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A step closer to a bid for Liberal captain
Plus: the latest scuttlebutt on the race to replace Tory, Stiles time and staffing up, countdown to Budget Day, healthcare reform rundown, Liberal AGM itinerary unveiled, a Trillium in the gallery
There's a new captain at the helm of the NDP and the rumor mill is churning on who'll enter the nascent race to replace John Tory. But first — two potential Liberal leadership candidates are inching closer towards a bid while one has rejected to run for the party's top job.
Liberal MP Yasir Naqvi has taken another leap towards a prospective leadership bid while MPP Ted Hsu has fired up his online advertising machine — weeks before members will huddle at the party's Annual General Meeting in Hamilton to hash out the rules of the upcoming leadership race.
Naqvi will be the star of a "reunion" gathering with Liberals in early March in Toronto — hosted by veteran operatives Tim Smitheman and Gabrielle Gallant. According to the "Friends of Yasir" invite, "Yasir has been traveling Ontario in recent weeks and will recount what he has heard from provincial Liberals."
That's not all. The former attorney general launched a campaign website and is collecting supporters' emails ahead of a possible launch (though that's not expected to happen until after contest rules are set). He's also recruited veteran Liberal strategists to advise him after launching an "exploratory committee" seeking advice on whether to throw his hat into the race.
Meanwhile, a website for Hsu's exploratory crusade is online. According to a message on the site, Hsu "wants to hear from Liberals across the province" about the rebuild of the party, which suffered a major defeat in June, failing to secure official party status.
He's also fired up the social media advertising machine — Hsu ads were spotted circulating on Facebook and Instagram earlier this month, with the message "it's time to talk about what it means to be a Liberal," signaling the initial communiqué of his upcoming bid. According to Facebook, he's coughed up over a hundred dollars to run a campaign between Jan. 31 to Feb. 7, reaching tens of thousands of users in the province.
While Naqvi and Hsu get closer to launching their campaigns, one has rejected a proposal to seek the captainship: Green leader Mike Schreiner. Despite an attempt by Liberal insiders to draft him and speculation that he might defect to the party's ranks, Schreiner is staying put.
"We need strong Green voices at Queen’s Park to remain focused on the need for climate action," he said in a video statement.
Schreiner did acknowledge that he considered defecting but ultimately decided to remain as leader. "I'm a Green for life," he said. According to the Green captain, the party planned out "different contingency scenarios," including searching for a new leader in case he jumped ships.
The reaction: "I am not in any way surprised by his decision," said interim Liberal leader John Fraser. "Thank you [Mike Schreiner] for making the right decision," federal captain Elizabeth May tweeted.
Other names are in the mix for leadership runs. Liberal MPP Mitzie Hunter is gauging a bid for leader — while also considering a run for Mayor of Toronto. Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie's name has also been floated, as we reported in this newsletter. While our sources told us she's been fielding calls encouraging her to run, she's denied interest in the job.
Liberals are set to congregate in Hamilton starting next Friday to set out the guidelines of the forthcoming competition and elect the new party executive.
The race to replace John Tory is on — unofficially
John Tory is out as Toronto's mayor — and speculation is rampant on who'll run to replace him. The first chief magistrate to receive sweeping powers by the Ford government under "strong mayor" legislation" quit after admitting to an "inappropriate relationship" with a former staffer in his office.
It's a race with plenty at stake. The competition will reshape City Hall and the state of municipal politics after the popular chief magistrate's decision to step down. For the province, the competition will result in a new "strong mayor," who's granted sweeping authority and a veto power.
Premier Ford — who encouraged Tory to stay on — said the city is "toast" if a "lefty mayor gets in there." "It would be a disaster," Ford added.
Who's joining the ticket? The race is still taking shape (it'll take place on June 26) but former candidates Gil Penalosa and Chloe Brown have said they plan on running. Toronto's former top cop Mark Saunders and former councillors Mike Layton and Ana Bailão are also considering a mayoral bid.
Four names are widely floating around the Pink Palace:
Brad Bradford — Progressive Conservative operatives have already begun rallying around Bradford. His support solidified amongst Tories after Associate Transportation Minister Stan Cho kiboshed the prospect of a mayoral bid. Serving as the chair of the city's housing committee, Bradford is no stranger to housing policy. That gives him points amongst Tories at Queen's Park, who are seeking a candidate who will push their housing agenda with "strong mayor" powers.
Michael Ford — The Premier's nephew made the jump to the Pink Palace after serving on Council for five years and Queen's Park is abuzz that he might be considering a municipal comeback. "Michael must regret running provincial now," texted one Progressive Conservative source following Tory's resignation. The younger Ford has remained mum on a prospective bid — though he is reportedly being encouraged to put his name forward. "[He] does not want to resign his provincial seat."
Mitzie Hunter — Hunter is the latest to be considering a run, while not ruling out a bid for the Liberal leadership. "Stay tuned," she told reporters yesterday, saying that she's received "a lot of encouragement" about a potential campaign. She's considered a moderate who could garner support from the political left and right in a mayoral race.
Bhutila Karpoche — The veteran NDPer could align support amongst progressives in the city — who see a political opportunity with Tory's resignation and the expanded mayoral powers. Karpoche considered running for party leadership but ultimately decided against it, becoming an early endorser of captain Marit Stiles. She's weighing her options.
"Wow the suspense?" NDPers crown Stiles as captain
Marit Stiles — who won an uncontested race to replace longtime chief Andrea Horwath — was inaugurated before hundreds of NDPers and labour leaders at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.
The vote share or the percentage of eligible voters who cast ballots in this confirmation vote were not made public by the party but election officials declared that no voting irregularities were reported. The party caught flak for Stiles' acclamation — including from a former candidate who questioned whether having an uncontested vote was what the "Chinese or Russian governments do."
"Wow the suspense, right?" the new captain quipped after taking to the stage. "I am truly honoured to be the next leader of Ontario's New Democratic Party."
Stiles energized a raucous crowd, calling the start of her tenure as captain the kickoff of "the countdown to the end of the disastrous Doug Ford government and the beginning of a bright new for Ontario."
Stiles spoke of "starting early" to prep for the next election and build "the movement that could win" — nominating "first rate" candidates to connect with communities and developing "a message that people connect with." However, Stiles hinted that she's ready to learn from the lessons of the past election, telling supporters to "never forget" the party's labour roots.
The labour movement was a key voting bloc that the Tories targeted, credited for the blue wave in traditionally orange ridings last June.
The new sheriff said she is "so grateful for the support from our allies in labour," with key provincial union leaders — including Fred Hahn and Laura Walton of CUPE and Patty Coates of the Ontario Federation of Labour — in attendance.
"No matter how many hard hats or safety vests he puts on for a photo op, you'd better believe Doug Ford is no friend to workers," Stiles added. "He says one thing when he wants your vote and another when he's in power."
Stiles thanked her longtime predecessor for the party's gains. "We're starting on a strong foundation and we have our former leader Andrea Horwath to thank for that," she said. While Horwath was absent from the event, she appeared via video, recounting her pride "to have been the leader for the years that I was."
Federal NDP captain Jagmeet Singh — who served provincially for six years before making the jump to federal politics — cheered Stiles on while going on the offensive over the Tories’ changes to the Greenbelt and healthcare privatization.
Stiles' federal counterpart signaled more collab with the provincial party on healthcare. “It's going to take is a two-prong attack. One at the provincial level, pointing out that [healthcare privatization] is actually going to make things worse. At the federal level, the leverage that we have is that we need to make sure that when we're negotiating money going to provinces, not a single cent of our public money goes to enrich private corporations."
Meanwhile, rivals threw shade at the party's leadership competition — or the lack thereof. While Premier Doug Ford congratulated Stiles on Twitter, the Progressive Conservatives said Stiles and the party will "continue to say no," similar to the party's messaging on the NDP in the last campaign.
Meanwhile, the Liberals said their upcoming leadership battle would be competitive, "unlike the NDP."
Stiles' victory has been long in the making. Among Pink Palace circles, the former student trustee and federal party president was viewed as an inevitable favourite to take over as captain. She is regarded as a tough questioner in the Legislature, increasing her public profile during her tenure as education critic.
She ascends to the top job in a party she's been involved with for most of her life. She first became an NDPer after she was introduced to the party by her partner, Jordan Berger, while attending Carleton.
"Watching Marit become leader has been an incredible event for the whole family," said Stiles' father, Geoff, sharing photos of younger Marit participating in competitive swimming races.
Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy will table the budget in a month — saying it will outline a "strong future" for the province amidst uncertain economic times. The Canadian Press has the details.
Ontario's NDP is asking the Integrity Commissioner to launch an investigation into the topic du jour at Queen's Park: whether Premier Doug Ford's daughter's stag and doe — which was attended by developers and lobbyists — violated the Members' Integrity Act. The government says Oppo's questioning of the event is "drive by smear," while Ford said the event was cleared by the commissioner himself.
Ottawa has struck a healthcare deal "in principle" with Ontario and four other provinces. Health Minister Sylvia Jones said the funding will "bolster Ontario's investment in healthcare," while her federal counterpart called the agreement "an opportunity to continue our collaboration." The deal will last ten years with Ottawa making an $8.4 billion investment and a nonce $776 million top up to meet "urgent needs, especially in pediatric hospitals and emergency rooms, and long wait times for surgeries." More from the Globe.
Speaking of healthcare: Jones tabled the Your Health Act on Monday. It's the Ford government's first piece of legislation outlines next steps in a plan to reduce wait times for surgeries while enabling the recognition of credentials of healthcare workers registered in other provinces and territories
The fine print: The legislation — expected to pass with the supersized Tory majority — will expand the ability of private clinics to offer procedures covered by OHIP.
Clinics will be required to show how it will "promote connected and convenient care" and "integrate with the health system."
Ontario Health will "ensure that these centres are included in regional health system planning" — integrating them into wait time information and provincial data on participating.
Private clinics will "coordinate with local public hospitals to accept patients that are being referred" to ensure fast delivery of procedures
It's all covered by OHIP — patients will not pay out of pocket for faster or enhanced service. "No centre will be allowed to refuse service to someone because they choose not to purchase upgrades." A mechanism for public complaints will be established through the Patient Ombudsman's office.
Meanwhile, Ontario is plowing forward with the first "As of Right" rules in the country — allowing registered HCWs in other provinces to immediately start working without having to register with a regulatory college. It's an attempt to recruit "more health care professionals to bolster our health care system and making it easier for them to start working," according to Jones.
The reaction: The NDP called the legislation "short on details and solutions to our health care crisis." Health critic France Gélinas said the bill "allows big corporations to make big profits off the backs of sick people."
The itinerary for the upcoming Liberal AGM is out. The three day gathering — which the party is calling "the largest annual meeting in 20 years" goes down starting next Friday in Hamilton, where Grits will hash out the guidelines of the forthcoming leadership competition and elect the new party executive. Here are the highlights of the agenda:
Saturday (March 4):
Speeches from Executive Council candidates
Address from Interim Leader John Fraser
Ontario Women's Liberal Commission AGM
Ontario Young Liberal AGM
Sunday (March 3):
Executive voting to continue
Continuation of Constitutional Amendment Sessions
Grassroots Training and Engagement Sessions
Unveiling of the party's new executive
Speech from the party's new president
ON THE MOVE
The Trillium is the newest publication covering Queen's Park. It's team is composed of familiar faces around the Pink Palace — the journalists who quit Queen's Park Briefing over alleged editorial interference by the owners.
Jessica Smith Cross and Charlie Pinkerton lead the editorial team. Aidan Chamandy and Jack Hauen will cover provincial politics as reporters with Sneh Duggal joining them after her maternity leave.
Marit Stiles is staffing up — unveiling her inner circle as the new top NDPer.
Greg Denton will serve as Chief of Staff. Denton — a longtime aide to Stiles — was widely expected to be named as a member of her inner circle. He served as her executive assistant and has worked for several NDPers. Get to know the reading taste buds of Stiles' new chief.
Lele Truong and Dave Clark are "senior transition advisors."
Mohammad Hussain — who served as a spokesperson to Minister Karina Gould — has joined the Prime Minister's Office as a spokesperson.
Alex Wellstead — who did comms for Trudeau and other cabinet ministers — has a new gig at Novartis Canada.
"After seeing firsthand how effectively government and business can work together, I'm looking forward to finding even more collaborative spaces that will help create a healthier and stronger province," he tweeted.
"Will miss your elegant briefing sessions," Liberal MP Greg Fergus tweeted at Wellstead.
Alexandra Hilkene has joined Enterprise Canada as a consultant. Hilkene most recently served as a spokesperson to former Health Minister Christine Elliott.
Mélanie Richer — who was federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh's communications director — is now a senior consultant at Earnscliffe Strategies. Richer led Team Horwath's tour during the May campaign.
Who's replacing her? We spotted Erin Morrison with Singh at Stiles' inauguration. Though we can't confirm whether Morrison has joined Singh's team in Ottawa, she served in the same role for former NDP captain Andrea Horwath. Morrision's LinkedIn has not been updated.
WHAT WE'RE READING
GLOBE AND MAIL: “Google tests blocking of news sites in response to Canada’s online news bill” by Marie Woolf
TORONTO STAR: “Bell Media wouldn’t nominate Lisa LaFlamme for an award — so she did it herself” by Joanna Chiu
“Insiders, government appointees also attended Doug Ford’s daughter’s wedding” by Noor Javed, Rachel Mendleson and Charlie Pinkerton
CBC NEWS: “Leaks alleging China interfered in 2021 election have 'inaccuracies,' Trudeau says” by Darren Major
CNN: “TV station identifies slain reporter among the 3 killed – including a child – in a Florida shooting spree” by Amy Simonson, Nouran Salahieh, Holly Yan and Michelle Watson
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