Kitchener-Waterloo

Party supporters optimistic as Liberal leadership debates kick off in Guelph

About 150 Ontario Liberal Party members filled the gymnasium of a Guelph seniors’ centre Sunday to watch the first debate between candidates vying to become the party’s next leader.

Party supporters said the Liberals are in a period of 'rebuilding'

A debate between candidates vying for leadership of the provincial Liberal party drew about 150 people to a Guelph seniors' centre Sunday. Attendee William Stiles says he supports the Liberals but thinks the party needs to renew its focus on young people. (Paula Duhatschek/CBC)

About 150 Ontario Liberal Party members filled the gymnasium of a Guelph seniors' centre Sunday to watch the first debate between candidates vying to become the party's next leader.

Former Liberal leader Kathleen Wynne gave up her position as leader in 2018 after the party was turfed by the provincial Conservatives. The Liberals won just seven seats that night and lost official party status.

Despite the recent walloping, Liberal supporters at the Guelph debate say they're hopeful about the future of the Ontario Liberals.

"I can hardly wait for the next election," said Ann Lawlor, who pointed to the Liberal party's success in Ontario during the recent federal election. 

Ann Lawlor (left) and Moya Johnson (right) say they think having the right leader at the helm will make a difference in the Liberals' future success. (Paula Duhatschek/CBC)

Still, party supporters said rebuilding the party will take work.

Moya Johnson, of Halton Hills, said the party needs to spend more time in rural areas, even if those areas don't have a sitting Liberal politician.

"Even un-held ridings need to see that the Liberals are working for them," said Johnson.  

"We don't need somebody who's sitting in an ivory tower somewhere writing the policies, we need somebody who's out there [in the community]."  

Bruce Walkinshaw says the party is in a period of 'rebuilding' after the 2018 election. (Paula Duhatschek/CBC)

Although the leader at the party's helm is important, Orangeville resident Bruce Walkinshaw said local candidates are even more so. He hopes that whoever becomes Liberal leader will spend time searching for strong candidates to run in the next election.

"The ground game is huge," said Walkinshaw.

Twenty-year-old William Stiles of Rockwood voted Liberal in his first provincial election last year and said he was 'disappointed' to see his party lose.

Stiles said he believes the right candidate will steer the party in the right direction and hopes whoever becomes the Liberal leader will renew the party's focus on youth issues.

"It's our responsibility as a party to speak to the young people in our ridings and to address their issues because their issues really are the issues of everyone else, [like] education and health," Stiles said.

The candidates for the Ontario Liberal leadership are:

  • Former MPP for Vaughan Steven Del Duca.
  • Don Valley East MPP Michael Coteau.
  • Scarborough-Guildwood MPP Mitzie Hunter.
  • Past Oakville North – Burlington candidate Alvin Tedjo.
  • Past London North Centre candidate Kate Graham.
  • Ottawa lawyer Brenda Hollingsworth.

The next Liberal leadership debate will take place Dec. 12 in Windsor. The leadership convention is set for March 6-7 in Mississauga.

The next debate will take place in Windsor. (Paula Duhatschek/CBC)

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story said Wynne gave up her seat in 2018. In fact, she resigned as leader of the Ontario Liberal party.
    Dec 09, 2019 3:22 PM ET