ontario Liberal Party leadership race

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June 7, 2018 is a day Ontario Liberals would like to forget. The results of the 2018 election marked the worst in the party’s 161-year history and for any incumbent governing party in the province.

In recent months, the Liberal caucus has dwindled from seven to just five with the resignations of Ottawa-Orleans MPP Marie France Lalonde and Ottawa-Vanier MPP Nathalie des Rosiers. The party no longer holds official status in the legislature and its brand in Ontario has been badly wounded.

READ MORE: Former MPP Arthur Potts bows out of Ontario Liberal leadership before launch event

A rebuild is not only necessary, it’s essential for the party to survive. Days after the crushing defeat and resignation of Kathleen Wynne, Ottawa South MPP John Fraser took the reigns as interim leader.

Now, a leadership race is underway with a field of five candidates trying to get people engaged and break through the noise of the news created by Doug Ford’s PCs. The results of the leadership contest will be revealed on March 8 at the Liberal Leadership convention in Toronto.

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Global News reached out to the two women and three men running with a  short series of questions about their campaigns. Some of their responses below have been shortened.

Michael Coteau

Since 2011, Michael Coteau has represented the riding of Don Valley East and held several cabinet positions in Kathleen Wynne’s government including Tourism Minister, Minister of Children and Youth, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration and Minister of Community and Social Services.

Prior to working at Queen’s Park, Coteau was a Toronto District School Board Trustee. His campaign told Global News Sunday Coteau is “someone who works extremely hard and someone with a clear, compelling vision to change the party and the province. As our campaign gains momentum, we know our path to victory rests in continuing to steadily gain support as the second-place candidate heading into the delegated convention in March, with an inclusive and optimistic approach to how we conduct ourselves as a campaign.”

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Current fundraising total: $93,267*

Q: What is your path to victory?

A: “We are confident of our place in this race and our plan: we’re running a strong second, with a grassroots campaign based on our shared values as Ontario Liberals. I have been to some 90 ridings all across the province. I’ve been engaged in the hard work of reaching out and consulting with thousands of people across the province — whether one-on-one, in small groups, in town hall meetings, online. Most recently, I was able to meet and speak with Ontarians right on their doorsteps as I campaigned with federal Liberal candidates in over half the ridings across Ontario. We have the most individual donors of any campaign, the second most funds raised in total and are unveiling a growing list of prominent endorsements.”

READ MORE: Former Ontario Liberal cabinet minister Michael Coteau running for party leadership

Q: What are the major policy differences between you and the other candidates?

A: “I value and respect my four colleagues in this race. In the coming weeks, as we continue to sign up new members and engage Ontarians all across the province, we will begin to unveil my vision to modernize Ontario and take us in a better direction. It is a vision rooted in the notion that this province can do better, and that we can bet big and focus on core areas to ensure people across the province truly thrive. Those areas of focus are: protecting our environment to enable Ontarians, as our top priority, to do our part to protect our planet; building a thriving economy in this age of change to secure the means to support our well-being; and delivering the best quality education that prepares people for the New Economy and health services to care for everyone. We will do this within a framework that seeks to ensure government is conducted more responsively and more ethically. We will take that message to every part of the province, and work to bring people in.”

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Q: How do you plan on fighting Doug Ford and winning back seats?

A: “Doug Ford is a failed premier, but he will not defeat himself. As Liberals, we must change to win and offer a compelling vision and clear contrast. I want to present a fresh approach and a renewed party. I could not be more different from Doug Ford. I’m an immigrant who grew up in Flemingdon Park and worked hard for everything in life. I’m the first member of my family to graduate high school and university, and went on to start my own small business, to lead a national nonprofit and to serve as a school trustee, MPP and cabinet minister tasked with taking on the toughest files at Queen’s Park.”

Steven Del Duca

The first candidate to register to run for the leadership, Steven Del Duca represented the riding of Vaughan from 2012-2018. The father of two was an aide to former Premier Dalton McGuinty before serving in Kathleen Wynne’s cabinet, holding the portfolios of economic development and transportation. His campaign tells Global News “since launching his campaign, Steven has been hitting the pavement, listening to and learning from hundreds of passionate Ontarians in over 120 communities across the province. He has received more than 175 endorsements from women and men in all areas of Ontario — small towns, rural and remote communities, and large urban centres.”

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Current fundraising total: $169,376*

Q: What is your path to victory?

A: “Rebuilding our party is one of the key challenges that the Ontario Liberal Party is facing heading into the leadership convention. A strong, vibrant party can’t exist without support from people and communities in every region of the province. In the weeks ahead, I remain focused on listening and learning from Liberals all over Ontario. I will continue to introduce policy initiatives that help people where and how they need it most. And I will work hard to recruit new members province-wide to generate excitement and support for our party as we head into our convention in March.”

READ MORE: Former Wynne cabinet minister Steven Del Duca running for Ontario Liberal leadership

Q: What are the major policy differences between you and the other candidates?

A: “We are fortunate to have five strong candidates running to lead our party, and we are different in many ways. Each of us has our own strengths, and all members of our party will carefully consider each candidate before deciding who they think is best to lead us. My strength is my experience with the Ontario Liberal Party. I have been a riding president, employee at the Party Headquarters, staffer at Queen’s Park, candidate for office, MPP at Queen’s Park for six years, and a member of Cabinet in two portfolios. I have more than 31 years of experience as a member of the Ontario Liberal Party, and I have firsthand knowledge of what has worked well for us and what has not. I am the best fundraiser in this race and our party must choose a leader who can raise the millions of dollars we will need to win.”

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Q: How do you plan on fighting Doug Ford and winning back seats?

A: “My priority will be to rebuild our party and raise enough money to fight a very competitive campaign against Doug Ford.  I want to persuade thousands of Ontario Liberals to re-engage with our party, and I want to attract thousands of people to our party who will be joining for the very first time. I am determined to give voters a reason to support the Ontario Liberal Party that has nothing to do with not supporting Doug Ford. I will leave it to Doug Ford to repel voters. I plan to devote myself to giving voters a reason to vote Liberal. I am ready to go toe-to-toe with Doug Ford.”

Kate Graham

Former Liberal candidate and educator with Western, Kings and Huron Universities, Kate Graham has also worked as a public servant. Her campaign website claims “Kate is a community builder who believes that when people come together, anything is possible.”

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Current fundraising total: $63,440*

Q: What is your path to victory?

A: “Voters sent a clear message in the last election, and to earn back the support of Ontarians we need to demonstrate that we heard that message. For me, this is not just a leader race;  it is a leadership race. It’s about more than the people who are running; it’s about thousands of people coming together around shared ideas about how we can lead Ontario differently.

Over these last seven weeks I’ve had hundreds of volunteers, many who are completely new to politics, ask me, “How can I help?” There is a hunger in this province for a movement that engages, excites, and empowers people to shape the decisions that affect their lives. This is the kind of campaign – and party – we are building. That kind of leadership and collaboration is our path to victory.”

Q: What are the major policy differences between you and the other candidates?

“We need to change how we do politics in Ontario. We need to end divisive partisanship, and instead focus on people. Our campaign is focused on wellbeing. We strive for an Ontario where every single person can live a happy, healthy life, and is able to achieve their big dreams. We need to move beyond just GDP and unemployment rates as the only measure of a Premier’s success, and look at how they are making life better for the average Ontarian.”

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READ MORE: Western University prof seeks leadership of Ontario’s Liberal party

Q: How do you plan on fighting Doug Ford and winning back seats?

A: “Our best path forward to focus not on Doug Ford, but on rebuilding into a strong, engaged, and election-ready Ontario Liberal Party. Ontarians are smart. They will assess Doug Ford’s leadership, and the numbers show that already have. The Liberals need to be ready to earn back their trust and rebuild their faith in government. I believe the desire for change will be even stronger in 2022 than it is today. But it matters what kind of change we are presenting, and how we make it happen. We want to see a government that improves quality of life in this province by listening to people, by collaborating widely to solve hard problems, and by giving people the tools they need to have a meaningful impact on the issues they care about.”

Mitzie Hunter

Former Education Minister and Scarborough Guildwood MPP Mitzie Hunter is one of the most recognizable faces running for the leadership she told Global News in an email “my campaign has been moving full speed ahead and is going very well. As a part of my leadership campaign tour, I’ve crisscrossed the province from the north, to the southwest and east and visited over 60 ridings so far.”

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Current fundraising total: $26,704*

Q: What is your path to victory?

A: “My path to victory is through listening to our party’s grassroots and Ontarians and showing them that I am a progressive and experienced leader who can take on Doug Ford and win in 2022. I’ve been connecting with Liberals in their communities in Ottawa, Huron-Bruce, Guelph, Kitchener-Waterloo, Nipissing, Brantford, Kingston, Peterborough and Timmins to name a few and I keep hearing that people want real change. I’ve led organizations in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors. I’ve been a CEO, business person, community leader, successful Cabinet Minister and bridge-builder. I’ve proven that I know how to fight, I know how to lead and I know how to win.”

READ MORE: Mitzie Hunter, former Ontario Liberal cabinet minister, joining party leadership race

Q: What are the major policy differences between you and the other candidates?

A: “I bring a more progressive approach to leadership and I am willing to make bold moves to move Ontario forward. On the key issues that matter to Ontarians, my policy positions are clear. On Education, I will invest in students from kindergarten to grade 12 and have set a goal of reaching a 90% graduation rate. Restore the $750 million the Ford government cut from post-secondary education. Increase the interest-free grace period to 2 years to help students hit the ground running with less debt once they graduate as part of my ‘Take Flight’ initiative for post-secondary students. On Jobs and the Economy, I will ensure Ontario remains competitive and affordable leading to more jobs and prosperity by investing in education, skills development and reskilling. Transform old manufacturing plants into hubs for advanced manufacturing, technology research and entrepreneurship. Re-commit the Ontario government to the tech sector by restoring lost funding and ensuring funding is long-term and stable for the next generation of companies and entrepreneurs including women. On health care, I will ensure health care is more affordable and accessible for people when they need it, especially the sick and elderly. Provide more and better access to mental health support especially for youth by expanding OHIP+ for mental health coverage to those under 30 years old.”

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Q: How do you plan on fighting Doug Ford and winning back seats?

A: “First, we need to listen to our grassroots and focus on renewing the Ontario Liberal Party and making it more inclusive, modern and progressive with new faces, voices and ideas and where every member from every riding is engaged and included in rebuilding our province. Fundamentally, I believe Liberal values align with those of Ontarians with a belief in good quality accessible heath care, education, and an environment that’s sustainable and an economy where people have access to good jobs and prosperity. Should I be chosen as the next leader of the Ontario Liberal Party, I will hit the ground running and work with Liberals across the province to knock on a million doors by 2022 to rebuild our relationship with Ontarians and bring about the real change they are looking for.”

Alvin Tedjo

Former Liberal candidate and political staffer Alvin Tedjo is a father of three and describes himself as “a dedicated public servant and a passionate advocate for education, child care and the environment.” Studying at Harvard and Queen’s Tedjo was Director of Government Relations at Sheridan College and Senior Policy Advisor to the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities.

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Current fundraising total: $61,321*

Q: What is your path to victory?

A: “I’m twenty years younger than Doug Ford. As we look forward to 2022 and the elections to follow, adults who are currently under 40 will represent the largest group of voters in the province. They’re looking for someone to suggest a bold, progressive vision for Ontario that’s focused on getting ready for our future. That’s what my campaign’s about. Creating a dialogue around important issues that matter to Ontario, so that we can reach people who have never before held a Liberal membership while holding true to the party’s progressive track record, I think we can win this race and revitalize our party at the same time.”

Q: What are the major policy differences between you and the other candidates?

A: “I’m putting forward a bold set of policy proposals that seek to make Ontario a leader in the economy of the future while addressing systemic issues like poverty and the gender wage gap that have persisted for decades. I’m not the business-as-usual candidate. I’m the one who realizes that the year 2050 isn’t going to look like Y2K. The impacts of AI and automation on our economy are coming, whether we do something about it or not. The time to start preparing for that shift is now, not when it’s already here.”

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READ MORE: Ontario Liberals vote against changing system for selecting new leader

Q: How do you plan on fighting Doug Ford and winning back seats?

A: “We can win by showing voters a positive, progressive alternative to the shortsighted vision the province is already tired of. Doug Ford was elected on promises that have already been shown to be lies. He promised that nobody would lose their jobs, yet has already fired thousands of teachers across Ontario. I will present a positive vision for Ontario that will stand in stark contrast to cuts that hurt kids and set us back on our efforts to be competitive on the world stage.”

*Fundraising totals are based on current donor disclosure on Election Ontario website.