Steven Del Duca wins Ontario Liberal leadership

New Ontario Liberal Party Leader Steven Del Duca celebrates at the convention in Mississauga, Ont., Saturday, March 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

MISSISSAUGA, Ont.  Ontario’s Liberals crowned Steven Del Duca as their new leader Saturday and with one campaign behind him he is turning his mind to the next.

The former cabinet minister had enough delegates _ 59 per cent _ to win on the first ballot. But he acknowledged trying to defeat Premier Doug Ford in the 2022 election will be a monumental task.

“We need to raise millions of dollars,” he told the convention crowd.

“We need to find qualified candidates who reflect Ontario’s incredible diversity. And most importantly, we need to forge a platform of compelling ideas that once again inspires people, lets them know they can trust us to govern _ because they trust us to be on their side and to fight for them.”

Del Duca, who represented Vaughan and was the transportation minister in the previous government, takes over from former Premier Kathleen Wynne, who stepped down after a dismal election result in 2018.

The Liberals were reduced from a majority government to third place without official party status in the legislature. They currently hold eight seats and have millions of dollars in debt from the last election.

The work begins in earnest on Monday, Del Duca said, but he does not intend to seek a seat in the legislature before 2022.

“I don’t believe we lost as badly as we did back in 2018 because we lost touch with Queen’s Park,” Del Duca said.

“I think that we have a lot of work to do with humility in order to regain the trust of the people of this province. So I want to remain focused on continuing to talk to Ontarians where they live and continuing to hear directly from them.”

Del Duca said he wants to fight for public education, health care and against climate change.

Policy announcements Del Duca rolled out during the leadership campaign include incentives for electric vehicle purchases and funding for more battery-charging infrastructure, developing a long-term science and technology education strategy and increasing the money municipalities get from gas taxes.

The other contenders for the Liberal leadership were former cabinet minister Michael Coteau, politics instructor and former London, Ont., public servant Kate Graham, former education minister Mitzie Hunter, former college administrator and public servant Alvin Tedjo, and Ottawa-based lawyer Brenda Hollingsworth.

Coteau called on the party to draw on its traditional strength, which he said was working together for a common good.

“Today in Ontario we have the opportunity to launch a new Liberal moment,” he told delegates.

“Liberals believe the job of government is to be alert to change and get out in front of it, not be oblivious to change and in denial of it.”

Kate Graham, a newcomer to Ontario politics but one backed by several party heavyweights, said the party needs to focus more on people’s well-being than on polling numbers.

“We can be the party that shows ourselves humbled, that understands that people know their own communities and their own needs better than we do,” she said.

“Acknowledge that we lost touch and to prove that we can truly reconnect and address the things about politics that have rightfully turned people away.”