Ontario Liberals prepare for leadership race at weekend AGM in Hamilton
Ontario liberals are gathering this weekend for another attempt at party renewal after a second consecutive disastrous election result, and one of the main items on the agenda is preparing for a leadership race.
The party’s annual general meeting in Hamilton will be the biggest in 20 years, the Liberals say, with 1,500 expected to attend.
Members will elect a new party executive and vote on various constitutional amendments, including sticking to delegated conventions or moving to some form of direct voting for the leader.
The Liberals had a similar debate in 2019, when an attempt to move to a one-member-one-vote system failed.
At the delegated convention held the following year — where delegates represented groups of members on the ballot — Steven Del Duca was selected as leader, but resigned after the Liberals failed to win enough seats in the 2022 election to gain official party status. have in the legislature. It was the second election in a row with that result.
But the 2019 AGM vote was close, seeing 57 percent support when it needed two-thirds support to pass. This time, proponents hope party members are even more ready for change.
No date yet for Liberal leadership contest
Mitzie Hunter, who led the push in 2019, said a one-member-one-vote system is more democratic and leads to stronger party organization.
“I firmly believe that by giving each party member a direct say in the selection of the next leader, we are aligned with the Liberal Party of Canada and other modern democratic political parties worldwide,” she wrote in a statement.
Three contenders openly exploring bids for the leadership are all on board with a direct voting system: MP Nate Erskine-Smith, MP and former Ontario minister Yasir Naqvi, and current provincial caucus member and former MP Ted Hsu.
There’s no date yet for the Liberal leadership contest, but one of the first assignments for the new party executive selected this weekend is to set the rules and timelines for that race.
Delegated conventions are big, dramatic affairs, but they’ve also fallen out of favor with most other political parties, including the federal liberals. They decided to end delegated conventions in 2009 and were the last federal party to do so.
There are often multiple rounds of voting in delegated conventions, with losing candidates making deals to throw their support—and therefore their delegates’ support—behind another candidate, until one person has the majority of support.
Interim leader John Fraser said the leadership process itself is just as important as the outcome given all the rebuilding work the party has to do.
“That process allows us to start working in places and regions where we need to work,” he said recently.
“It allows us to get more members. It allows us to have a free and open debate on issues that matter to Ontario residents and it just helps raise money, honestly.”
Three veteran Liberals recently led a campaign debriefing and their report pointed to factors such as an “unpopular” leader, the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, a lack of overarching vision and insufficient training or support for local campaigns contributing to their “devastating loss in the last provincial election.