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SCOOP: Could Crombie enter the race for Grit captain next week?
"I can't confirm or deny rumours," one campaign insider responded
SCOOP: Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie — who has been "strongly considering" a bid for the provincial Liberal leadership — could launch her campaign as early as next week.
Days after the Ford government tabled legislation that would pave the way for Mississauga's independence, something Crombie has long advocated for, she may be ready to make the jump from City Hall to Queen's Park.
What we're hearing: Word on the street is that Crombie could launch her campaign for Grit captain as early as next week — with multiple, unconnected insiders, suggesting Tuesday could be kickoff day. “I heard Tuesday,” one source texted. Privately, Crombie has told supporters in the last few days that “she's running [for leader] and needs their support,” another source familiar with some conversations said.
She's also been consulting allies on her possible bid for the party's top job, while representatives have attended confidential party meetings for more details on the leadership contest.
Crombie will soon host a meet and greet with supporters, we've learned, according to a third party source. "I frequently hear it said that Bonnie entering the race would be a game changer and I agree. We're lucky that so many passionate people want to run the party," the source added.
Meanwhile, Crombie's camp is keeping mum on the scuttlebutt. "I can't confirm or deny rumours," said one campaign source.
Amongst Liberal circles, many insiders agree that sooner rather than later is better for Crombie's potential campaign launch, with other candidates already lining up endorsements and travelling across the province. While one source familiar suggested Crombie could still be making up her mind, another insider said that her bid is looking to be a go, barring any last minute surprises or delays. “She's definitely running," a third source familiar with Crombie's conversations said.
Might she not? Crombie's bid could, however, be complicated with the province's decision to kibosh Peel Region, one she had long advocated for. A fourth Liberal source, unrelated to Crombie and her team, noted there has not been any active operations on the ground.
"I don't think she's going to run," said Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown. "I thought that [her decision to consider] was more pushback against the potential mega city. I think now that there's no mega city, we're going to hear very shortly that she's not running," he added, in an interview on TVO.
"Stay tuned," a source on Team Crombie said in response to Brown's comments.
Crombie directly responded to Brown's remarks — and chatter on her prospective bid. "I think Mayor Brown says a lot of things — and some of them are even accurate," she said, in response to our question. "I can't account for what he feels is my goal, my destiny, my path. I know that I'm committed to this process," Crombie added.
"With respect to the other stuff, we are completely focused on this great news today. This is a historic achievement," Crombie said on Peel's separation.
What Crombie does with her Council responsibilities during the campaign is to be seen. City councillor Alvin Tedjo — who threw his hat in the last Liberal leadership race — said he thinks Crombie "can continue running to be leader and still be the mayor." "I think you can also look at Patrick Brown as an example of how a mayor can continue being there while also running for a different office, when he ran for leader of the federal Conservatives," Tedjo said in a phone interview. "Campaigns aren't forever. It's going to be a concentrated period of time," he added.
"We have a pretty deep bench here in Mississauga that we can cover for anything that might need to be covered."
Amongst Pink Palace circles, Crombie is viewed as a formidable challenger to Premier Doug Ford and the Tories in the upcoming provincial election, with the Grits seeking to rebuild the party after two stinging defeats. An irritated Ford told Crombie during a presser in December to "get on board" and "stop whining," over her criticism of legislation that would quash developer fees.
The high-profile mayor had been "strongly considering" making the move.
As we reported in November, she had been fielding calls from supporters encouraging her to run. According to a spokesperson, by running, Crombie would be "answering the call to stand up to a government that has taken her community of Mississauga and the province in the wrong direction." As of early May, no final decision had been made.
Crombie attended the federal Liberal huddle in Ottawa, conversing with party members and meeting with interim Liberal leader John Fraser and party strategists. "She is talking to many people," the spokesperson added.
With a campaign launch expected as early as next week, Crombie, a heavyweight candidate, will join one other contestant, Nate Erskine-Smith, in vying to replace former captain (now Mayor of Vaughan) Steven Del Duca. Liberal MP Yasir Naqvi will make his bid official in early June — as we scooped yesterday — becoming the third candidate in the race. His team has also kept mum on the details of his launch, with one operative teasing "a great day."
A trio of Liberal MPPs — Ted Hsu, Adil Shamji and Stephanie Bowman — have all kicked the tires on a leadership bid, with speculation that Hsu could make it official in a matter of days.
"Never a dull moment in leadership races," one insider quips.