Ontario Liberals choose new voting process for leadership race
Ontario Liberals voted Saturday to forge ahead with a new system for selecting their next leader, shedding the delegated conventions of old as the party seeks renewal and recovery from two consecutive electoral disasters.
Members attending the party's annual general meeting (AGM) in Hamilton this weekend overwhelmingly voted for a one-member-one-vote system. Proponents say the process is more democratic, and that delegated conventions put too much power in back rooms.
Interim Liberal Leader John Fraser said the vote represents change.
"It's part of renewal," he said.
"(Delegated conventions were) something we did for a long time, a few decades, and now we've decided, let's do something different."
3 contenders exploring leadership bids
The race to replace former leader Steven Del Duca has not yet officially started, though three contenders are openly exploring bids: MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, MP and former Ontario cabinet minister Yasir Naqvi, and current provincial caucus member and former MP Ted Hsu.
Erskine-Smith said the new voting system will allow for a more modern and open process.
"When I look at travelling the province and engaging people in a leadership process, that ability to directly engage new members and longtime members to say, 'You have a direct voice in who your next leader is going to be,' will be an incredibly powerful way to engage people in the political process," he said.
Naqvi said the new voting system, in combination with a previous step to make party membership free, opens it up to way more people.
"By giving party members a direct say in electing the leader, we are saying to Ontarians, 'Take interest in our party. Be part of our party. If you want a party like the Ontario Liberal Party, to speak to your values and your vision and your dreams, this is an opportunity to be engaged,"' he said.
"This party is no longer an exclusive club of very few people. This is a modern, inclusive party."
Members were also set to pick a new party executive at the AGM, and one of their first orders of business will be to set the rules and timelines for the upcoming race.
Naqvi and Erskine-Smith said they hope the voting date is set sooner rather than later, preferably before the end of the year.
'It's about the journey'
Fraser said in a speech earlier Saturday that the leadership race is important, but not only for the end result.
"It's about the journey," he said.
"Done right, that journey takes us to every corner of this province. It makes us work where we need to work. We invite new members. We listen to Ontarians where they live about the things that are most important to them, and we have a healthy debate about ideas and aspirations."
Doing that groundwork, Fraser said, will hand the new leader a party with a stronger foundation and put them in a better position to fight the next election in 2026.
Members are set to pick a new party executive Sunday at the AGM, and one of their first orders of business will be to set the rules and timelines for the upcoming race.
Liberal party lacks official party status
The party's fortunes fell sharply in the 2018 election, during which the Liberals went from a majority government to lacking enough seats to secure official party status in the legislature.
The devastating loss caused much soul-searching, but the following year members voted down a proposal to move to a one-member-one-vote system.
The next election in 2022 produced another disappointing result for the party, still several seats away from official party status.
Three veteran Liberals recently led a campaign debrief and their report pointed to factors such as an "unpopular" leader, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, a lack of overarching vision, and insufficient training or support for local campaigns as contributing to their loss.