TORONTO — Marit Stiles, the current education critic for Ontario's New Democrats, has become the first candidate to launch a bid to lead the party.
Stiles, a former school trustee, has been a legislator since 2018 and says she's focused on taking down the current Progressive Conservative government.
The party's top job became available after Andrea Horwath resigned on election night.
Horwath, who is now running for mayor in Hamilton, led the NDP since 2009 and saw it rise from third party to Official Opposition status in 2018 with 40 seats.
But the New Democrats slipped to 31 seats in this June's election.
The party has said a new leader will be in place by March 2023 and candidates have until December to register for the race.
Stiles says she's aiming to defeat Premier Doug Ford's Tories, who won the recent provincial election in a landslide.
"I’m inviting all Ontarians to join us as we build a movement that can defeat Doug Ford and deliver more for working families – more opportunity, more equity, more access, more hope," Stiles wrote in a statement.
"Doug Ford wants us to lower our expectations, but Ontarians know it's not normal to have 40 kids in a classroom, or to wait 12 hours in the emergency room."
The province has come under fire over the summer as a shortage of nurses has seen hospital emergency departments close for hours or days at a time.
Several NDP caucus members have said they are considering potential bids for the leadership, including Laura Mae Lindo, who represents Kitchener Centre, and Wayne Gates, who represents Niagara Falls.
The party has said it is in a strong position financially and with its supporters and volunteers.
The leader will be chosen through ranked ballots, which means voters can select the candidates they favour in order of preference.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 22.
The Canadian Press