Skip to content

Ontario Liberal leadership hopefuls flock to federal party convention

The Liberal Party of Canada’s convention in Ottawa will double as an important pit stop for prospects eyeing taking over the Ontario Liberals
Justin Trudeau stands on stage with MPs and prospective candidates after addressing supporters at the 2019 convention of the Liberal Party of Canada (Ontario) in Mississaugua, Ont., on Friday April, 12, 2019.

Thousands of Liberals will descend on Ottawa in the coming days for the federal party’s first in-person convention in years.

At least six potential candidates for Ontario Liberal leader will be attending what could end up happening to be the largest gathering of members of the provincial party during the campaign. 

Over 3,000 members of the federal Liberals are expected at Ottawa’s Shaw Centre from Thursday to Saturday, with many coming from across the host province and carrying cards for the party’s Ontario counterpart.

Meeting rank-and-file members has renewed importance for the prospective provincial leaders, as the upcoming contest will be the first under the one-member-one-vote system. It’ll also use ranked ballots, so being someone’s second choice can still pay dividends.

Among the Ontario Liberal Party leadership prospects attending the convention is the race’s biggest wild card: Bonnie Crombie.

It’s still a much-bandied-about mystery within Liberal circles as to whether Crombie, currently Mississauga’s mayor, will enter the provincial party’s leadership contest.

Conversations The Trillium had over the last few days with about two handfuls of party sources yielded an inconclusive answer as to whether Crombie will or won’t enter the race. Collectively, however, these sources gave the impression that she’s closing in on her decision and now leaning toward joining the contest. 

Crombie was Mississauga—Streetsville’s MP for one term with the Liberals from 2008 to 2011. A few months after losing her seat in the 2011 election, Crombie was elected to Mississauga’s city council in a byelection. Three years later, she won the city’s mayoralty, succeeding the retiring Hazel McCallion. Crombie has since been re-elected in 2018 and 2022 by huge margins.

There’s been tension between Crombie and Premier Doug Ford in recent months over speculation of Peel Region’s amalgamation.

The Ford government has said it’s reviewing Ontario’s regional governance and passed a law last year positioning it to make future changes. 

Mississauga has long angled for independence.

Multiple Liberal sources say the idea of Mississauga and Brampton merging presents Crombie with a practical off-ramp from municipal to provincial politics.

Crombie is also seen by many in the Liberal party to be its most-established option for leader.

However, multiple Liberal sources also believe the timeline of the party’s leadership contest isn’t in Crombie’s favour and that she would have preferred a longer contest than its governing body set last month.

Members from before Sept. 11 will be allowed to cast a ballot. Voting will take place on Nov. 25 and 26. The party will announce its new leader on Dec. 5.

Other leadership began organizing campaigns as far back as last year’s June 2 provincial election when former leader Steven Del Duca resigned.

Multiple party sources also believe the race will be more competitive than Crombie would have expected a few months ago.

It's also worth noting the possible amalgamation of Peel Region is merely speculation at this point and, in any case, Crombie wouldn’t be required to resign as mayor to run for leader of the provincial Liberal party.

Stephanie Bowman, Adil Shamji, Yasir Naqvi, Ted Hsu, and Nate Erskine-Smith are the five other more-certain prospective leadership candidates attending the convention in Ottawa.

Naqvi, currently the Liberal MP for Ottawa Centre, is hoping to capitalize on home ice.

“It’s an opportunity to easily reach out” to “many Liberals from across the country,” said Naqvi, who was a Liberal MPP from 2007 to 2018 and served in multiple cabinet roles under former premier Kathleen Wynne.

Shamji, MPP for Don Valley East since last June, is looking forward to a change of scenery. He said the gathering in the nation’s capital will be a “valuable chance” to “highlight local issues in another part of Ontario” that’ll “feed into and energize” his exploratory campaign.

It’s also a chance to “strengthen the Liberal brand,” Shamji said, after the provincial party got whooped in two straight elections. The federal and provincial branches are “two parties, but one community,” added Shamji, who’s hosting a party — colloquially known as a hospitality suite — on Thursday night. 

Ted Hsu, elected as Kingston and the Islands’ MPP last June, characterized the federal convention as a “large stop on the exploration tour, a chance to meet and gauge support amongst Liberals from different places.” Hsu, who was his overlapping federal riding’s MP from 2011 to 2015, also said “it will be one of the last steps before making a leadership run official.”

Bowman’s taking a similar approach. 

“I think that this weekend will be a great chance to connect with Liberals from across Ontario and listen to what they feel we need to do to be successful in 2026,” she said. 

“I really enjoyed the opportunity to speak with so many motivated Liberals at the Ontario Liberal annual general in March, and that is what I’m looking forward to for this upcoming federal convention.”

The Ontario Liberal Party recently filed the necessary paperwork to officialize its leadership election with Elections Ontario, meaning candidates are able to register. None have done so yet. Candidates must register by Sept. 5, which includes paying $100,000 to the party in a series of installments.

While all the leadership prospects will have busy weekends, filled with typical hand-shaking and baby-kissing politicking, Naqvi also has some policy work to tend to.

He’s spearheading an effort to get a federal party policy resolution passed on affordable housing — a rather hot topic in Ontario politics — and also will chair two other policy plenary sessions. 

Naqvi’s non-binding resolution would call on the Trudeau government to dispose “of 30 per cent of all federal land and property that could be used for affordable housing at a nominal value.” 

“My motion speaks to the role the feds can play in affordable housing,” he said. It “demonstrates a focus on coming up with innovative solutions in Ontario and across the country.” 

Hsu, too, said he’s looking forward to digging into policy discussions while in Ottawa.

“Some problems, like housing or health care, are concerns across the province, but they have different characteristics in each community. All the toughest problems we face are multi-jurisdictional, so I look forward to having those federal-provincial policy discussions,” he said. 

The Trillium's Charlie Pinkerton and Aidan Chamandy will be reporting from the Liberal convention Thursday through Sunday. Get in touch at (613) 929-3681.

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks