Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Tuesday March 7, 2023
Ontario’s Liberals hit rock bottom. Could Bonnie Crombie be their saviour?
The bad news for Ontario’s Liberals is that they’ve hit bottom.
The good news? Hitting bottom means they’ve bottomed out — and have nowhere to go but up.
Wait — correction: It’s not early days.
It’s been more than 1,000 days since Liberal delegates chose Steven Del Duca to begin “rebuilding” their dysfunctional dynasty at a March leadership convention precisely three years ago. Today, with only eight MPPs, Liberals are still on life support.
But after a weekend reunion in Hamilton, the party may be breathing easier. More than 1,500 diehards braved a cosmic snowstorm to preside over the rebirth of a moribund movement.
There were no formal tributes to the departed Del Duca. He is gone and now forgotten.
Instead, all eyes were on the new crop of aspiring leaders, each of them playing coy about “exploring” their candidacy and testing the waters. It doesn’t matter who they are, because you’ve likely never heard of these undeclared unknowns:
Stephanie Bowman, Ted Hsu, Yasir Naqvi, Nate Erskine-Smith and Adil Shamji. I’d tell you which ridings these backbenchers represent, federal or provincial, but if you don’t already know, it likely won’t help.
That said, I will say each of them is whip-smart: Among them — in random order — is a trade lawyer and ex-attorney general; an emergency room physician; a chartered accountant and bank vice-president; an Oxford-educated litigator; and a Princeton-educated physicist.
That’s a big brain trust, but it bears repeating — given that a physicist is among them — that political science and rocket science are unrelated. Physics requires logic, while politics demands fuzzy logic.
Which is why Premier Doug Ford’s Tories rule the province today, while the leaderless Liberals languish in obscurity and purgatory. I never make predictions, but it’s a safe bet that any of the above candidates might fail to light the party and province on fire.
Not because they’re not smart, which Del Duca was in his day. The question is whether they can touch people, reach voters, connect with them, and win them over.
None of the aspirants (two of them political rookies) strikes me as a breakout contender — at least not yet. In the old days, an unknown leader might have taken the time — and had the luxury of time — to cultivate the mass media and reap a harvest of votes at election time.
But we live in an era of celebrity politics, where a Ford can come from out of nowhere to rule Ontario and win re-election by cementing his connection to voters. Never mind the premier’s preposterous proposals to cut the gas tax, kill the carbon tax and pave a highway to nowhere — love him or hate him, people vote for him.
Against that backdrop, what’s a Liberal to do? One possibility is to fight fire with fire, meet celebrity with celebrity.
Perhaps that’s why a gaggle of former movers and retired shakers from the old Liberal brain trust took stock of the candidates and then tried to recruit the leader of another party — the Greens’ Mike Schreiner, MPP from Guelph. They published a love letter to the Delphi from Guelph that went unrequited.
For all of their flattery and folly — Schreiner is hardly brimming with crossover celebrity power — their desperate public appeal amounted to a vote of non-confidence in the current crop. Right or wrong, the mere fact that the old guard was so quick to write off the new contenders was telling.
Schreiner was a no-show on the weekend, of course. Like Del Duca, his apparition had not only come and gone but was also forgotten.
Yet that did not leave the field open to the other contenders or pretenders to the throne. Unexpectedly, they had a close encounter with celebrity power and buzz beyond the environmental movement:
Bonnie Crombie had arrived. Until recently, she had evinced no interest in the Liberal leadership, insisting her loyalty was to the mayoralty of Mississauga.
But Crombie, too, made her way through the snow drifts to the Hamilton convention centre to press the flesh — or more precisely, pose for selfies with admiring delegates in a crowded hospitality suite. Her Honour was never onstage but she stole the show.
Why now? What changed?
“She wanted to see the reaction,” an adviser said, musing that she generated “rock star status.”
Beyond celebrity power, is there a path to power? Crombie’s experience as a former MP and city councillor, now helming Canada’s sixth-biggest city, sets her apart from her rivals.
More importantly, she boasts a talent that her rivals cannot yet claim: A proven ability to poke and provoke Ford when they go face to face on the issues.
Will she run or will she walk away? Crombie is dragging her feet for now, insisting she won’t be rushed.
The only certainty is that the race is starting to get interesting. Unlike the New Democrats, who missed out on a leadership race when Marit Stiles ran unopposed, the Liberals may be in for a contest. (Martin Regg Cohn – The Toronto Star)
Spec unfair to Liberals
I have always bragged to my friends in other communities how The Spectator was a smart local paper but something happened this weekend which made me rethink that. For those who didn’t know, the Ontario Liberal Party gathered in Hamilton for the first time in three years. Fifteen hundred people from all over the province braved a snowstorm to come here with the intent of reviving the party through constitutional change and electing a new executive council. There were great ideas shared and a feeling of empowerment. Coincidentally or not, federal Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre chose Saturday to have a rally in Stoney Creek. Those at the conference were aware he was in town for a couple of hours. I figured neither of the events would get a lot of coverage since we are well aware of cutbacks to newspapers, so you can imagine my surprise when I opened Monday’s paper to find a Spec reporter and photographer attended the Conservative event and not once in three days showed their face at the Liberal convention.
This is not sour grapes. This is about fair coverage especially when we have a high profile by-election. If Tuesday’s editorial cartoon is any indication, the Spec has chosen its political stance.
Sue Prestedge, Hamilton