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Ted Hsu says he's the dark horse. Is this physicist the next Grit captain?
Plus: race for Liberal captain called, meet Team Chow, Stellantis deal done, Mae Lindo out, Greenbelt developers go to court, Ford speaks on Lysyk's scope and more
He's a chess whiz hoping to put Doug Ford's Tories into political checkmate.
It's not an easy task for the physicist-turned-politician seeking to lead the unrecognized Liberals — but Ted Hsu has a strategy. "My job is to propose an alternative. I am trying to win votes away from Doug Ford," he says. "If he wakes up and sees that I'm talking to the people who voted for him last time, I think he would be much more worried."
Hsu says it's an upstream swim, but the northeastern Grit has done it before and is ready to do it again.
Born in Oklahoma, Hsu moved to Kingston at six months old after his father got a gig as a chemical engineering prof at Queen's University. "It was just after I was born, they hopped into a car, put a plywood board in the backseat and moved to Kingston," the son of James and Marjorie says.
His "traditional Confucian, Chinese, Christian" upbringing still sticks with him.
"My dad would tell me things like 'time is more important than money' and 'it's more important to be good than smart,'" he recalls. "He would often say these things and those are the things that probably stick with me the most."
Hsu's entry into the political fray came later — but it's just one of his many worlds. He studied at Queen's, completing a degree in physics. When it came time to find a permanent job in his field of research, Hsu couldn't. "Funding was down for a lot of research firms and the Iron Curtain had fallen so there were a lot of really talented people coming from Eastern Europe," he says.
Like friends, Hsu made the jump to the business world. "I took those skills — they were very much in demand in the financial world — and worked there for nine, ten years," he reminisces.
Hsu got married to his wife, Tara, who went back to grad school. "I spent a couple of years as a stay at home dad," the father of two daughters explains.
That's when his interest in public policy sparked.
"I took my nose off the grindstone and started thinking about longer-term things," he recalls. "In particular, the sort of things that my daughter would worry about that I couldn't take care of just by feeding her and teaching her things."
Hsu's involvement in Grit politics began when he served as treasurer for his local riding association. After former speaker Peter Milliken quit federal politics, Hsu put his name forward for the party's nomination. He won in a rare victory for a party that had been defeated across the board. "That was the first time I ran and I actually won," Hsu says, boasting about increasing the Liberal vote in Limestone City.
Three years later, on the verge of an election, the physicist called it quits.
"It wasn't right for the family. The kids were still young. My wife and I decided that the kids are going to be young once," he says, reflecting on the "tough" decision.
Hsu jumped into the political war rooms — managing local Liberal crusades at the provincial and federal levels.
Then he made a comeback.
Hsu ran for the provincial Grits, becoming one of seven Liberals elected to the Pink Palace. For the Kingston and the Islands rep, it's same old, same old. "I've been in that far left corner of the House of Commons. It's just like we're in the far left corner of the Legislature."
On a mission to get the party out of the far left corner at Queen's Park, Hsu is seeking the provincial Liberal leadership. Undaunted by the challenge, the self-described "dark horse" says he can pull it off, with his bid being noticed by Liberal insiders and watchers alike. Hsu has amassed a significant war chest — outpacing some of his heavyweight rivals — and named former cabinet ministers Greg Sorbara and Carol Mitchell as his campaign's chairs, alongside the Tragically Hip's Rob Baker.
"I believe in the Liberal Party," Hsu says. "What I'd like to do is help because I believe in what it stands for and how it thinks about issues."
The rookie says he's hoping to be the likeable leader voters ask about when candidates hit the hustings — and it's on brand for "the nice guy" in the race. "I think if we build trust, more people will believe that it's worthwhile to get out and vote."
"If I'm just taking shots at Doug Ford and being mean, I don't believe that would serve the voters as much," Hsu says. "I think the Liberal Party needs to change," but there's no quick solution, he maintains. "Who are we not serving? Who are we not connecting with? We need to rebuild those connections. That means a lot of travelling and meeting people to develop policies that are relevant."
For him, that rebuild isn’t a matter of left or right. "Those are not the questions that I'm asking," Hsu explains, saying the Liberal Party is "good at finding common ground between different communities."
In the long term, Hsu says, focusing on the cities as an electoral strategy was a mistake. "It was a good decision because Kathleen Wynne won a majority government but I think as a long-term strategy, it was wrong," he explains. "People are worried about polarization and making it hard to think through policy carefully and collaborate and have that give and take between different parties. I think that one of the ways that society is polarizing is between urban and rural. I think that is not a good thing."
So, what makes him different? Hsu has a list. "I have a lot of experience outside of politics. I come from a place that's not Toronto or Ottawa. I come from a riding that has a rural part," he boasts.
The physicist says he can "connect with voters" on the campaign trail, citing his federal win when the federal Tories surged to a majority government. "It wasn't some sort of weird thing about turnout. I was able to increase the percentage of the vote. It's the ability to win when the party is losing that sets me apart."
Unlike his opponents, Hsu has the necessary Opposition experience to hold the Tories' feet to the fire, he argues. "My other opponents have either had executive positions in government or have been on the government side. That distinguishes me," Hsu says. "I'm offering a fresh start because I have a different background, because I do politics differently. I like to rely on a campaign based on trust and not on bashing the other side."
But, but, but: "If you're here coming to hear jokes and cheap shots, I'm not your man," Hsu warns.
"I think I can overcome it," Hsu quickly says when asked if he’s sweating his profile in this five-way race. "If I can get in front of people, they will see that I'm a different kind of person.”
"But can you win this thing?" we press.
"Yes, I can," an unflinching Hsu says.
"I won the federal nomination and I was not a favourite of the party leadership. I had to swim upstream. I know I can win people over if I can meet them in person."
Two developers are going to court to block or delay a summons by Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk for an investigation into the Ford government's Greenbelt development plans. Silvio De Gasperis of TACC and Michael Rice of Rice Group — two prominent GTA developers — argue that the summons is an overstep in Lysyk's authority.
Ford says: "It's not even within her scope," Premier Doug Ford told reporters in Hamilton yesterday on the investigation, but said he doesn't interfere with the case. "We have nothing to hide," he recapitulated. "We need to build homes, it's as simple as that."
Ottawa has inked a deal with Stellantis to stop the company from pulling out of building an EV battery plant in Windsor. Ottawa and Queen's Park will match American subsidies and will provide a performance incentive for batteries produced and sold by the automotive giant in line with those provided to Volkswagen. The Star has the deets.
Laura Mae Lindo has bid adieu to the Pink Palace. The NDPer — who represented Kitchener Centre — quit to take on a new gig at the University of Waterloo. She cited high daycare costs as a reason for her exit.
"There are many real barriers that still exist in our political and social systems for working mothers," said captain Marit Stiles, who thanked Mae Lindo for "being a charismatic and dynamic advocate." More here.
"I'm going to have to look more into that," Premier Ford said on new research showing that breathing air in Hamilton is like smoking part of a cigarette every day.
AT THE PALACE
— The House is adjourned for the summer.
It was a busy week on the committee circuit — with MPPs reconvening to consider an array of PMBs.
At Heritage: The committee met on Monday to consider PC Donna Skelly's bill to whip up a Croatian Heritage Day in May. PC MPP Todd McCarthy's Group of Seven Day Act was parsed through on Tuesday, with NDPer Jennifer French's Fairness for Road Users Act — which would beef up penalties for drivers causing "death or serious bodily harm" — reviewed on Wednesday.
At Interior: PC Goldie Ghamari's Joshua's Law — requiring parents to ensure that their children who are 12 years or younger sport a lifejacket on a boat — was reviewed on Monday. In Peterborough, the committee met on Thursday to examine PC Dave Smith's Murray Whetung Community Service Award Act.
At Justice Policy: The committee met on Monday to review bipartisan legislation that would "prohibit the inclusion in consumer reports of unfavourable information about a consumer that resulted from human trafficking." Read the bill here.
Social Policy: MPPs met on Thursday to consider PC Ric Bresee's Garrett's Legacy Act — which would require organizations ensure movable soccer goals are made available for public use.
At Procedure: The committee huddled on Wednesday for a review of the Honouring Our Veterans Act by PC MPP Lorne Coe.
— SCOOP: The race for Grit captain is officially on.
We got our hands on an email from party president Kathryn McGarry to Liberals calling the competition — as required by the Grit constitution — and outlining new details on voting and the big huddle in December.
On voting: Liberals will vote in person, over two days, at specific locations for each riding association. "A handful of associations, particularly in Northern Ontario, are likely to be designated as voting by mail," according to McGarry. Here is the voting sched.
Recall: It's the first time Grits will vote using a one member, one vote system, moving away from delegated leadership conventions. Under the new rules, each riding association will receive one hundred points to be proportionally allocated to each leadership candidate based on support. Each member will directly cast a ranked ballot in the upcoming contest.
The winner's big day: The results of the leadership contest will be announced at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on December 2. Members are expected to pay for tickets to attend, per the communique.
— Premier Ford is "disappointed" with Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow's threat to take Queen's Park to court if it expropriates lands to revamp Ontario Place. Catch up on the stakes of Chow's win for City Hall and Queen's Park.
— FordFest pallooza: FordFest is hitting the road. The signature barbecue is headed to Windsor at Ciociaro Club and London at Western Fair District Agriplex in August. A stop in Kitchener at Bingemans is set for September. Invite. Invite. Another one.
Survey says Tories are comfortable: New polling from Mainstreet Research shows that the Ford government is sitting pretty — with 35 per cent support — over the deadlocked NDP and Liberals. The Dippers and Grits both sit at 25 per cent with the Greens at 11 per cent.
ON THE MOVE
Team Chow's roster has dropped — and it's chockfull of familiar names from the Pink Palace:
Michal Hay is the new chief. She managed Chow's bid for the city's top job and served as executive director for Progress Toronto.
Shirven Rezvany and Michelle Ervin are managing comms in Chow's office. Rezvany served as campaign spokesperson for Marit Stiles' NDP leadership bid and as a communication officer for the party. Ervin was the party's acting director of communications after former captain Andrea Horwath's exit.
Nadine Tkatchevskaia — an NDPer who served as deputy director of outreach — has joined Chow's office. Former development officer Andrew Pulsifer is also on the crew.
WHAT WE'RE READING
THE TRILLIUM: "PC minister dodges questions about Las Vegas trip with Greenbelt developer" by Charlie Pinkerton
THE STAR: "Doug Ford says this mining region is a top priority. Ottawa doesn’t necessarily agree" by Alex Ballingall, Tonda MacCharles and Kristin Rushowy
"The inside story of how Doug Ford finally blinked and spent billions of dollars to save an EV battery plant in Ontario" by Tonda MacCharles, Robert Benzie and Rob Ferguson
THE POINTER: "Mississauga’s Credit Valley Hospital experiencing longest admission wait times in Ontario" by Paige Peacock
CANADIAN PRESS: "Small Ontario lake nominated as home of ‘Golden Spike’ marking Anthropocene epoch" by Bob Weber
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