'Breakdown of decency in public discourse': Don Valley East MPP enters Ontario Liberal Party leadership race

Don Valley East MPP Michael Coteau used the Rose City to kick off his campaign to lead the Ontario Liberal Party in 2020.

Michael Coteau kicked off his leadership election campaign in Windsor

Michael Coteau kicked off his Ontario Liberal Party leadership campaing in Windsor, Ont. (Tahmina Aziz/CBC)

A Toronto Liberal MPP has become the third person to throw his name into the Ontario Liberal Party leadership contest, kicking off his campaign in Windsor.

Don Valley East MPP Michael Coteau rationalized his decision to launch his campaign in Windsor by saying the city has "a special place in Ontario."

"It's kind of a microcosm of this province," said Coteau, citing the city's manufacturing industry and academic culture as some of its strengths.

Coteau added the city's proximity to the U.S. is an advantage for cross-country trade, while the city's agricultural and automotive sectors provide a very unique opportunity for Ontario.

With proper investment from Queen's Park, Coteau said the University of Windsor and St. Clair College will also allow for collaboration with industry "to build a really strong strategy to help high tech and other opportunities that the new economy will bring forward."

Michael Coteau attended a peaceful protest, aimed at discouraging the sale of Windsor Water World. (Tahmina Aziz/CBC)

Still, he acknowledged some of the challenges faced by Windsor, including addiction, housing affordability, as well as a changing workplace.

"You've really got to work with people locally, figure out what the local needs are and then from there build a plan that's not only good for Windsor, but also will work in Ontario," said Coteau.

Windsor-Essex's love for the NDP wasn't lost on Coteau, who said he's doesn't believe the party "delivered much over the last decade here in this region."

"I think that the people of Windsor and the surrounding regions need to sit down with the Ontario Liberal Party," he said.

"We need to reaffirm those values that we believe in, those values that say we need to invest in an environment that's good for the economy, but also good for people when it comes to that social safety net and in education and good health care."

Coteau attended a number of events in Windsor throughout the day, including a peaceful protest against the sale of Windsor Water World. 

Learning from past mistakes

Of the three people currently running for party leader, Coteau is the only one who holds a seat as a provincial parliamentarian. 

He's also only one of seven Ontario Liberals at Queen's Park -- a list that includes former premier Kathleen Wynne.

Despite the party's severe losses during the 2018 Ontario general election, Coteau said he feels the majority of Ontario voters still believe in Liberal values.

You've really got to work with people locally ... - Michael Coteau, Don Valley East MPP

He nonetheless acknowledged that the party had previously introduced some policies that were poorly received by the general electorate.

"I've heard from many people that they disagreed with the selling of Hydro," explained Coteau, referring to Wynne's decision to sell approximately 60 per cent of Hydro One, the province's electric utilities distributor.

"I think that eventually there was a disconnect between the people of Ontario and the Ontario Liberal Party and that's what led to Doug Ford winning."

Coteau said that he wants to bring an alternative to Ontario PC leader Doug Ford, hoping to "restore decency in Ontario."

"I think that there's been a breakdown of decency and public discourse in this province over the last year," said Coteau.

"People don't feel like they're being represented, [they don't feel] that the government has their best interests at heart."

Local party members pleased by Coteau

For now, Coteau seems to have impressed Windsor-Essex Liberal party members.

Syed Wiquar Husain, president of the Windsor West Provincial Liberal Riding Association, said it's good that Liberal party leadership is paying more attention to Windsor-Essex.

"These are exciting times in Windsor and Essex County because the population is growing, there are some wonderful big projects coming up, [like the] Gordie Howe bridge," said Husain, referring to an approximately $5.7 billion project to build a new bridge between Windsor and Detroit.

Syed Waqar Hussain is the president of the Windsor West Riding Liberal Association. (Tahmina Aziz/CBC)

For her part, Liberal party member Pat Papadeas said she's excited Coteau chose to kick off his election campaign in Windsor.

"Michael has a good connection to this area," she said.

"The party went through a devastating loss in the last election and so this is a time to rebuild and it's an important part of the democratic process."

Coteau will have until March 7, 2020 to convince Ontario Liberal Party members that he holds the necessary qualities to be their leader.

The Liberals have until June 2, 2022 to convince voters across Ontario that they deserve another shot at leading the province.

With files from Tahmina Aziz


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