Ontario election interview: Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca
CBC News has requested interviews with the 4 main provincial party leaders contesting the June 2 election
Ontario Liberal Party Leader Steven Del Duca spoke with CBC's provincial affairs reporter Mike Crawley. CBC News has requested interviews with the leaders of all four major parties fielding a full slate of candidates in the Ontario election.
Crawley: What would make you a good premier?
Del Duca: I think it's a combination of the experience and the energy that I have alongside a new Ontario Liberal team, to make sure that my daughters grow up in a province that gives them as much, if not more opportunity than I had growing up here. And that's what motivates me every single day of the week. And that's why I believe keeping them and kids across this province like them in my focus will help me be a great premier for this province starting on day one.
Crawley: What specifically do you bring that would make you a better premier than, say, [PC Leader] Doug Ford?
Del Duca: Well, I think it's a combination again of a couple of things. One is the experience to know how to actually make the work happen, not just the words, but actually keep my sleeves rolled up and work really hard starting on day one, based on the experience that I've had in the past.
But I think also today I'm a more self-aware politician, let's say, and a humble politician, because of the challenge of 2018. The people of Ontario know what 2018 was like. That's why we built a new Ontario Liberal team. We are putting together a compelling, progress-focused, forward facing platform of ideas, and I'm so excited about having this conversation with the people of Ontario over the next number of weeks. And I'm even more excited about the work that lies ahead to rebuild this province in that progress-focused way.
Crawley: You didn't specifically address what it is you bring that's different from Doug Ford, because obviously he's been humbled in some ways as well by the pandemic.
Del Duca: Well, I don't know about that. I think that an individual who's been truly humbled would be approaching the last number of months in a different way, focused on governing and providing real leadership in a responsible and thoughtful way. I tell people everywhere I go: what I think people in this province want to see is a responsible and competent leader. I think that those are other characteristics that I bring to this mission of moving the province forward in that progress-focused way.
Crawley: When people are deciding which party they want to vote for, they are also going through this process of deciding which premier they want, who they think would be the best premier. Your other real competition for that job is [NDP Leader] Andrea Horwath. How would you contrast yourself with her?
Del Duca: Well, again, I just want to stress, I really believe that there is a stark choice in front of the people of Ontario between the Ford Conservatives' obsession with dragging us backwards and that forward-looking, progress-focused plan and team that the new Ontario Liberal Party is putting forward.
I am going to focus throughout this entire campaign on making sure that people do understand how stark the choice is between the Ontario Liberals and the Ford Conservatives. And I know the other opposition leaders, Mr. Schreiner and Ms. Horwath, will put forward their ideas. That's good. That's how it should be. But given what we've gone through in this province, we cannot afford to take a risk on another premier and another government that doesn't have the required experience to start the important work that lies ahead for this province on day one.
I believe, given my experience and the dynamic energy of our new Ontario Liberal team, it's a really awesome combination to put Ontarians first and that's what we will do.
Crawley: So we've now seen the NDP's platform. What's different in your platform?
Del Duca: I will confirm I've not had the chance to pore over the details of the NDP platform. I've only had the chance to hear a bit about it and see some of the media reports. There are some things in that platform that we have already committed to, and there are other ideas that we will be talking about where there are a lot of similarities. It was a bit of a challenge to see a full platform being released without costing details in there. Again, I think that's not necessarily the way to instill the greatest degree of confidence amongst the people of Ontario about how responsible and competent their plan would be should they earn that honour.
But again, I just want to stress the combination of my experience with that new and dynamic team of Ontario Liberal candidates, women and men who have experience from every walk of life, front lines of education, health care and so much else. We will be ready to deliver in a good and positive way for the people of Ontario.
Crawley: What do you think is going to be the fundamental ballot question in this election? Obviously, there are many factors that go into how people decide to vote, but if there is one key overriding theme, what's it going to be?
Del Duca: Well, I think people want competence over the circus that they've had for the last four years under the Ford Conservatives. They they don't expect perfection from their leaders, but they do want to know that the woman or man leading this province and the team working with that woman or man actually have a responsible and thoughtful plan, are caring and competent enough to deliver on that plan, and keep the people of Ontario at the centre of their focus. And that's what we're devoted to doing. That's what we're dedicated to doing.
This idea of back and forth, the whipsaw, the whiplash effect of what we've seen over the past four years, not just during COVID, but the past four years. People don't want the circus to continue. They want competence. They want a responsible leader, and they want a team that knows how to get the job completed in the right way.
Crawley: So are you saying that what Premier Ford and his team showed during the pandemic was not competence?
Del Duca: So I think if you look at the totality of the four years, from the reckless decisions to cut public health, to make life so much more difficult for municipal governments, to meddle in municipal elections, the license plate fiasco, dragging us backwards so brutally in the fight against the climate crisis. I mean, there is a series of very reckless and irresponsible decisions that pre-date COVID.
And then during COVID, to see repeatedly not listening to the evidence, not listening to the science. Reopening too early. Bringing in Doug Ford's own version of conservative COVID carding back in April of 2021, closing playgrounds instead of listening to the science table. I mean, the list goes on and on and on.
Again, I don't think people want or expect perfection, but they do demand competence and thoughtfulness and responsibility that is taken seriously by a leader, and Doug Ford does not have the capacity to do that. Ontario Liberals do. Between my experience and our new dynamic team, we will be able to take the bull by the horns, as they say, and start the job of rebuilding this province on day one.
Crawley: You're referring to competence a lot, and your experience. So clearly your experience as a minister in the Wynne government is what you're talking about. What is it about your time in government that gives evidence of that level of competence?
Del Duca: Well, I think just the very nature of understanding that, as I say all the time, the words themselves, giving speeches, standing at a podium, reading a teleprompter, the way that Doug Ford does, that's not the job.
Crawley: Right, but I'm talking about your experience
Del Duca: I'm coming to that. So that's not the job. That's a really important distinction, and no one has to teach me that because I learned that serving in two senior cabinet positions, economic development and growth and transportation, being there to understand how you marshal the resources of a government to actually deliver on positive outcomes. That you don't just give a speech, then kind of disappear when the heavy lifting is required. That you have to be in it all the way through, that you actually have to make sure that the public service doing the phenomenal work that they do understands what needs to be delivered on, and then holding yourself and holding the entire team to account for delivering on those outcomes.
It's not easy. Governing in good times is not easy, governing in challenging times is not easy. I understand that. I don't need to learn on the job. I don't need to wait six months to understand what I want to deliver on. I know how to deliver this with the team, the new team that we have, starting that on day one.
Crawley: What do you regret about your time in the Wynne government?
Del Duca: Well, look, I've said that people in 2018 had the chance to deliver their verdict on the performance of the last Liberal government. I think what I experienced in my own home community of Vaughan is that people felt that by the end that we weren't listening to them and their concerns as much as they felt we should. I think that was a valid concern that was expressed to us at the ballot box in 2018.
It's a lesson that was hard to absorb because I felt that I and others had worked very, very hard for our people. But you have to trust what the voters say in our democracy. And I do. And so I spent a lot of time in the aftermath of that election reflecting on how that felt and what it meant. And as I ran for leader of the party, it's one of the reasons that I was relentless in pursuing conversations right across Ontario.
It's the way that I've done it since becoming leader, both virtually and in person when that's been permitted. And it's one of the reasons that we have an exceptional, talented team of new Ontario Liberal candidates and a platform that is compelling and relatable for the people of this province.
Crawley: When are we going to see the platform?
Del Duca: Before June 2nd. Soon. Soon.
Crawley: Before June 2nd and soon?
Del Duca: I was being a bit tongue-in-cheek on June 2nd. But soon. And I'm keen. I'm keen to get the ideas out there, including the great ideas about revolutionizing senior care in this province and so much more. So stay tuned for more details.
Crawley: I do want to dig into some of the issues, at least. Affordability is clearly becoming a theme, the cost of living. What are you going to do for the people of Ontario to help make life more affordable?
Del Duca: Obviously, there will be more to come on this in terms of specifics, but some things I'll highlight that I've already talked about in the past. I think it's really important to not punish families in this province that rely upon licensed child care. And I mean punish because Doug Ford was the very last premier to get an agreement in place with the federal government. That's why the Ontario Liberal plan would give those families that rely upon licensed child care a retroactive reimbursement for child-care costs back to January 1st of this year. They shouldn't have to suffer because Doug Ford didn't make them a priority.
I've talked in the past about reinstating an electric vehicle incentive program to give Ontarians who want to make that switch, who really want to do their part to fight the climate crisis, an $8,000 rebate on the purchase or lease of an electric vehicle. We're going to have more to say about affordability issues, but I think it's so important to tackle housing affordability, whether that's buying or renting.
I think it's really important as the guy who goes grocery shopping for his family every Saturday morning and I see what the sticker shock is like in my local grocery store, that we have to do something to target affordability there. As a former minister of transportation, I think we have to make public transit more affordable. So there will be more to come. But I believe our plan will tackle affordability in those areas that will give people real relief where at the same time we're delivering on progress.
Crawley: You're going to make groceries more affordable?
Del Duca: Stay tuned for more details. (Note: Del Duca unveiled some details on Friday, after this interview was recorded.)
Crawley You mentioned housing. Basically, all the other parties have brought out fairly detailed housing proposals. We've not seen that from you. Why not?
Del Duca: We have developed a platform. It does include a very ambitious and bold plan around housing that's going to be coming in the near future. I'm looking forward to talking about this. This is something that's important to me and my wife. When I think about our daughters, who are 14 and 11 and where they'll be able to afford to rent or buy in this province, this is something that really does hit home for us. And that's why I'm proud of the plan that we have put together. And it's coming soon.
Crawley: I want to close with a more personal question. The voters see the politicians during these campaigns. They often want to know a bit more about the person. What kind of person are you?
Del Duca: I'm a dad. It's the most important job that I'll ever have in my life. My daughters are 14 and 11, Grade 9 and Grade 5. I'm a husband. I'm a son. I'm a brother. I'm someone who takes those responsibilities within my family really, really seriously. I am someone who believes in the importance of working hard and showing up. It's what my parents and grandparents taught me and my brothers and my sister. We try to honour what they did for us by making sure that they are safe and healthy, but also making sure that we work hard to set the next generation – in this case, my kids and hopefully one day my grandkids – up for success.
And so I believe that is right at the core of what the magic is of Ontario, each generation having that responsibility or obligation to make life better for the next. That's what motivates me. But you know, look, I'm a dad. I'm a son. I'm a brother. I'm a husband. I'm a dog lover. I'm someone who I think is just like your next door neighbour in many respects, who feels a passionate requirement or obligation to take the talent I have and the blessings I've been given in my life and give back. And that's what I'm trying to do.
Crawley: Tell me a bit more about your parents, your upbringing, and how significant your parents' experience is to who you are.
Del Duca: It's everything. I mean, like, it's right at the core of who I am and who my brothers are and my sister is. You know, the fact that there's that obligation to show up and do your part, the fact that my parents had so much help from my grandparents when they were younger and they were out there working and they were raising us. And now my parents have done that for me and for my wife and our kids.
You see that linkage, I'll put it this way, you see that chain or that connection or that thread through what life has been like in my family. And it's something I am so determined to do for my daughters. But it's also something through my daughters' eyes, through their future, I'm trying to do as the potential next premier of Ontario. And I do feel that obligation, I do feel that requirement to give back and take all of my good fortune and my blessings and actually take the talent that I've been given that's been nurtured by my parents and actually do what I can to make life better for Ontarians.
- This interview transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.