Ontario Liberal leadership candidates meet in Bradford

Ontario Liberal leadership candidates meet in Bradford

Third-place party looking for new leader following defeat to Ford’s PCs in June 2022, when the Liberals won just eight seats

Bradford residents recently had the chance to ask questions of three Ontario Liberal Party leadership hopefuls.

While not an official debate, Friday’s meet-and-greet allowed Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, Ted Hsu and Dr. Adil Shamji to visit the town and speak with residents while explaining their plans for the province’s Grits.

The third-place party is looking for a new leader after Steven Del Duca stepped down following defeat to Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative Party in June 2022. The Liberals won just eight seats, four shy of the number needed for official party status.

Ontario Liberal Party members are expected to cast ranked ballots for a new leader on Nov. 25 and 26.

Hsu, the Liberal MPP for Kingston and the Islands, based his policy on five key pillars: improved health care, reliable clean energy, improving the economy, protecting the Greenbelt, and making housing more affordable.

Hsu says a key step to improving housing affordability is to focus on adding more density to cities.

“That will reduce people moving out of the cities trying to find a place they can afford, and reduce housing pressures and traffic congestion pressures in places like Bradford West Gwillimbury,” he said in an email. 

Hsu said the province should help cover the costs of new infrastructure needed for fast-growing municipalities to service newly created neighbourhoods.

He also wants to see agricultural land preserved and passed on for future farming through the creation of “a farmland easement program, like they have in the U.S. and Europe, which compensates farmers while preserving prime farmland.”

Hsu was also elected Liberal MP for Kingston and the Islands in 2011, but did not seek re-election in 2015. He was elected Liberal MPP for Kingston and the Islands in 2022.

Shamji, the Liberal MPP for Don Valley East, based his policy on five key points: health care, inclusion, education, housing, and party renewal.

“People in Bradford need access to family doctors, working emergency rooms with reasonable wait-times, well-funded public schools, housing that they can afford, and a government that protects the environment so they may have continued agricultural success,” he said in an email.

Shamji noted that while visiting Carrot Fest on the weekend, he saw how farmers, small businesses and community members of all ages came together to celebrate their town. But that’s not all.

“I was struck by the Bradford public library workers who were demonstrating for fairer wages at the festival,” he added. “And while this strike is taking place on a municipal level, all over Ontario the Ford government is chipping away at our public institutions by consistently under-funding them and their workers.

“As leader of the Ontario Liberal Party, I will make sure that that the people of Bradford get to benefit from strong and well-funded public institutions,” Shamji added.

Prior to entering politics in 2022, Shamji worked as an emergency physician at Michael Garron Hospital in Toronto.

Erskine-Smith, the Liberal MP for Beaches-East York, divided his policy into four key areas of focus: housing, climate, health-care, and education.

“Our ambitious housing plan will end exclusionary zoning, invest in affordable rental housing, and treat housing as a home first and an investment second,” he said in an email. “Our climate and environmental protection plan will reduce emissions, create good jobs, and lower energy bills.

“Our health-care plan will invest in our workers, strengthen access to family health teams, address mental health and addictions, and deliver better home and community care for seniors,” Erskine-Smith added.

While the details of his education plan are still being finalized, Erskine-Smith said it will include investments inside and outside of the classroom to deliver high-quality public education and prepare children for success.

He has been elected to the House of Commons three times since 2015, before which he worked as a commercial litigation lawyer.

The event came several days before another leadership hopeful and Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie hosted her own event on Tuesday.

Also in the leadership race, Yasir Naqvi, visited Bradford as the guest of honour at a local Eid Milan party in early July, where he explained his plans for the party.

“For me, it’s all about meeting people where they are and listening to their issues. That will help to transform the Ontario Liberal Party,” he said at the time.

As part of his leadership campaign, Naqvi wants to ensure the Liberals are a big-tent party, reflective of all the communities in the province, and he hopes to tackle issues including health care, education and affordability.

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