Former cabinet minister Steven Del Duca running for Ontario Liberal leadership
Del Duca is former economic development minister and transportation minister
Former Ontario Liberal cabinet minister Steven Del Duca has launched a leadership bid as the party seeks to recover from last year's electoral decimation.
In announcing his candidacy Wednesday, Del Duca said he will ensure that at least 30 Liberal candidates are under the age of 30 for the next provincial vote and committed to having at least half of the slate of 124 be women.
The 45-year-old held the roles of economic development minister and transportation minister in former premier Kathleen Wynne's government before losing his Vaughan, Ont., seat last spring when Doug Ford's Progressive Conservatives won power.
Del Duca said he's jumping in race — which has not yet officially started — because he's concerned about how the Tories are handling a wide variety of issues.
Now more than ever, <a href="https://twitter.com/OntLiberal?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@OntLiberal</a> needs a leader who will be relentless in the pursuit of progress—someone willing to work hard today, tomorrow, and until the very last ballot is counted.<br><br>The campaign is coming—and when it does, I’m in. <a href="https://t.co/7coZYTSbqJ">https://t.co/7coZYTSbqJ</a><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/onpoli?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#onpoli</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/OLPRebuild?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#OLPRebuild</a> <a href="https://t.co/cRBrhkaA9p">pic.twitter.com/cRBrhkaA9p</a>—@StevenDelDuca
"I am beside myself with what I see this government doing," he said in an interview. "It is the antithesis of everything I believe in. I believe it does not give Ontarians hope for progress for themselves and their families."
Del Duca was one of many Liberals to be defeated in the provincial election, as the party went from a majority government to holding seven seats — not enough for official status in the legislature.
He said the party must respect the result of the last election and argued that he shouldn't be discounted by the party because of his prominent role in the Wynne government.
"I will never tell anyone I felt we were a perfect government," he said. "I don't think Ontarians have an expectation of perfection. In fact, I think come 2022 they will not be comparing Ontario Liberals to perfection, I think they will compare us to the alternative. What we've seen out of Doug Ford and his friends thus far ... is nothing short of disastrous."
Interim party leader John Fraser said details surrounding the leadership race will likely be finalized at the Liberal's annual general meeting in June.
"We want to get it done," he said. "But we have to take the time to get it right. It's a big undertaking and we've already started that process right now."
The party will also have to tackle a multimillion-dollar debt accumulated during last year's election campaign. According to filings with Elections Ontario, the Liberals took on $10 million of debt for the spring vote, with $9.3 million of that amount yet to be paid off.
"Our objective, part of my role as interim leader, is to try pay down as much of that for the next leader so it's not a burden to them," Fraser said.
Other potential candidates are mulling bids or are expected to formally launch campaigns in the coming months.
Former child and youth services minister Michael Coteau, who held on to his Don Valley East seat in Toronto, has already indicated he will run for the leadership. He said he will have a formal campaign launch later, but has spent the last month and a half organizing.
"I'm running because I believe Ontario is not prepared for the big changes that are here, that are actually taking place in our economy," he said. "I'm running because of the economic divide that's taking place and the erosion of the middle class and I'm running to ensure there's a party that's ready to take on the challenges that Ontario is going to face...over the next few decades."
Former education minister Mitzie Hunter said that she is also strongly considering a bid.
And former community safety minister Marie-France Lalonde said she has been approached about running for the leadership.
"There is consideration, but I would say there's other colleagues and former colleagues and lots of people who are considering," she said. "I think it's very important that it's a healthy, respectful leadership and it will show Ontarians how strong the party is."