Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Tuesday November 28, 2023
Ontario Liberals Await New Leader Amidst Voter Apathy Concerns
On the cusp of unveiling their new leader this coming weekend, the Ontario Liberal Party finds itself caught between the shadows of Premier Doug Ford and the looming specter of voter apathy. As the live delegate votes unfold in suspense over the next few days, the pressing question for the Ontario Liberals is whether Doug Ford or voter apathy poses the greater challenge.
Over the weekend, thousands of Ontario Liberals participated in the party’s leadership race, casting their ballots for one of four candidates: Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie, Liberal MP Nate Erskine-Smith, MPP Ted Hsu, and MP Yasir Naqvi. The anticipation is palpable, with the announcement of the new leader scheduled for next Saturday at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.
A significant shift in the party’s leadership selection process is underway, as the Liberals adopt a one-member-one-vote system, mirroring the method that led to Doug Ford’s selection in 2018. While some members applaud the transparency and inclusivity of the new process, concerns linger. William Davis, a delegate from the 2020 convention, voiced reservations about the system, suggesting a longer membership requirement to ensure a more informed electorate.
The contest seems to be invigorating the party, with interim leader John Fraser noting the excitement and energy among Liberals during the weekend’s events. However, the specter of the 2022 election defeat to Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives continues to cast its shadow. The post-mortem report released on January 5, 2023, highlights the party’s struggles with an unpopular leader, unclear messaging, and insufficient campaign resources.
The Liberals admitted that their platform lacked a clear vision for the province, relying on gimmicky promises that failed to resonate with voters. The review also identified challenges in volunteer recruitment, canvassing, and a deficiency in voter data and polling efforts. With only 43 percent voter turnout in the 2022 election, apathy emerged as a significant hurdle, affecting all parties.
As the Liberals brace for the announcement of their new leader, the question of whether they have effectively addressed the issues identified in the post-mortem report lingers. Will the chosen leader be equipped to rally the party, engage voters, and pose a formidable challenge to Doug Ford in the 2026 election? Or will the shadow of voter apathy continue to eclipse the party’s efforts, leaving them vulnerable in the political landscape of Ontario? The next chapter in Ontario Liberal politics awaits, and the outcome will undoubtedly shape the party’s trajectory in the years to come. (AI)